You finally got approval to go to that pricey training seminar. Maybe you’ll be learning the secrets of entertainers or fishmongers. But do you know how you’re going to deliver a return on the training investment to your company?
“Organizations that send people out for training really need to have some type of a plan from beginning to end,” says David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc., a human resources consulting firm. And if your organization isn’t providing such a framework, it’s up to you to do so, so that you can not only prove that it was worthwhile, but also to open the door for future training.
Here is what you should be doing before, during, and after to maximize the return on investment.
Get clear about why you wanted to take the training in the first place, Lewis says. Ask yourself some key questions, including:
- What am I trying to achieve?
- How am I going to ensure that the experience essentially gets me the results I want?
- What am I going to do to be able to reinforce the training once it’s completed?
- How can I maximize the investment for myself and the company?
Professional trainer Nanette Miner, founder of The Training Doctor, says it’s critical to do pre-training assignments if they are requested. If not, think about whether there are particular skills you’re trying to build or specific knowledge you’re trying to gain, and be as specific as you can about those goals. It might even help to prepare some questions in advance.
Research the instructor. If you have information about who your instructor will be, it’s a good idea to do a little homework there, too, says management consultant Gina Worthey, founder of Worthey Solutions International, LLC. The instructor may have written books or articles that will give you a head start on the information you’re about to learn. In addition, if you look up their bio on LinkedIn or their company website, you may find that you have common interests, contacts, or backgrounds. That can facilitate networking and provide good fodder for conversation during downtime, she says.
Ask your colleagues for input. Your colleagues may also offer some wishlist items for the training session. Ask a few of them for input about what they would ask if they had the opportunity. It’s also a good idea to sit down with your supervisor and set some goals for the training session, Lewis says.
Set some metrics. Many companies overlook an important opportunity to set metrics before the training session, Worthey says. If you’re trying to change a behavior, determine how the change will be measured. For example, if you’re looking at cultivating a salesperson’s closing skills, you might look at closing rates before the training, and at various intervals after the training as the salesperson becomes more confident in using what they learned.
Now that you’re there, here’s what you need to do.
Share your goals. Many trainers will ask participants to introduce themselves and explain why they’re there or what they hope to get out of the training. Take that question seriously, Lewis says. State what you hope to learn so that the instructor can focus on those points throughout the session.
Ask good questions. Miner says that too many people just sit there and don’t participate. Ask good questions and routinely check in with yourself to be sure you’re getting what you’d hoped out of the seminar. If not, approach the instructor during a break and discuss how you can achieve your goal.
Take advantage of downtime. If your training cohorts are heading out to socialize, don’t head to your room—go with them, says Worthey. You may find valuable contacts among your training peers, so take the time to get to know them. Similarly, if you have a chance to chat with the instructor and exchange contact information, do so. Adding fellow skilled professionals to your network is another benefit of attending training sessions.
Once you get home, the work’s not done yet.
Present or preserve your learning. Worthey says she and her team members summarize training for the rest of the group after they return. You may choose to do a written summary, a shorter training session, or other methods of passing along information. The key is to follow up to both reinforce what you’ve learned and share it with team, she says.
Work toward your metrics. If you set metrics for yourself or with your supervisor, start tracking them when you get back, Lewis suggests.
Reach out to new contacts. Keep in touch with the people you talked to, and that includes your instructor if they are open to it. Connect on LinkedIn and share your progress after training. You may be able to learn from each other long after you’ve left the session, she says.