7. How can i have an impact ?

You don’t have time to waste. Any time spent on training and learning is time not spent on something else. That is fine, because time spent on training will pay back in a way that almost nothing else can – but only if the learning activity has some impact


You never have an opportunity to make a difference to someone’s productivity like when they join. If you’re someone’s manager, you can’t take the risk of someone else doing a poor job of orienting your staff. You need them to get fully up to speed as soon as possible. So take responsibility for it. Orientation is high impact because you know there are gaps. Those might be different for different people. There are gaps though. Follow good practices for orientation.

Design based on a specific goal you need to achieve

This is drawn from the Action Mapping approach. Work hard at the start to find a measurable goal that you want to achieve. Use a measurement that you already have, if at all possible. Then work out how staff skills will contribute to achieving that goal. The discipline of doing this will directly tie the learning initiative to something that matters. You build in the impact from the start. Your first thoughts are about what impact you want to see, and not what content you want to cover.

Focus on the most critical things

Instead of trying to cover everything, think about what are the one or two things that will really make a difference. Focus relentlessly on them. If you think people already know how to do them – check that. If they do, then maybe you don’t need a training course. You need to spend time on creating reminders, or on improving a process so they can actually do it.

If people don’t know how to do them – don’t just spend a bit of time on them and move to another topic. Get them to practice it. Get them to practice again. Find ways to keep them engaged and motivated.

Plan for transfer to work

If you’re practising skills that people really need in their work, then you will have gone a long way to ensuring that they do get transferred. As well as keeping that focus, include action planning as part of a learning program. Get learners to think through realistic steps they can take to apply what they learned in their own jobs.

If you’re using coaching to help people learn, then you will already be  working with real-life issues that they have to grapple with. You may need to spend time structuring how they can bring a new skill into their work in a way that works.

Keep engagement and motivation high

The most engaging thing is learning how to do something well. Mastery is more motivating than a game. But there are lots of different ways to get a group working together and get them practicing skills. Role-plays, table-top games that get at the skills, group discussions, fish-bowls… the list is long! You can find lots of ideas online, so we won’t go over them here. Boring training leads to people switching off, and not taking anything in. Training that is dominated by techniques lacks substance. A combination of keeping the interest up and using approaches that really work is the way to go.

Showing impact – evaluations

A lot of the time you will be asked to show the impact of what you did. Quite right too! You want to be working in an environment doesn’t take this on faith. You might find this challenging, and it is.

Remember that you are not looking for cast-iron evidence of impact. You are looking for information that you and others can use to take informed decisions. So you are not looking for total proof. You don’t need to write a PhD thesis for each course. You do need to collect information and then analyse it to make robust judgements that are based on more than gut instinct.

There are approaches that can help you.

– Using the action mapping method you would already have identified a measurement of your success. If that shifts, after you do what you planned, then you have an excellent basis for showing the impact.

– Treat participant evaluations for what they are: an expression of how much participants liked the course. They tell you little (if anything) about what people learned, about whether the methods were good ones, etc. You can get useful information from them – especially on practical matters – did the trainer speak too fast? Was a handout clear or confusing? They tell you nothing about the impact of the course.

– the KatzellKirkpatrick model is widely used for training evaluation. There are some concerns about the validity of the leaps from one level to another. At worst it’s a useful reminder of the need to evaluate the impact that a learning initiative has, not just whether people learned, or whether they changed what they did. CARE does use a variation of this to show the impact of courses.

Whoever your learners are, you have a responsibility to them to use methods that work. You have a responsibility to yourself to not waste your time. And there is no bigger waste of time than working with people who don’t know what to do! So take the responsibility for developing your team seriously, spend time on the design, save it on the writing/development, and get better impact as a result.