The Power Of On-Job Coaching

In his research, consultative selling expert Neil Rackham found that up to 87% of new learning is wasted if the training is not reinforced in the workplace. This is a staggering amount and is, I believe, one of the main reasons why training is seen as a cost and not an investment.

Why would any business owner/manager send their staff to training if most of it doesn’t stick? Seems like an enormous waste of time and money.

Reinforcing what was learnt in training when the staff member is back on the job is essential. Staff members need help in implementing new learning by changing an existing habit or creating a new one. This requires an owner/manager spending time with each staff member after the training reviewing what the staff member learnt, discussing how to implement the new skills and setting a next review date within the following week.

If the owner/manager doesn’t do this, most staff will quickly fall back into their old habits and the new learning will be wasted.

A key test of the effectiveness of any training program is whether the staff member’s behaviour changes. If there is no change, the training has not been effective. If there is change, the training has been effective – in the short term. To create a long-term habit of new behaviours requires ongoing follow-up from owners/managers.


Not Their Focus

A number of owners/managers expect the training course to do their work for them and magically fix issues. This is highly unrealistic. The value of training is only realised through the follow-up and focus of the owner/manager. However, many owners and managers are unaware their input is critical.

In addition to this lack of awareness about their role, owners/managers may not be available to engage with staff immediately after training because they give precedence to other tasks. Yet this is the critical time to engage with staff about the matters learnt in training.

A case study of a manufacturing company showed that management follow-up of training led to a 25% increase in output.

They don’t know how

Some owners/managers do not know how to do the follow-up. No-one has shown them how or what steps to take, and consequently, it is skipped.

Ongoing follow-up is essential to having staff create new habits. Without it, staff will slip back into their old ways. Some staff will require more follow-up than others as their ability and motivation to take on new skills can vary considerably.

This is where we come in. We specialise in helping owners/managers learn the steps required to realise the value of training by ongoing follow-up. I have personally spent many hours in stores in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the US following up after delivering a training program. What I find is that many owners/managers are unsure what to do the following day so we spend an hour with them helping them follow-up with staff. This greatly increases the confidence of owners/managers and sets them up powerfully for reinforcing the new habits.


Discuss New Learning

The first step in on-job coaching is to spend a few minutes with the staff members who have just attended training and simply discuss what they learnt, what their challenges were, and what new behaviours they are taking on. This assumes the owner/manager has a good understanding of the training session – which is imperative, of course.

It’s vital that owners/managers create this discussion, otherwise the staff members assume the owner/manager doesn’t care about the training or whether the new skills are implemented or not.

When an owner/manager discusses the training soon after the session, it communicates to staff that the training is important. The owner/manager is clearly saying, ‘I want you to improve and try new things, and I’ll help you with the transition.’ Ideally, the owner/manager will have had a discussion with the staff member prior to training and this kind of follow-up will also reinforce that initial discussion.

Owners/Manager’s Role Is To Help Staff

The discussion also communicates to the staff member that the role of the owner/manager is to help the staff member implement the new behaviours. Staff are often nervous about trying new things as they might make mistakes. This is where the owner/manager can stress the importance of trying new things and reduce the fear of making mistakes.

We all know what it is like when we are trying to break old habits, so having the support of someone (e.g. the owner/manager) is imperative. If the support process is communicated to staff members in a positive way, the likelihood of success is high. If the staff member is given an ultimatum, then fear is likely to reduce their performance.

It is key that the owner/manager is also patient during this initial period. Staff members learn at different rates and it may take longer than expected for the new behaviours to be generally adopted. By providing ongoing support, most staff will soon get there.