The Fallacy of "Before, During, and After" Employee Development

by Julie Winkle Giulioni | Posted | Learning

The Fallacy of \

For decades, we’ve thought about employee development as a three-part meal for the mind. The problem has been that the entrée (‘during’ training) has traditionally received the most attention, with the appetizers and desserts (the ‘before’ and ‘after’ elements) being an after-thought at best and annoyingly busy work at its worst.

This event-centric approach is an artifact or holdover from years gone by when employee training occurred exclusively via workshops, classes, and seminars. Realizing that the value of this learning moment in time quickly passed as the forgetting curve set in, savvy instructors determined that following up after the experience might help. And they went to work on a variety of strategies to keep the learning alive.

Over time (as the ROI on training continued to disappoint), someone thought that preparing learners for the experience might allow them to get more from it. So, pre-work, pre-session assessments, and pre-workshop coaching sessions were born.

The changing face of how we learn

That was then; and this is now. Today, learning is more organic and iterative. Content elements can be quite small and offered up as brief bursts over time. Information and skills can be accessed on a ‘pull’ versus the old style ‘push’ basis as learning and knowledge management systems act as do-it-yourself resource libraries.

Mobile technology offers on-the-spot information and insights. Events - while still a feature of the learning landscape - are less ubiquitous and frequently part of a broader instructional strategy.

As a result, it’s now time to blur the lines and treat learning as the cohesive and integrated experience that it is. People grow a little bit at a time (over time) based upon a combination of formal and information development experiences.

Giving each its due and treating each as an equal partner in the overall equation has the potential to dramatically enhance the effectiveness of an organization’s efforts.

Reevaluating ‘pre-training’

For instance, take pre-work or pre-reading. The labels themselves and the way we typically introduce these activities to participants leaves the impression that are optional extras, an administrative bit of busy work. (And let’s face it, 70% never complete what’s assigned in advance, requiring the facilitator to review the material and ‘punish’ — not to mention bore — the good students who did.)

So, consider reframing pre-work as the series introduction or part one; include concrete learning outcomes, make it interactive, offer immediate real-life value, include an element of accountability, inspire follow-up actions... and you’ve gone from ‘appetizer’ to absorbing... and in the process, you’ll advance genuine learning.

Taking another look at ‘post-training’

And while we’re at it, let’s stop thinking of ‘post-training’ activities as a bunch of desserts that might or might not ever be consumed. Instead, let’s start thinking in terms of extending and layering the learning with meaty morsels.

What happens after a workshop, elearning module, or webinar should be no less important or instructive than the events themselves. Savvy training professionals are foregoing clever add-ons and reminders and are instead focusing on value-added follow-on content.

They understand and anticipate the point at which participants may begin struggling with a new skill or be ready for the next level of sophistication... and they offer that additional learning material in an easily digestible and actionable format. 

The role of leaders and trainers

Training professionals and leaders alike can begin to:

  • Blur the lines that previously distinguished ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after’ training. 
  • Treat it as a cohesive whole.
  • Invest equally across the board.
  • Ensure learning value each step of the way.

Doing so will better reflect the reality of learning in today’s workplace and help organizations realize that elusive return on the investment in training.

Your Turn: How do you integrate pre-training and post-training into your employees’ learning?

Employee Development Templates

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Employee Development Templates

Discover how to match development needs to appropriate learning activities


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