Why are some management development programmes and training courses more effective than others?  Why do some managers come back from a course wanting to implement what they have learned straight away while others might as well not have bothered attending in the first place?

Perhaps some of the answers can be found in psychology research that has tried to explain how people learn.  In other words how we come to know what we know, and how we change our knowledge and behavior in response to experience. Decades of psychological research have established what good school teachers intuitively know about the most effective ways to reach their students and help them understand new concepts and ideas.  For example there are a number of simple principles that will help learning be more effective:

  1. Make the learning relevant.  We remember things better when they matter to us, and we are more likely to pay attention to a speaker or a topic when we can apply it to our own work.
  2. Make sure the learning can be used immediately, as we quickly forget things that we don’t regularly practice.  Have you ever been on an IT training course but then forgotten how to use the system or program because the course was 6 months ago?
  3. Keep the learning interactive. Trainers need to ensure than “talk with”, rather than ‘talk at’ their participants.  This is achieved by asking questions, challenging delegates to think and using creative ways of involving them through exercises, discussions and reflection.
  4. Limit the use of DVD/Videos.  Few things are more passive than watching television. Of course, there are excellent resources available in this medium, many of which will be very helpful. It is just important to make sure this is not the primary means of communication. For example, think about using brief clips to illustrate points, or break up a training session with humour.
  5. Review. Spend the first five minutes of every new training session reviewing what occurred in the previous one. This technique can help link tie important themes together and promote integration of the training program as a whole.
  6. Space out management training sessions.  Very little is learned by cramming things in. Make sure that after a training session the participants have an appropriate amount of time to put into practice what they have learned before embarking on the next piece of learning.
  7. Encourage participants to read around the subject.  Provide additional reading materials, books, articles internet sites etc to enable the participants to further their development.

Using these simple techniques will help to ensure that the most is gained from management development programmes and training courses.