Your agency’s training plan bears a direct and powerful relationship to its ability to recruit and to retain employees. Prospective employees look for an agency that offers training opportunities that will help them become more proficient in their work and follow a career path to more responsible and higher-paying positions. Once hired, employees who feel supported, challenged, and encouraged to build relevant skills—and who see rewards for using those skills—are more likely to commit to the organization for a longer term. Effective training can help retain employees by giving them the skills they need to make a difference and the confidence to keep trying, learning, and growing professionally.
Effective training demonstrates an organization’s commitment to professional development and can be a significant factor in reducing turnover. For example, research
suggests organizations that expect their employees to maintain current knowledge actually reduce turnover by increasing job satisfaction. There are a wide variety of behavioral health and mental health providers, organizations, and associations that offer on-going professional development
for their professional staff.
Behavioral health organizations face competing, and sometimes heartbreaking, demands for scarce resources. In this environment, effective training strategies are essential with wasted training dollars having unseen costs in missed opportunities. These materials provide information and resources designed to answer critical questions such as:
- How do I get a handle on my agency’s real training needs so I can plan ahead?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of training? When are they appropriate?
- How do I select the best approach?
- How can I really make training “stick” so I get the most out of my training dollars?
- When does it make sense to purchase vendor-developed or other existing training?
- What are some sources of training for behavioral health agencies?
- When might an agency want to design and develop its own training? How would it do this in a professional way?
- What do I need to think of when I am planning the logistics of a training program?
- What kind of training evaluation will give me the information I need?
In selecting or designing a training strategy, basic elements of Adult Learning Theory
should be considered. Adult learning theory first focused on distinguishing adult learning from that of children in formal education systems. In the 1970’s, several books were influential in specifying these differences, including Houle’s The Design of Education (1972)
, Kidd’s How Adults Learn (1978)
, and Knowles’ The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (1973, 1998)
. Of these books, Knowles’ work was the most influential and outlines six principles of adult learning that focus on the adult learner as someone who is independent and needs to understand how learning benefits them. These principles include:
1. Need to Know — Adults need to know why they should learn something new and how it will benefit them.
2. Self-Concept — Adults are suspicious of others imposing their wills on them and need to be moved into a self-directed learner mode where they are responsible for their own learning and the direction it takes.
3. Role of Experience — Adult’s experience should be acknowledged and used to get the most out of learning new concepts.
4. Readiness to Learn — Adults seek out learning as a way to better themselves and to solve real life tasks and problems.
5. Orientation to Learning — New learning should clearly define how it can be applied to everyday life.
6. Motivation to Learn — Internal motivators are more important than external motivators for adults such as increased job satisfaction, self-esteem, or quality of life.
This chapter, Training Intervention Strategies, guides you through the wide variety of training methods, design/delivery options, and other important considerations that help ensure the training you purchase or design makes a real difference to your agency, your staff, and the outcomes your clients can achieve through your assistance.
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