Learning & Development

Report Concludes Training Should Not Be Viewed as Onetime Event

“Learning is a way of life in organizations,” says Eduardo Salas, a psychological scientist from the University of Central Florida. “Everyone gets training. But what matters? What works? What influences learning and skill acquisition?”

Salas and his coauthors of a new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, conclude that one of the things that “matters” the most is that HR, chief learning officers, and management “should view training as a whole system and not a onetime event. This means that what happens before and after the actual training is just as important as the training itself.”

After surveying the vast scientific literature on the science of training, the researchers identified issues to consider before, during, and after training. “Training is especially effective when various jobs in the organization have been analyzed, the skill sets of its employees are understood, supervisors and leaders are all on the same page, and trainees are motivated to learn,” the researchers stated in a press release.

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“During the training, whether it is computer and technology based or in a classroom, sufficient structure and guidance should be offered to trainees while still giving them opportunities to make decisions about their learning experience,” the researchers said. “After the training, trainees should have ample time and opportunities to use what they have learned in the real world with real feedback,” they added.

The report also found that the gap between performance in training and the transfer of newly acquired skills to the job can be narrowed by applying various empirically tested insights into learning.

Specifically, the researchers found that “[r]epeating tasks within increasingly complicated contexts helps to ensure that learning lasts over time.” In addition, “[e]ncountering errors during training helps to prepare trainees for real-life situations as they are required to apply concepts learned in training” and “[w]atching someone else perform certain skills can also contribute to learning, a concept scientists refer to as behavioral role modeling.”

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The report, “The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice,” was written by Salas, Scott Tannenbaum of The Group for Organizational Effectiveness, Kurt Kraiger of Colorado State University, and Kimberly Smith-Jentsch of the University of Central Florida. To download the report, go to www.psychologicalscience.org, click on “Journals,” and then “Psychological Science in the Public Interest.”