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Columns, Leadership

Use it or lose it

If employees don’t remember much of what they were taught, your training methods may be at fault.

Use it or lose it

How much of this article will you recall once you return to work? Chances are, you will remember reading a training article, and perhaps you will recall an important point because it related directly to your situation.

The reality is that you retain about 5 percent of what you heard in a lecture or podcast, 10 percent of what you read and up to 20 percent of what you learned from viewing PowerPoints and hearing a speaker.

Now consider the training new hires get at your veterinary practice. How much will they recall? Again, the numbers are similar; however, if they see a demonstration and practice what they are being taught, their recall increases to 75 percent.

In both situations, learning is occurring but is not being remembered. How can you change your learning and training methods to improve retention? How can you train the team to respond to the changes going on in the veterinary industry?

Training = Development

Training needs to be about developing people. Therefore, before you start any training session, do a thorough assessment of the knowledge and skills needed to accomplish the task. Do not simply train for the sake of documenting some type of training. Have a structure and a purpose to your training program based on business needs and employee needs.

Having a structured training program begins with being structured to align with your practice’s strategic plan. Your business strategy drives your talent needs, and your training must sustain the business by covering any skills or knowledge gaps in the team. Any business strategy has key performance indicators (KPIs). Your training should enable your practice to achieve KPIs. A structured training program addresses critical skills and knowledge that go into your services and KPIs.

To enhance the development of your team members, advance your training beyond the lecture and reading stage. Achieve better retention by creating a training program that utilizes demonstrations, discussion times and practice.

Take into account the different learning styles and the variety of training techniques. Your training may involve e-learning, webinars, vendor-sponsored sessions and structured on-the-job instruction. As you proceed with various techniques, consider this Chinese proverb: “I hear and I forget. I read and I remember. I do and I understand.” Make certain that trainees are shown the direct link between the skill they are learning and the job they are responsible for performing, and that they are permitted to perform what they just learned.

Think all these techniques are overkill? Try telling that to Jiffy Lube, which won the American Society for Training and Development BEST Award in 2011 and took the No. 1 spot on Training Magazine’s Training Top 125 in 2014. Jiffy Lube utilizes e-learning, instructor-led courses, virtual instructor-led training and simulations to create an award-winning program that develops knowledgeable employees. If an oil-change company can achieve such success, imagine what your veterinary practice could do.

Development = Knowledge Transfer

To kick your training program up a notch, achieve 90 percent retention by providing opportunities for the recently trained to teach someone else and immediately begin using their newly acquired knowledge and skills. This applies to a new hire, a person going through a performance improvement plan and someone returning from a conference.

You may cringe at the thought of having a new hire train another new hire. Instead, have the new hire “train” the trainer. The trainee has just completed the reading and was shown how to perform the task. Enhance her retention by having her go through the steps with her trainer. This way, ample opportunity will be given to discuss the relevance of the steps and the expectations of the team and identify any memory losses.

Another opportunity for a team member to teach others is by sharing information learned at conferences. Upon her return, review what she learned and the sessions she attended, and identify a session that was highly relevant to the current business goals. Have the conference attendee organize a meeting in which she will teach the team what she learned. This can create a win-win for everyone:

  • The attendee improves her retention of the material.
  • The team receives updated information and training from one of its own.
  • The business realizes a better return on investment for sending someone to
  • a conference.

Continuing with this concept, consider developing subject experts on the team — people who will step into the role of trainer as needed. Part of having a successful, structured, on-the-job training process is having key personnel involved in the training. Selecting certain individuals as “certified trainers” means you have acknowledged their level of expertise and job performance, you view them as professional and competent, you recognize their ability to communicate with and engage others in learning, and you have identified them to the rest of the team.

Knowledge Transfer = Excellence

The more that team members apply what they learn to the everyday performance of providing medical care and exceeding client expectations, the more it will stay with them and not be forgotten. In other words, use it or lose it.

As an example of this, let’s look at client service training. The team recently sat through a presentation, discussed helpful communication scripts and even did role-playing to try out what was learned. Does the training stop there? It shouldn’t. Continue the learning process by incorporating stories into your meetings — accounts of excellent client service, such as what happened, how it was handled and how the client responded. The reinforcement has begun.

Another example is in the implementation of Fear Free techniques. The team goes through the training modules, takes the exams and then what? Assign individuals to lead group discussions on the modules. The retention rises to 50 percent. Have the tools and supplies ready to begin implementing what was learned in the module (75 percent retention). Regroup with individual stories about different situations, what did or did not work, and perhaps additional tips (90 percent retention). Now your team is using the training and not losing it due to inactivity.

Training programs done in veterinary practices often inundate a person with information about medical procedures, client service, standard operating procedures and practice policies. To improve retention of this information, the way training occurs must change. Have a purpose and a plan with any training session, be it the training of a new hire, someone trying to improve her performance or a seasoned team member looking to keep up with an evolving industry.

Knowledge is power. Harness the power for better patient care, client service and team performance.

VetPartners member Louise S. Dunn is a speaker, writer and founder of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting.