Know why you are going. Check in with yourself: how open to learning can you be? This is not a question we were taught to answer in school, and it is a good one to ask before attending. The more open to learning, the more engaged you are likely to be and the more you can apply what was learned.
Is this training something you chose or is it mandatory? If you chose it, that’s great. It’s likely you will be committed to exploring the topic fully. If it is required, many participants are often less eager or less interested. This is not unusual: we often have resistance to things we are told to do. If we know this, however, we can become aware of the resistance, and choose to learn just as well as if we had decided on the class ourselves.
Many participants also attend trainings to meet other people. This is a good thing. Knowing other people increases our ability to get our work done and generally creates a more collegial and positive environment. It’s also fine to plan on having a good time during the training. In most cases, the more we enjoy ourselves and each other, the more we can learn and apply.
Engage your manager. How much and in what ways we engage our manager depends on the manager and our relationship with him or her. If you need approval to take the training, ask your manager before registering. Discuss your schedule, time needs away from normal work, and any other expectations your manager may have. Even if you do not need approval, describe or somehow share the training objectives so your manager knows about the material you will be learning.
Inform colleagues/staff. Let your colleagues and staff know you will be away and when you will return. If necessary, provide contact options or say how you will stay up-to-date while away, particularly if gone for more than a day.
Plan ahead for your work. Once you are registered for a training, schedule time the week before, and particularly in the few days before the program, to organize your work to be away. During this time, set up your work and space so you are set-up for when you return. Write a “to-do list.” Communicate and coordinate with others about collaborative work. Plan thoughtfully for your return. This way, when you are in the training you will be able to focus, and when you return to your work space, you will be able to start right up.
Plan ahead to be on time. Think through the day of your training thoughtfully to know what time you really need to get to the program on time. If the training is in a new location, leave more time than you think you will need. Plan ahead, especially for days where the location is new or travel is different. Be on time so you are ready to focus right from the start of the class.
During the Training
Oh yes, I am here for learning! How we relate to ourselves in relationship to learning is important. A good question to ask yourself first is, “Do I want to learn?” Hopefully, the answer is "Yes!" even if the training is mandatory. If you are reading this whole piece, you will know this is the second time we mention the topic of being ready to learn. Choosing to learn is the key to learning, and it is worth repeating as it can truly make a difference in what we take away.
Tips. Participants who get the most from training programs consistently:
- Stay focused on the class itself. This means being present, interested, and actively engaged. Listen to others and share your own experience as well.
- Participate actively in exercises. Jump into the conversations. Complete the activities. Volunteer for a role play.
- Relate the material to their own work. Provide examples. Think about the ways you can take the learning back to your daily work. Sort out, "What’s in this for me and for my work?" The more you put into it, the more you are likely to take away.
- Nod and shake. No this is not a dance class, but when asked a question, do let the instructor know your response. Nodding and shaking of the head is helpful to instructors as well as participants when they ask questions! Imagine asking someone a question, and getting no response at all. Let people know you are there by responding when you can.
- Enjoy the class as much as possible. Look for content that is helpful to you. Enjoy the other participants’ questions. Laugh a lot (of course this means laughing with and not laughing at). The more enjoyment, usually, the more learning.
- Ask questions. Ask questions about what you want to know more about. Ask questions to clarify meanings or specifics.
- Say what will help. Ask the instructor for more time on an exercise, for example. Let the instructor know what works for you, especially when asked.
- Take care of personal needs. Bring a sweater if you tend to get cold; stand up and stretch if that helps you concentrate; get a cup of water.
- Take responsibility for their own learning. Nothing else goes as far as making a choice to learn and to actively participate.
Provide feedback. Provide feedback, both about what you liked as well as improvements and suggestions. Most programs offer an evaluation form at the end of the class. Even the most excellent programs do not necessarily meet all people’s needs. Providing productive feedback is helpful for everyone.
After the Training
Practice, practice, practice. Given our real and understandable human nature to forget, retaining knowledge after a training means spending time with the content and materials again. To retain information, it often helps to review material the first day, again within another day or two afterwards, and again in a week. Then practice and practice some more. It’s not about getting it right the first time, but really finding ways to use that knowledge over time.
Engage your manager again. Many managers appreciate being informed about the program afterwards. Share your learning and materials, as appropriate, with your manager. Ask for or discuss opportunities to apply the new skills. If you can, bring back your learning to colleagues and staff. Ask what they think. Share materials. Describe what you learned.
Apply and enjoy the learning. Learning is not just about acquisition and retrieval of information, but about the ability to creatively and adventurously apply that learning in our work and lives. This includes finding ways to apply what we learned in different contexts. It also includes enjoying what we have learned and having fun along the way. Talk with colleagues. Explore. Try new things.
And, if you like, sign up for another training! Browse and register for courses now.