Make Your PMO More Effective With Learning Transfer
Do you make a point of ensuring that everyone who goes on a training course transfers what they have learned to their work environment? It’s worth doing. A new study by ESI International shows that when training is transferred back onto the job, Project Management Offices (PMOs) are considered more effective by project teams and stakeholders.
Helping employees apply what they learned on training courses is one of the functions where PMOs are able to add a lot of value. PMOs are often responsible for identifying training needs, coordinating training and sometimes experts from the PMO will even deliver courses. That means they are a key group who can actively support learners returning to work after a course.
What is learning transfer?
Training courses are great, but too often when people go back to their day jobs after a week at a training venue, they struggle to put into practice the skills that they have gained. Another common occurrence is that they are able to use their new skills for a short time but that long term they slip back into their old ways.
This ‘slippage’ is more acute with soft skills training. Harder skills, like learning how to use enterprise project management software, are something that they will practice regularly on returning to work. What you learn in a classroom about what buttons to press will be reinforced when you put those skills to use at work. However, what you learn about effectively collaborating on estimating in order to get solid data to enter into your software tool is less likely to stick.
Ways to make learning sustainable
Going on a course isn’t enough to ensure someone has a good grasp of the concepts; they need to use and practice those skills too. There are a number of ways that PMOs and project managers can help their teams get the most out of training.
Prior to the course, discuss and agree the learning objectives with the person attending. Why are they going? Do they understand what they should get out of the course and what they will do with that knowledge afterwards?
Once they return from training, have a follow up discussion with them. Work together to produce an action plan detailing how they will implement what they have learned. Some courses may include this as a final exercise, in which case you can review what has already been produced with your team member.
The PMO can provide additional help through on-the-job coaching. What workplace support can you offer them? This can also be a good opportunity for PMO employees to gain valuable exposure to mentoring and coaching situations. The PMO is also in a great place to assign tasks to the newly-trained employee to help them develop these skills. If your PMO does not carry out resource allocation, talk to the individual’s line manager and try to work with them to ensure that there is adequate opportunity for the employee to test their new skills.
Finally, consider setting up learning support groups or peer networks within the PMO or organization. If a group of people have taken the course together, schedule a follow up meeting in a few months where they can all share what they have done since completing their training. If you have collaborative tools or in-house social networks, set up a workspace where the group can continue to meet and support each other while their skills are still new.
Measuring the impact
Only 70% of PMOs measure the impact that training has on their project teams. If you want to measure the impact of training, there are a number of ways to do it. For example, use pre- and post-training surveys to assess how a team member feels they have developed. You could also compare the project results of individuals before training and after training. It is very difficult to measure the impact of training, so think carefully about the appropriate measures for your PMO.
Some of your measurement activities will have to be through personal discussions, but if you can, automate the collection of this data through creating project reports using your enterprise project management tool, or using online survey tools.
Collecting this information and having these discussions will help the PMO take a comprehensive view of what is important to the business as a whole. The information gathering works both ways: managers share how the training will help them be more effective, and the PMO team will gain a better understanding of how jobs are done and what is really important to individuals. This also helps them shape future training efforts to make sure they really are as effective as possible.