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How to create culture change through training

Effective training is one of several key ingredients to improving performance around improving equality, reducing discrimination and creating equitable opportunities in the workplace. It is often the first step organisations plan to take in the development of a strategy that focuses on tackling inequalities within their organisation.

Over the course of the pandemic, people and organisations have developed a renewed desire to learn and invested heavily in training for their staff. This explosion of online and face to face training brings huge potential for individual growth, but also a challenge for organisations on how to activate the new knowledge, and to ensure people can 'transfer' it to create visible change in work based processes and practices.

Knowledge transfer rates are quoted to be little as 10%, so how do we make the training we offer our employees count, particularly in training related to improving a culture of belonging and equity?

The challenge

Once we step out of the training session life takes over, and many of us are ‘time poor’. The time it takes to flex our new muscles can seem unachievable, particularly if we are not challenged to come up with examples that relate directly to our work in a practical sense, or if we are not held accountable for how we are making changes in our teams or projects.

Key questions to ask

It’s vital that when we are developing training sessions, they are based on, and linked to an organisational strategy for change.

For example, if you are responsible for developing a training programme in your organisation you need to ask yourself a few questions from the get go:

  • Why are we offering this training?

  • How does it link to our business plan and values?

  • What will happen if people don’t use any of the learning?

  • How will we measure the success of the training regularly?

Absolute clarity on the why's, what's and how's will strengthen how the training roll out is communicated and understood, and create a sense of buy in from managers as they will understand how the training relates to their own performance and their departments development and competitive edge.

Removing the barriers

If people in your organisation are not using the training, it’s likely because something ‘got in the way’.

If you have an expectation that delegates will use the training, its usage will be measured, and people will be held accountable, you are likely to see the learning transfer rate rocket to new levels.

It’s important to make clear that the training is not a ‘nice to have’, but it directly links to an overarching strategy, or an individual’s performance management.

When planning the session, you should ask the facilitator to incorporate a question about learning transfer to find out about what would stop delegates from using the training in their day to day activity.

The information you receive back will be valuable in helping to find solutions to perceived or real barriers. Conversely, if there are no barriers at all, then this information is valuable to present back to the delegates as a reminder on an ongoing basis, particularly if changes and improvements are not being made.

Practical examples

Let’s look at training focused on Inclusive Leadership, it’s important that people know why they have been asked to attend the training, and what the expectations are from the start.

If there is no clarity, people may be likely to assume that it is a general course that all people would ideally attend to be ‘nicer’ to their staff or customers. They may even think it’s a tick box exercise associated with a new Equality and Diversity strategy. These two assumptions become possible due to a lack of clarity.

In the same example, if you communicate to managers and team members that the training will provide the opportunity for staff to identify the behaviours in the workforce that are preventing the organisation from achieving its vision for inclusion and equity, there is a clearer link from the start around expectations, and accountability for those that attend.

If your organisation has a staff survey, this data can be analysed at local level and tracked to identify if there have been improvements for the teams that have been through the training.

When there is a clear link between the training and performance, whether it be a technical skill or otherwise, there is a much greater chance that delegates will make changes, and implement the strategies they have learned.

In addition, managers with ultimate accountability will view the training as a critical tool to help them meet their personal and business objectives, and are more likely to become ambassadors for change.

Do you have any insights or tips based on your own learning or facilitation experiences?

Leave comments below.

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