A concern for many who offer workshops and training is to demonstrate that they have an impact on business results. The challenge is to show a direct correlation between the training/workshop and an improvement in the achievement of the objectives or at least in a greater mastery of the behavior addressed. Another return on investment in training would be measures of innovation, ideas and thoughts.
Although goals are easy to measure, the correlation between goal improvement and training would be anecdotal at best because there are too many variables to control for. Behaviors can be more easily anchored in workshop learning, but their assessment becomes less reliable because they rely on observation and people’s opinions, which we know can be wrong and tainted by personal experience. and prejudices.
Ultimately, the best measure of a workshop is the business impact of what has been learned through practical application. The workshop becomes a learning experience where participants have achievement, insight, recognition and understanding followed by exploration, deepening and bridging of knowledge in daily work.
The most indicative tool for promoting a learning experience and anchoring the results of the training/workshop is an action plan that participants complete during and after a training/workshop.
What is an action plan?
There are certain conditions that an action plan must meet in order to be an essential part of the learning process, to provide reflection and application, and to become a tool for reflection and crystallization of new possibilities.
1. To begin with, it requires a state of mind where the “teacher” is not the only contributor of knowledge, but the facilitator of a dynamic and creative process where the participant also contributes and even more.
2. The actions identified by the participant must be activities that they are not currently doing, thus encouraging innovation and experimentation.
3. Second, actions should focus on creating a bridge between learning and practice, with the quality of action being a measure of success. The participant uses what he learns to have an impact on the specific objectives set by the company. In this way, the action plan becomes strategically aligned with the business, resulting in results that are genuinely relevant to senior management and the participant’s immediate supervisor.
4. In addition, the action plan should be a source of inspiration rather than seen as an evaluation tool. It is an exploration and experimentation by the individual to generate stories, experiences and understanding that can benefit the whole organization. In other words, there is a lofty sense of purpose when the organization learns as much from the results of the training activity as the participants who participate in it. The action plan then becomes a tool allowing the participant to give back and to feel that they are adding value.
Another form of action plan is a team action plan. The benefit of a team action plan is greater clarity on common purpose and challenges, greater power as more than one brain is involved in creating the plan, and more inspired commitment, because the follow-up of the participant has an impact on others and the overall success becomes a shared responsibility.
Action plans require follow-up
Regardless of the choice of a team or individual action plan, for it to become a tool that measures and facilitates the successful implementation of workshop/training learning, a few other considerations are necessary.
The action plan requires follow-up. This could take the form of individual coaching with someone identified during the workshop to be the coach. Participants can be part of a group of friends to collaborate and co-coach each other on the implementation of their action plans and to discuss the main results of the workshop. Coaching should focus on the implementation of key learnings, the impact of activities undertaken, obstacles and ways to overcome obstacles.
Another form of follow-up is e-mail feedback with coach touchpoints who check on the progress of the action plan and offer their perspective on the quality of the action plan achievements and the link to the workshop learning.
Coaches should also maintain a communication channel with participants where they share practical application experiences from the workshop with colleagues and coaches. Such reviews and discussions would also engage senior managers both as an opportunity for feedback as well as to learn more about the views and challenges of frontline managers. The aim is to get the most out of sharing the action plans with the participant’s own managers and with their colleagues.
The storytelling generated from the most innovative action plans as well as the journey through the challenges is another ingredient to celebrate the action plans and their value in terms of meeting opportunities that the organization faces.
In summary, the action plan is a tool that connects results and daily work behaviors to the workshop/training and becomes the central ingredient for learning. The critical variable for the action plan tool to succeed is to move it from a ‘need to do’, reminiscent of the demands of ‘homework’, to an opportunity to tell stories. It should be an inspiring way to make an impact and increase value and purpose for attendees while enjoying a collaborative atmosphere.
Keep in mind that the action plan is not an evaluation tool or a participant evaluation tool. Rather, it is an opportunity to give back, add value and celebrate learning that increases engagement, passion and ownership, while showcasing the practical results that learning has brought.