What I Learned About Training from Etiquette Rule #7

I usually blog about healthcare and frequently its relationship to training and performance. Today, however, the subject is pure training. For healthcare afficianados, be assured it was inspired by a blog about table etiquette for doctors that was featured on Kevin MD, one of my favorite healthcare blog aggregators.

See www.kevinmd.com to sign up.

Table Etiquette Rule #7

Table etiquette rule #7 is “Put napkin on lap to unfold. When leaving the table temporarily, place the napkin on the chair. At the end of the meal, place napkin to the left of the plate.”

I know this. I had learned virtually every one of the 30 rules, and most of them ingrained to he point that if I violate one, my conscience nudges me. Well, that is until lately.

I have been placing my napkin on my chair when I temporarily leave the table almost all my life; it’s one of those instinctual things. Not everyone does it; many people who demonstrate good table manners put their napkin on the table when they excuse themselves momentarily. Over time, somewhere deep down inside, I started to wonder if I “remembered it wrong.” After all, maybe the rule had changed.

The table etiquette article affirmed my instincts and, since I tend to see things through the eyes of a trainer, reminded me about a few things regarding training as well.

1. Reinforcement. Even if we learn something well, we can get sloppy over time, cut corners, or begin to question ourselves when people around us don’t apply the learned behavior. Occasionally, we may need a refresher or a job aid placed at our work station to reinforce the learning.

2. Learn it well the first time, apply it often. The original learned behavior “stuck” because it was repeated many times with correction for failure. The ingrained behavior is automatic and deviation causes a little subconscious nudge.

3. Teach everyone the same rules and processes for consistency. We don’t like to be different than our peers. If someone does it differently, long enough, we may start to emulate them to fit in. Make sure all, or at least the majority, of your employees know the correct way to do something and it will spread to others who may not have learned it as well, or at all.

The Stickiness of Training

The Learning, Education and Training group on LinkedIn has a hot trending topic this week on “In 10 Words or Less…Why do you think learners forget what they’ve learned so quickly?” This topic has garnered over 1,000 comments, akin to going viral. Just about everyone agrees stickiness is all about having the learning be relevant to your job, using it soon and frequently.

We all know this. But after we write and implement training, how often do we go back to reinforce what we’ve delivered? Sure, maybe we don’t have the time or resources. Or the managers back on the job don’t know the new learned behavior or don’t reinforce it. Or something.

If we’re going to stop wasting training dollars, we need to put in the time and effort to follow-up to make sure what we’ve taught is reinforced in the workplace and relevant to the job at hand. Then our employees will always place their napkins on the chair when they temporarily dismiss themselves from the table, just the way they learned it the first time.


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