Participants in any work-related training course are never more excited than when they learn a technique or tool that has an immediate application in the work they’re doing. If we, as participants, recognise that a newly-learned tool will increase our productivity we’ll leap on it, especially in today’s work environment where time continues to be a diminishing resource.
Where the gain from training is not as guaranteed is where there is no immediately recognised use for the new tool we’ve learned in training. Where there’s no immediate application we tend to set the new tool aside in our minds while we address those with more apparent relevance.
This is even more pronounced during a MS Excel training course. Unlike many non-software related business performance training programs where participants might be introduced to a smaller number of concepts which are then explored in detail, Excel training courses will often introduce participants to a large palette of tools.
It’s common for participants in an Excel course to be amazed, at the time of learning, by the capability of the software and the individual tools covered, but it’s the tool that can be immediately used that will stick in the mind of the student.
Often, the other functions take a back seat in the mind, and if not applied in a practical way within a reasonably short period of time, can be forgotten.
Will Thalheimer’s 2006 report Spacing Learning Events Over Time: What the Research Says proves that: Although learning and memory are strong during a learning event, knowledge decay begins almost immediately after the event and more than 90 percent of the information can be forgotten in as little as a month.
How can we overcome this? One excellent way is to go back to the training manual. We know that most participants put the manual aside at the end of the course. We encourage our participants to take their manuals off the shelf and go through the training manual several times after the course. Whether it’s a chapter a week or a month, participants will find content that’ll help them increase their productivity, and which often they didn’t even recall they’d covered in the original training session.
We know there’s a benefit here; participants who have reopened the manual at some point after the course stated that it helped to embed their learning and to help them recall “how to” use the tool.
Another way is to speak with their colleagues who attended the course with them, and who perform similar functions at work. They might ask their colleagues what they learned in training that they’re now using at their desk. It’s often amazing how different people adapt the enormously versatile toolset in Excel to solve their own specific calculation and data problems.
This brings up the question of resources that exist in the workplace that could be helpful here – we’ve seen clients setup areas on their intranet or via SharePoint where participants can pass on to their colleagues information about what they have learned about the application and how it can help others using Excel in a similar work environment.
Sharing information in this way can increase the return on investment all round; to the participant in terms of productivity and time-saving, and to the company in terms of dollars spent versus benefit received.