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The Learning Environment – Looking Beyond the Training Room


Some trainers obsess over who should control the learning environment during a training session. Should it be the trainer or the training participants? What do we mean when we speak of the "learning environment" anyway?

The term "learning environment" can capture a lot of things: the physical learning space, temperature and humidity, the temporal flow of the learning, the emotional play between participants and the trainer, and so on. Different people can mean different things in using this term. However you mean it, I think the answer to this question is situational. The degree of empowerment you give to your training participants should at least depend on their maturity (i.e., some participants need more direction), schedule constraints (i.e., the amount of slack time available) and the skills of the trainer (i.e., in being able to achieve the learning outcomes in the face of uncertainty).

Most importantly, I also want you to think of the learning environment as extending beyond the training room. What happens in the participant's work environment before the training starts and after they return to their job is at least, perhaps even more, important than what happens inside the training room. The training session can be fun and everyone can have a good time. The participant feedback forms can also speak glowingly of the trainer and of the training. However, if the training does not lead to changed behaviors back on the job, "interesting" and "fun" can turn out to be expensive commodities.

Create a learning environment in which participants will learn and will want to, and be able to, apply their new skills once they return to work. How can you achieve this challenging goal? I have identified a number of activities that trainers can do before and after the training if the training is to transfer to the workplace.

p>However, it is not all the trainer's job. Participants' managers also have a key role to play in ensuring that the training has a real impact on the individual participant and the organization. The trainer and participants' managers need to work in partnership to make sure that the training dollars are well spent.

These key partnership activities include the following:

• participants' managers contributing to the initial needs analysis and high-level design • participants' managers briefing participants before and debriefing after the training • participants' managers clarifying participants' roles and responsibilities • all key stakeholders agreeing meaningful behavioral and performance objectives • trainer and participants' managers setting up effective performance feedback systems • HR and participants' managers designing effective reward systems to reward wanted behaviors • participants' managers allowing participants the opportunity to apply the new skills • trainer and participants' managers providing follow-up coaching in the workplace

These are some of the activities that will help create the right learning environment in the broader organizational context. Doing these things will help ensure that what you do in the training room will actually make a difference back on the job.


Transfer of Training to the Workplace

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