Coaching Still Just as Important, But Harder Now

Research by Mary Broad and John Newstrom, as reported in their book, Transfer of Training, establishes how critical the manager’s role is to newly trained skills actually being used on the job. The authors assert that what the manager does before and after training occurs is even more important than what the training designer or the facilitator does.

One of the most critical roles the manager plays is reinforcing new skills through coaching.   Just like developing new habits, becoming proficient at new skills takes place over time. Good coaching provides not only necessary feedback, but keeps the skills in focus long enough for new habits and patterns to become established.

However, there are a number of trends in the 21st century work force that make good coaching opportunities difficult to find. For most, gone are the days when everyone worked in the same office and you had small spans of control. How do you coach people in new skills when you have few interactions with them and rarely if ever see them live to evaluate their use of a new skill?

Fortunately, the same technologies that have made possible the shifts to a more virtual workforce also provide potential solutions to this coaching need.  For example, we are able to build avatar coaches right into our elearning training programs. And these same virtual coaches can be programmed to provide timed reminders to learners after the training to review material, answer questions about a key skill, or take an “on the spot” assessment to keep the learners focused on a new skill long enough for new patterns to become established.

A growing number of our programs have asynchronous coaching options in which the learner can use video or audio to capture their skill practice session – and share it with their manager for review and feedback. While this may not have the same spontaneity of a manager walking up and observing in real-time, there are new benefits.  In fact, we have found that most learners will practice a skill several times to get it right before sending the sample to their manager for review. So what it lacks in immediacy, it makes up in practice repetition and ultimately, mastery.

In the past we were often asked to create a “How to Coach” program to accompany new training. In today’s world, learning designers have to assume more of the coaching responsibility by providing the learner and the manager with the tools and opportunities for good coaching to occur.

Have questions or want to brainstorm potential strategies for putting these exciting new coaching strategies to work  in your organization?  Blueline is here to help!

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