Making Training Stick and Belief

Does believing in yourself and the ability to apply new skills help make the training stick?

A review of current research on training transfer shows a trainee characteristic called “self-efficacy”.  Similar to but not the same as self-confidence, the notion of self-efficacy is the belief in one’s own competence.  It is rooted in several theories in the field of psychology, and impacts people’s choices of behavior, their motivation, and thought patterns.  For example, people are more likely to take on a task if they believe they can succeed.  People who have higher self-efficacy are more likely to try out new skills and behaviors, and people who have lower self-efficacy are unlikely to take on new challenges and may avoid them altogether.

Self-efficacy is also related to motivation.  People with high levels of self-efficacy are likely to persist longer at learning a new task and applying it on the job, and they are also likely to make more of an effort at it than those with lower self-efficacy.  People with lower self-efficacy are likely to believe a task is harder than it actually is.

The link with training transfer is obvious.  In every research study on training transfer that included self-efficacy as a factor, a relationship with training transfer has been found.  Trainees with higher levels of self-efficacy are much more likely to transfer their training to the job than are those with lower levels of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy doesn’t stop with the belief one can learn a new skill.  It is also the belief that one can successfully transfer it to the job.  Recent research studies have found that a participant’s self-efficacy is strengthened when a participant’s manager shows support for the training and the use of the skills that are a part of the training.  This is one more reason to include trainees’ managers in transfer plans and strategies.  See previous Sticky Notes in my blog for ideas for including trainees’ managers.

Is it possible to raise participants’ levels of self-efficacy?  

What can trainers and HR professionals do to increase participants’ self-efficacy? 

Yes, it is possible to increase trainees’ self-efficacy.  Or rather we should say it is possible to create an environment where a trainee may be ready to increase their self-efficacy, because ultimately it is their choice whether or not to change their inner beliefs about themselves and about the world.  Here are three suggestions:

  1. Plan positive messages about the training content.  “I know you can do it” comments are fine, but even better are comments specific to the skills being taught, such as “When you go back to work, I know and believe that you’ll be able to use these skills without any problem.”  Write the comments down for easy reference during training.

  2. Provide opportunities for trainees to see others like themselves using the skills.  A trainee or two from a previous class could be invited back to talk about or demonstrate how they have used the skills.  Fellow classmates in the same class or video clips of “real people” using the skills (digital video technology makes this very easy) will work too.

  3.  Break down a skill into smaller components, or “sub-skills” that can be more easily mastered.  Provide plenty of positive reinforcement as trainees master each smaller skill.  As they experience more successes, trainees’ self-efficacy will increase and they will be more likely to see themselves as competent to master the main skills.

More strategies for trainers and HR professionals to impact trainee self-efficacy can be found in my most recent book, Making Learning Stick.

Until next time….

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