Army Training, Sir!

Relevant Training Matters

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Army Training, Sir! Relevant Training Matters

To our collective dismay, Bill Murray never won an Oscar for his performance in Stripes.  But, watching Stripes is the gift that keeps on giving, providing us with a boatload of quotes that we’ll put to use in perpetuity.  To us, one of the great lines involves Murray’s shout-out to the Commanding General of ‘Army Training, Sir!’. 

Does Training Matter? 

Training, though, isn’t really a laughing matter.  Historically, most of us both despite and fear upcoming training as we’ve all been through dry, meaningless material delivered by disinterested and incompetent trainers.  And, it’s not really that much better for organizations who fork over billions and billions in training costs every year.  It got the Kimono thinking—does training ever matter and do we really transfer the skills that we learned back to our work environs?

Interpersonal Skills Training…Alrighty, Then.  

To unlock this answer, we turned to three Brits who did some good research in a study entitled “Predicting immediate and longer-term transfer of training” in Personnel Review.  Essentially, they examined 75 non-managerial technical staff to see if they actually transferred any of their new training back to their job.  And the training was….wait for it…wait for it…..interpersonal skills training (kill us now).  What’s particularly cool about their study is that they asked both the participants in the training and their bosses whether they employed the trained skills back to the workplace.  Even better, they wanted to see how “sticky” that training was.  In other words, did the impact of the training last one year after it was administered?

The Research  

Using some hierarchical linear regression models, the results are telling.  To begin, and, to us, this is surprising.  Immediately after the interpersonal skills course was delivered, 86% of the participants said they acquired at least a moderate amount of skills.  They learned something, by God!  One year later, the number was still fairly high; 53% reported that they still possessed and used some of the interpersonal skills learned.  The biggest predictor variables explaining how and why training is transferred, after one month, was the relevance and utility of the training material along with a personal commitment to transfer those skills back to work.  After one year, the results are slightly different.  The big deal rests with one factual nugget from the study—transferring what you learned in the first month explained 39% of the variance on whether one would still transfer their training one year later.  We repeat, using regular speak—to have any chance of transferring training learned at one year, you must get the trainees to adopt that practice at one month.  Also, at one year, there was an additional explanatory variable at work, that of autonomy.  Those that maintained some level of freedom in the decision-making processes of their job demonstrated a higher chance of transferring that training one year later.

Relevant Job Training Can Make a Difference  

For some, training is the bane of organizational life.  It appears, from this study that it doesn’t always need to be that way.  Training that is relevant to the job matters.  And we know that if the training sticks after the first month, it’s likely to last.  That’s why the first month is critical.  You know what you need to do. 

School’s Out at the Kimono—

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