"Everyone gets training," says Eduardo Salas, a psychology professor at the University of Central Florida. "But what matters? What works?"

In a recent report, Salas and several co-authors explore those questions and reach multiple conclusions, one of which is that business leaders should view training as a system, not a one-time event. Indeed, they say what happens before and after the actual training is as important as the training itself.

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The report, published in "Psychological Science in the Public Interest," a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, outlines important steps to take pre-, during and post-training. Important pre-training steps include:
• Conduct a thorough training-needs analysis. This includes a job-task analysis to uncover training needs and set training standards; an organizational analysis both to assure training aligns with strategic priorities and to determine what obstacles, if any, need to be addressed to create a workplace that supports training effectiveness; and a person analysis to determine who is most likely to benefit from training as well as the best means by which to provide training.

"It is, however, important to recognize that training is not always the ideal solution to address performance deficiencies, and a well-conducted TNA can also help determine whether a nontraining solution is a better alternative," the authors state. They identify a training needs analysis as likely the most important step in developing and delivering training.
• Communicate to students how the training is relevant to successful job performance, but be realistic in setting expectations.
• Develop appropriate attendance policies for training.
• Encourage supervisors and team leaders to hold conversations with students in advance of the training. Involve these leaders early so they can provide accurate information and motivation.
• Schedule training close to when students will be using the skills to help mitigate skill decay.

Training works, the authors say, and "what the organization does around it matters."