Effective Case #2: High-Retention Training

[In the spirit of moving to new and fresh ideas for 2010, Coach Effect is starting a new series that will run throughout the year called "Effective Case". Each "Effective Case" will focus on a different practice area (coaching, consulting, and training) and will highlight real experiences.  We will share key learning points from real business issues we have faced. All names (individuals and companies) are changed to protect our clients’ identities except if, and only if, our client willingly wants to share their name and provides us written permission.]

The last case focused on coaching.  This month we’re going to turn our attention to training.

Background.  Our client was looking for manager/supervisory training.  In reviewing their potential solutions, they had some real concerns. They didn’t have the bandwidth internally to facilitate a program themselves.  They were concerned that their managers would have a low knowledge retention level if they were sent to a one- or two-day public training seminar.  Their past experience led them to the conclusion that 90% or more of their managers that go to one or two-day off-site training programs come back with a couple of good ideas, but generally speaking they see no clear evidence that the manager is utilizing what they’ve learned. The client wanted to find a program that would have a high level of knowledge and learning retention as evidenced by the utilization of the concepts in the workplace.

[An aside – We had been working with this client on a coaching assignment so they reached out to us to see if we had an training organization referrals.  High-retention training is exactly the type of training we are usually suggesting to our clients, so I was chuckling a bit.  It’s not unusual for our clients to hire us for one thing (coaching, training, or consulting) and then forget or not even realize that we have a broader range of competencies.]

Training.  What I proposed was a mash-up between conventional classroom training and coaching.

Conceptually, here’s what the program looked like:

  1. Training participants learn a concept.
  2. The participant is responsible for creating an action plan to practice what they learned with the concept.
  3. After practicing the concept participants reflect on what went well and what could be improved. 
  4. Participants are partnered with each other for support and to reinforce accountability. 

The client agreed with the approach. They began to assemble a  pilot group so we could test it out before rolling it out to all managers.

A schedule was put together to teach and coach the materials over a period of eight meetings.  The material from what would have been a one-day class was broken up into six segments with an introduction and summary added onto each end. Initially this two-month timeframe made the client a little nervous.  However, they liked the idea that managers would only be in training for 60 minutes at a time instead of being out for a whole day.  I reminded the client that in order to achieve higher levels of retention, the participants need time to practice what they learn.  This mash-up of training and coaching was created specifically to support this outcome.

Outcomes.  A pilot group of eight managers participated in the training.  The managers showed engagement in the learning process right from the first meeting.  By the second meeting, each of the four accountability pairs had met to discuss how they could support each other.  Engagement during the course was also evidenced by the level of participation in each meeting.  The managers came to each class with stories about what they had tried the prior week.  They asked questions and engaged in discussion during each class. 

At the end of the program the managers were asked to participate in a survey.  We had 100% participation.  The feedback provided was overwhelmingly positive.  Here are some quotes from the responses:

“I thought the training series was excellent and highly recommend it as a training tool for managers.”

“Interaction with other managers was fun and a great learning experience.”

“I really like the fact that you effectively get the audience to share real experiences and their best practices.”

“I was able to take away key points from each session and apply them to my job. My job performance
overall and as a manager will benefit greatly from what I’ve learned.”

“The one hour sessions were just long enough and didn’t take out a huge chunk of my day. The sessions
were very informative and I was able to apply most of them immediately.”

“I liked doing the fieldwork because it gave me the opportunity to use what I learned during the class as it
applied to my job.”

One of the key original desired outcomes of the client was a high-retention rate in the lessons learned.   We created a timeline to return to the pilot group in six months and determine the retention levels of the program.  In the meantime, the client felt that it was a big enough success to run it again with another group.

Six months later we met with the client to review the pilot group.  The client had conducted an informal survey of the managers.  They spoke with each manager specifically about the program concepts.  They asked the manager to identify which concepts they are still using and which concepts they had forgotten about.

Overall, the client was very pleased with their findings.  The managers had retained and were using approximately 85% of the content learned.  In addition, the level of support and camaraderie that was created by the program was an unexpected added benefit.  The client was surprised to find that two of the four accountability pairs were still meeting regularly to support each other.  We ended up running the program a few more times to make it available to all managers. 

While I had provided similar programs for other organizations, this was our first client who was interested in measuring results six months later.  This additional proof that training and coaching can be combined to provide powerful learning opportunities was very exciting.  For questions, other similar cases, or more information about this particular case, please contact us


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