How to Drive Behaviors and Performance with Learning

One of the earliest training concepts I learned was how to write objectives for training courses. Often you see objectives written in a passive manner with detail focused on the content or the delivery method. Instead, the best learning objectives are those that are behaviorally-based and action-oriented. For instance, look at the difference between these two examples.

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This course will help learners understand our ethics policy standards and give them options for reporting suspected ethical concerns.

Now, contrast with this:

Upon completion of this course, learners will be able to identify ethical violations and report them in a timely manner.

This isn’t a 101-level course, so here’s why we are going back to basics: often times training devolves into a “check the box” activity. It happens in organizations of all industries, sizes, and geographic locations. This challenge knows no bounds. But the important first step is recognizing it as a problem so you can combat the issue.

This came to mind recently as I worked to publish a case study about Tarrant County College, an education institution based in Fort Worth, Texas. The college developed a video course to help convey the points of sexual violence prevention. One of the key lessons learned:

TCC learned that while video accounted for a large portion of courseware development costs, it was entirely worthwhile for significantly boosting student learning such that 100% of students showed an increased willingness to intervene as bystanders. This is the difference between “check the box” and “change the culture.”

That “change the culture” level of training is what we should all aspire to. There are a few elements that help a learning initiative reach that level of engagement. Check out these two examples from successful global organizations to see how they make it happen.

Crafting a Service Ethos at American Express

AmEx had a problem. The organization delivered thousands of hours of training to employees every year, but it could see performance returning to pre-training levels within mere weeks of completion. It clearly needed a way to make it stick, but how?

This prompted the idea to create a servicing ethos or organizational culture that would live and breathe the principles of relationship-based servicing to ensure it was built into every single interaction. The organization could not just rely on training programs to achieve results as it needed continuous growth in customer satisfaction to remain competitive in the marketplace. Following research externally of the value propositions and mantras that other companies launched among their employees, the company decided to go one step further and create Membership Care – a servicing ethos to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and sales, without the need for repetitive training programs.

The results have been powerful. American Express has seen improvements in its customer satisfaction metrics and Net Promoter Scores, but more importantly, it has seen the impact to the brand’s value driven by the Membership Care effort. Simply offering customer service training isn’t going to have the deeper level of brand impact that this culture-changing initiative has brought.

Developing a Business Impact Mindset at UST Global

UST Global faced another complex issue. It needed to ensure that its learning programs were delivering deeper business impacts. Like most companies, it had a traditional training mindset at the beginning of the transformation. In essence, training offerings were listed in a catalog and employees could take them. But there was no clear link between training and performance at an organizational level.

The company had to transform itself from a traditional training organization to an enabler of business outcomes. Its initial efforts focused on this challenge by including business impact in all training offerings. In addition, UST Global’s learning team is trying to include unique metrics (beyond traditional and old-fashioned metrics like training hours) that measure the impact of its services. The team talks in financial terms and focuses on what business problems it solves, rather than how many people are getting trained. (Click here to get the UST Global case study)

Key takeaways:

  • How are you driving behaviors with your learning?
  • Is your training, like that of UST Global and American Express, making a broader impact on the business?

Ben Eubanks, Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group


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