Evoke Development Blog

Are Your Employees Ready to Learn?



There are several things, as trainers and managers, that we need to evaluate before delivering training. First and foremost, are the individuals ready for it? Trainee readiness refers to whether individuals have the mental ability, experience, and desire to learn the information being presented and then apply it to their job.  In most classes there are a wide array of ability and knowledge levels amongst the attendees. Generally, some are more advanced and become easily bored, while others may struggle to keep up with new information being delivered because their knowledge base or experience is not as vast.

Along with evaluating trainee readiness, we need to consider the employees’ goal orientation in regard to learning.  If individuals are worried about doing well in training and getting positive evaluations, chances are they have a performance orientation. They hold the belief that their skills are somewhat fixed which causes them to be less open to learning environments where mistakes are encouraged. Performance oriented individuals are more interested in performing well than they are with learning new things; thus, they frequently resist challenging training scenarios or situations where they are not already knowledgeable because they are very sensitive to feedback. In contrast, individuals with a mastery orientation accept mistakes as part of the learning process and view the learning environment as a great place to make errors in the overall processes to increase their competence.

Research has found that individuals with a mastery orientation are more engaged and motivated when it comes to learning. They also tend to build new skills quicker and are more able to translate those skills into positive job performance. To foster a mastery orientation among employees, it is important to deemphasize competition amongst classmates and encourage trainees to make mistakes and experiment with the knowledge and skills they just acquired in a safe learning environment. It is also important to take into account the experience level of those attending the training. Trainers should deliver a longer, more structured training program for those with less experience and a shorter, less structured class for those with more experience.

As to whether the employee is motivated or interested in attending the class, a lot has to do with the individuals’ belief that it will help them do their job better and having learning supported and encouraged by their manager.

So, before you deliver your next training class, be sure to note the readiness, goal orientation, experience, and motivation of your target audience. And don’t forget to gauge and encourage management involvement if you want your training to have the performance impact it was designed to have.

For more information about this topic, check out this great book - Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology by Frank Landy and Jeffrey Conte (2010).

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