How to Transfer Learning Into Action

By Valerie Manso
Armed with all of the latest point-of-purchase materials and a PowerPoint presentation, you conducted a “Lunch and Learn” at your largest account. You were thrilled with the reception the doctor and staff gave you. At the conclusion of the session you conducted a brief question and answer session and they really seemed like they got it. In fact, they said they loved the new product information. So, you returned to the lab and waited for the orders to come rolling in. Two weeks went by and nothing happened!

Where did you go wrong? The information was well presented. You questioned their knowledge. They asked good questions. You left patient take away materials. You even gave them a coupon for a complimentary pair, which they still have not redeemed. Very simply put, “Telling is not training! Sharing information is not enough!” Let’s investigate better methods to ensure a transfer of learning into action. First we’ll take a look at what it takes to change the behavior of an adult… otherwise known as IMPLEMENTATION.

Here’s a simple formula for adult learning: I = M x A x V x F

I = Implementation of required/desired change

M = Motivation of the individual

A = Accountability or lack thereof within the business

V = Visibility or ongoing information regarding the implementation

F = Follow-up to remind, encourage, and recognize performance

Implementation is the degree to which one follows through in a timely and effective manner on commitments made (Yes, I’ll try these new lenses). However implementation will not occur without all of the components of the above formula!

Motivation lives within the individual and cannot be instilled into someone. Yes, it is in everyone, but may need to be nurtured. Whether or not a person is motivated can have everything to do with the environment in which they exist, and little to do with the person. Much like growing flowers or vegetables, motivation flourishes under the right conditions.

The second part of our formula is the Accountability culture of the business. Do the owner and or manager support the changes? Will the principals reinforce the changes? Just who is really accountable? In fact three individuals are involved in implementing change—the trainer (an outsider), the owner/manager, and the attendee (sales person, technician or optician). Two of them think the other two are responsible. The other feels some responsibility, however mixed messages are received.

The owner/manager says, “no one said it is my role to make it happen.” I paid for the session by giving them time to learn. And frankly, I wasn’t there so I don’t know what they were taught. Now ask yourself, why did they not attend?

The attendee knows they have some responsibility but they receive mixed messages: no one follows up; no one reinforces the training; and my manager does not sell these items. In addition, the attendee has many other on-the-job day-to-day pressures. There are many forces combining to have participants behave in the same manner as the past. Remember the age old adage …If it isn’t broke don’t fix it!

The trainer (Lab Rep) says, “I am responsible for an informative, engaging learning experience.” The content of my program is relevant to their work and really, other than looking at the sales numbers; I have no more responsibility once I leave their office.

The Visibility of action is nonexistent for the trainer. He/she is back at the lab awaiting the results. Visibility by the owner/manager is intermittent at best, especially if they did not attend the training session. And Visibility by the attendee is lost in the day-to-day. Two days later they are saying, “What was the name of that new lens?” Instead of visibility we’ve created a giant fog bank and the learning quickly dissipates with little or no action.

Follow-up by the Lab Rep is often along the lines of, “Hi, how’s it going?” Versus, what have you done with the new knowledge? Or, how many patients have you presented the new lenses to? Or, have you been tracking sales of the new lenses, if so, what are your results?”

Correctly executed follow up has three major functions: a reminder to keep commitments top of mind; the Incentive to plan future actions; and reporting or accounting of past actions. When follow up occurs, implementation soars. When it is not done, little implementation takes place. Now there are exceptions and in rare individuals implementation of the required change occurs without one or more of the needed components. However, the more normal result is the lack of transfer of learning into action.

Follow up may be accomplished in a number of ways:

• Phone calls

• Visit to the location

• E-mail messages

• Fax

• Discussion with owner/manager

• Survey of participants

• Additional training

• Participant tracking of actions (sales)

How do we make implementation happen? Or, how do we make the training stick?

Before the training session the trainer and the owner/manager must discuss and agree on the expectations and the desired changes. Following are examples of how to articulate the desired outcomes.

Within 2 days of the training all opticians will present the new lenses to at least one patient and continue to recommend at a minimum 20 percent level for the next 30 days.

• The practice manager will track sales and provide data to the staff and Lab Rep on a weekly basis.

• The Lab Rep will retrain non-performing staff within two weeks.

• At 30 days a results meeting will be held and new goals set for the next 30 days.

During the next 30 days the staff will endeavor to sell 20 percent of all lenses with the new anti-reflective treatment.

• All staff will log their sales on the tracking form daily. The tracking form will be posted in the lab area.

• The practice manager will fax the completed form to the Lab Rep on a weekly basis.

• Non-performing staff will be retrained via conference call every week until their sales reach target levels.

• At the end of 30 days, if goals are met, the staff will share a pizza lunch provided by the lab.

In both of the above noted examples we’ve covered all of the components of the implementation formula:

M=Motivation of the individual because performance is being measured

A=Accountability of all three parties has been clearly discussed and agreed

V=Visibility of the implementation through tracking and sharing of results

F=Follow up by participants, owner/manager and trainer

So now the likelihood of transference of learning to action is significantly increased and sales success is assured.

Valerie Manso is president of Manso Management Resources, Inc., a consulting company specializing in training and development for the ophthalmic industry. Ms. Manso may be contacted at [email protected]


Labtalk June 2020