It is said that around 90% of training is wasted as skills gained on expensive training courses are lost within a year. Thankfully it doesn’t have to be this way, and with a little forethought and planning it is possible to make the most of training.
1. Think About Your Learning Objectives
The first step needed to make the most of training opportunities is to be sure that they are helping you towards your learning objectives.
Having learning objectives or a development plan can help keep you focussed on longer term goals, and what you want to achieve.
Use learning objectives to think about what you need or would like to know, and look out for training opportunities in this area.
If a training opportunity comes up that looks interesting, you can go back to your development plan or learning objectives to see whether it fits, and whether it really will help you achieve your goals.
Sometimes training looks fun or interesting, but on closer inspection isn’t really appropriate.
2. Take the Right Training at the Right Time
Once you have identified your learning objectives you can start thinking about the right training to achieve them. Often it can be tempting to think about training only in the formal sense – going away on a day-long course for example. But actually much of your most useful development will be ‘on the job’. As much as around 70 per cent of development comes from working on tough jobs, with only around 10 per cent coming from formal training courses and reading. The remaining 20 per cent or so comes from learning from other people (usually the boss).
Most of our learning comes from working on projects. We can only hope to learn so much from formal training.
So it makes sense to try to use formal training to support our experience in projects, on the job. This approach is known as ‘blended learning‘.
Any formal training will be much more effective if we can put it into action right away, so it makes sense to try to time training to when we will by using in a project. For example attending multiple courses to learn various programming languages is all well and good, but this could be time (and money) wasted unless there is the real-world practice to back it up.
3. Reflect on What You Learn
Since so much of our learning and development comes to make the most of training, we should be sure to reflect on what we learn (both formally and informally), and think about how it can improve our effectiveness.
One powerful method to help with reflecting on what we have learned is a reflective diary. Reflective diaries encourage us work through a learning cycle and reflect on our responses to experiences, and how we can link our experience to formal training and theory.