The Benefits of Connecting to the Participants Before and After the Session

Trainers and Participants have always been introduced at their first meeting the beginning of the training program. Participant introduction is in fact one of the most common ice-breakers used till date. However, with the importance of participant engagement in a program growing, trainers have started reaching out to participants before hand through brochures and welcome letters. The next logical step in this direction is , of course, to reach out to participants well in advance, understand their needs, strengths and areas of development and matching those in a program to make it more meaningful and useful for the participants. So for a participant to feel truly engaged, he must be aware of why he is going to the program-its objective, what he will gain from it design and agenda and ultimately how he is going to use it support in application.
Trainers put in a lot of effort before the program commences, designing the program and arranging for success. From the participant end, however, it is rather abrupt as the first they find out about anything is when the session begins. Not many are even aware of why they are attending the program. A similar story waits at the end of the program - the trainer and the participants go their separate ways, often with no further interaction to ensure continued learning or application of concepts.
For a training program to succeed one key ingredient that is often overlooked; the trainer-participant relation or connect. It begins with pre-program for motivation and extends to post-program for development. This area needs focus. Let us see the benefits of each of these.
For short duration programs, there is not enough time to set the motivation levels. Trainers cannot always fit in all the activities and assignments needed into the contact duration and trainers have to adjust on the discussion time frames to cover all topics in the agenda. In the longer duration programs, there is a risk of participants coming in a holiday mood and it takes a long time to build up seriousness. There is also always a lingering question on how much the participants will remember at the end of the program. So, irrespective of the duration of the program, sharing the program objectives and the design before-hand sets the expectations and motivates the learners early. After the program, the trainer may want to share assignments or projects to help in smooth application of concepts and the participants may have some points that still need clarifications, this means that the trainer is needed even after the program ends.
So what really are the issues that a trainer faces when he tries to do this? The participants and the trainer are in different locations: how to do you initiate and maintain communication channels? How to do you gather, record, track and analyze data being received.
Trainers are hard pressed for time today, and when forced to choose, they would give importance to the training sessions. Having a facility to reach out to the participants before the program and maintain a relationship after the program would be a great help to the trainer to enhance the quality of training and in the process of knowledge transfer.
An ideal application should provide a common ground where the trainer can share the objective of the program with its agenda. Doing that would help the participants understand what they can expect from the program and what is expected from them. Giving assignments (reading cases/case-lets, articles etc.) would set the tone for the program and the preparation work will help the participants and trainer establish some common ground before they meet, increasing participant engagement.
A trainer should be able to send tests and quizzes online that his participants can answer from their respective locations. An analysis of the test and the scores must be provided to the trainer so that he/she can customize their program accordingly.
Trainers may also want to conduct 360 degree/multi-rater surveys with appropriate and customizable questionnaires to assess the current competence levels of the participants to customize the approach and methodologies during the sessions.
After the program is over, a trainer must be able to conduct a post-program test to assess the extent of learning by the participants. Similarly conducting a follow-up 360 degree/multi-rater survey is also important to gauge the change in behavior. While these steps form crucial steps in program evaluation, they are important for more than just that. The results of the tests and behavioral evaluation tell the trainer how to chart the post-program development plan for each individual participant. Therefore an application that facilitates such aggressive data collection and analysis is important for trainers.
Participants should be able to record and maintain notes relating to the training program. The trainer can share relevant material including books, articles and videos with the participants before and after the program a learning corner of sorts for the participants.
When we listen to a concept in the training program it seems simple enough. Often when we apply these concepts we discover the intricacies and difficulties. This is compounded by the fact that the application happens in the real life work-environment where appraisals and dead-lines put pressure. Participants thus hesitate before trying something new. Having a trainer who can help in the smooth transition from concepts to application in non-threatening environment to change in work behavior is a must. A simple yet effective means of doing this is Projects. An application must enable the trainer and the participant to create, monitor and discuss the progress on a project and the learning from it.
To facilitate this smoothly, the trainer must have the provision to plan and record items related to the program starting from inauguration details, program and participant details, formal mails to the chief guest etc. At the same time the trainer must be able to view in one brief snapshot the gist of all the data he needs to collect (for tests and surveys), the progress and the results.
Today trainers need to reach before and beyond training programs and facilitate learning in the days of demands for more in less time periods.


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