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Driving Development: Closing the 5 Reinforcement Gaps

ICC January 16, 2017 0 Comments

By: Susan Ruhl

It’s a common misconception that just because someone has been trained, they will use the knowledge and skills learned during training. But this is not true!

For your training to be effective, your learners must be ready and willing to change their behaviors. You must also reinforce knowledge and skills after training has ended to keep them from falling victim to the Forgetting Curve.

When designing a post-training reinforcement program, you need to pay attention to the five major reinforcement gaps to get the desired behavior changes. These gaps include:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Skills
  3. Motivation
  4. Environment
  5. Communication

When creating programs for our clients, often we see that their programs have not been effective in the past because they were only able to successfully close two of the five reinforcement gaps: Knowledge and Skills.

Knowledge Gap – This is the first, most obvious and easiest gap that must be closed. Is the information given to your learner sufficient to begin to change their behaviors? It’s important to provide them with enough information that they are able to close the knowledge gap. This opportunity most often happens during classroom training.

Skills Gap – Similar to the knowledge gap, closing the skills gap is relatively easy. Most often it happens during classroom training. Ask yourself this: Do my learners know how to do the skills they are being asked to do? Is my reinforcement focused on the skills taught during training?

The areas that get missed most often tend to be one place where training becomes ineffective. These gaps include: motivation, environment and communication.

Motivation Gap – People don’t change their behaviors simply because logic dictates it.  Instead, for people to really change, they must be motivated to adopt the change.  What are you doing to help them see the need for change or more importantly, to feel the need for change? (Kotter, Leading Change, 1996)

Environment Gap – Are you giving your learners enough time and support to be successful at their job? It’s important that you are creating opportunities for your learners. Provide them with support in their environment, helping them reach their training goals faster.

Communication Gap – Do you have directions or processes in place for your learners? Make sure that you are accurately communicating training goals. Processes, timelines or directions should be in place so that all learners understand what the ultimate goal is and how to change their behaviors accordingly.

Say a learner goes into leadership training. After training they are expected to act on the knowledge and skills learned during their training? Only two of the reinforcement gaps are closed: knowledge and skills.

The remaining gaps were not closed after training ended. Why?  Because the learner’s environment has not changed, there was no increase in motivation and they did not receive accurate communication on workplace goals. Because only two of the five reinforcement gaps were closed, the learner is unable to effectively implement what they learned from the training.

If you do not close the reinforcement gaps, the training will be deemed unsuccessful!

If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of reinforcement and training gaps, click here for more information on upcoming webinars.

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