According to the 2015 Training Industry Report, 42% of organizations who took part in a survey reported an increase in their training budgets. This good news tells us that training is now recognized as an important organizational function. But there is an important component of training that is still given very little or no importance at all. This component is the reinforcement of training – otherwise known as training reinforcement or reinforcement training.
Reinforcement training is training used to reinforce what is learned during a classroom or online training session. While we all appreciate training for what it is and what it offers our salesforce, basic sales skills need to be constantly brushed up. New knowledge, skills, and experiences must be mastered and reinforced constantly for a salesforce to be able to stay on top. Sadly, reinforcement training is rarely practiced.
Did you know that participants in sales training forget half of what is taught to them within 5 weeks? So what happens to all the training we impart so dutifully to our salesforce, via classroom training or e-learning systems? Is it all a waste of money, time, and effort? Yes, it can be! Without proper reinforcement training, training becomes less and less effective over time. In a survey by Sales Performance International, 55% of respondents listed “lack of post training implementation” as one of the top weaknesses of sales training.
Reinforcement training is a must in this era of low recall and poor knowledge retention – especially for the salesforce whose success depends – to a large extent, on the knowledge gained during training. According to Ventana Research, ROI in training quadruples from 22% to 88% when reinforced by in-field coaching and reinforcement.
Training has to be a continuous process and not an event that starts and begins within a particular timeframe; and reinforcement training is a very important part of this process. But a lack of time, understanding, and commitment toward proper training lead to the failure to chalk out and implement a proper reinforcement program. According to the Centre for Management and Organizational Effectiveness, the combination of training plus coaching can lead to an 88% increase in productivity, contrasted with 23% from training alone.
Reinforcement training is used successfully to:
- Reinforce knowledge and skills learnt via classroom training or online learning portals
- Help apply training in real-world scenarios
- Increase sales effectiveness
- Meet targets
- Increase return on investment (ROI)
- Identify underperforming teams/departments and provide intervention training
- Find out where employees lack expertise and need help
- Help better sales strategies
- Enable sales teams make better decisions
- Track behavior change, awareness, knowledge, and daily application of knowledge
Here are some points to keep in mind when developing a reinforcement training program:
Must be strategic: Just as training programs are planned down to a tee, so should reinforcement training. It must:
- Be planned before training begins
- Not be set in stone, must change dynamically to cater to what is learned from feedback
- Explain the benefits learners can derive from it
- Cover all aspects of training
- Be conducted in stages and involve key people
Must be informal: Unlike training that is structured and driven by an organization, reinforcement of training is learner-driven and based on the learner’s choice of how, where, and when he takes up this training.
Unlike classroom training sessions that require learners to get away from their work to attend a training program, reinforcement training must not interfere with the learner’s daily activities. For this reason, organizations will do well by leveraging online learning and technology to impart reinforcement training. 33% of sales reps rate “technology reinforcements and support” as one of the most effective ways for reinforcing new sales skills.
Must be imparted in stages: Preparation for a reinforcement training program begins even before the training program. In fact, some part of reinforcement training must begin even before training begins, and must continue over the days, weeks, months and even years following the training.
Before: Educate employees on the importance of the training program, preparing them for training, and letting them know what is expected of them after their training.
During: Employees must be given every opportunity to take up their training seriously. Managers may free employees from work-related issues to give them free time to train. Managers must also help by ensuring employees use the knowledge gained during training in their work. When sales managers are used to reinforce sales training, retention is increased by up to 63% (Ventana Research).
After: Employees are provided activities related to training. 43% of respondents rate “follow up training classes” as one of the most effective ways for reinforcing new sales skills (Sales Performance International).
Managers debrief employees on the training; set up training events; provide opportunities to use the skills and knowledge gained during training; provide tests and assignments and track results; and provide appropriate intervention training (if needed), based on the results of the assessments conducted.
Must involve the right people at every stage: Involve employees, managers, content experts and the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the process – just as you would involve them in the training process.
Employees take their cue about the importance of training from management and stakeholders. Managers must first be involved and educated about what the training is about, before they can educate their employees on the importance of training. Training must be constantly followed up by managers to make sure what is learned is not forgotten. 46% of respondents rate “coaching by the sales manager” as one of the most effective ways for reinforcing new sales skills (Sales Performance International).
Training does not stop after learners are assessed. Reinforcement of what was learned must take place frequently and continuously to ensure maximum training success.
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