Sheesh, workplace coaches and structured workplace support

By ashwellglasson, 26 October, 2010

Hmm, a series of learnership and planning workshops with various host employers, plus the implementation of a focused evaluation strategy (based upon the highly successful Kirkpatricks 4-levels of training evaluation) has produced some insightful results and reinforced what many of us have felt for quite sometime.

The need for competent 'skills-coaches' in the workplace supporting and providing focused training for learners enrolled on learnerships, internships and other workplace-based training placements has never been more necessary. To add to this, the operational management and workplace support from the business itself is also key. Having spent time now with 7 host employers this past week, it was evident from our conversations that learnerships still need to move from 'learnership 1.0' to 'learnership 2.0'. From pure compliance to true transfer of learning.

The results speak for themselves, although many workplace coaches and supervisors mean well, they are not coaching and supporting their learners optimally. One can argue that there are many factors that play into this, but nonetheless we are seeing some very tangible challenges affecting the transfer of learning to the workplace for learnerships and similar programmes. From the training provider perspective, evaluation is critical. Ensure that the evaluation feedback provided by learners at the
'reaction' level also includes the workplace, the coaches as well as the standard contact training components like the trainer, the learning materials and so on. Summarise and use the metrics and data that you collect. We are required to do it as a basic component of SETA accredited provision and if you are not utilsing it, then start now. You will be quite surprised what information and decision-making inputs it can provide you.

Our advice for host emploers, is straightforward. Select your coaches well (determine the selection and performance requriements upfront). Ensure that you are clear as to what is needed and ensure that the business has a realistic view or what resources, time and effort is required to ensure that the coach can actually coach and assist learners productively without dropping the ball in their existing jobs. This may require specific training in skills-coaching, time-management and the buy-in from management to provide the platform to allow it to happen.

Another key hint, is that the training provider and the coaches really do need to engage each other directly and at a practical level. Involving them in the formative assessments, development of assignments, review of the logbooks and other activities is key, but we emphasise, it must be done in structured sense. Our final hint is that the learners and the coaches must have one-on-one time together, preferably when the learner returns from contact training with the training provider. To discuss what the learner needs to do in the workplace and what specifric tasks they need to learn and apply. Coaches need to be updated and communicated with, as much as the learners themselves. So providers, bear that in mind. When learners go off for practical and theoretical training, the coaches and managers are often in the dark on their return. Sending off an email with a update and the specifics of what the learners need to do next will go a long way of alleviating some of the learnership headaches we so often hear about from host employers.



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