Tips for Using Action Plans

The beginning of every year brings media features on resolutions for the new year and plans of action targeting new behaviors.  Whether an action plan is developed personally or it is part of a company-sponsored training, it may be helpful to review some ideas and suggestions to make action plans more effective, so they accomplish their purpose.

Action planning as a formalized practice can be traced back to the 1950s, and the practice has been linked through numerous research studies to higher levels of training transfer.  These written plans can be quite detailed and specific or brief and general.  Action items or steps may be dictated or suggested by the trainer (or elearning content), or participants may be asked to develop their own.

Most commonly the action plan is introduced toward the end of training as an activity for the participant to identify steps they will take to implement their new learning.  In some cases their supervisor is involved in after-training follow-up using the action plan as a focal point.  More often, however, after training the action plan soon becomes forgotten.

Here are some suggestions to increase the effectiveness of action plans.  They can be used in live training (face-to-face or live virtual) and in e-learning.  Use them also as part of your own individual development.

  • Provide a copy of the end-of-training action plan to participants’ supervisors.  If they are participating in a mentoring or coaching program, provide or suggest they provide a copy of the action plan to their mentor or coach also.
  • Introduce elements of the action plan at the beginning of training.  Invite them to complete parts of it at various points in the training – not just at the end.
  • Provide several action items in the action plan to help the participant “get the ball rolling.”
  • Use first-person questions in the action plan form to provide a more compelling experience.  For example:

o   “What will I do to implement what I have learned in this training?”

o   “What results can I expect to get by doing this?”  “When?”

o   “Who should I share this plan with, for support, encouragement, and accountability?”

o   “What obstacles may stand in my way?”  “How can they be overcome?”

  • Provide follow-up messaging that encourages participants regarding some aspects of the action plan.  For example, send an email, text message or instant message at one-week, two-week, six-week, and three-month intervals with each one focusing on one or two items or questions in the plan.
  • Request action plan results from each participant at an appropriate point after the training.  Use these results for level 3 (behavior) evaluation of the training.
  • Use social media such as a web page or Facebook -type page for participants to share their results, challenges, and successes.

Incorporating some of these action plan enhancements will increase participants’ transfer of training and help to make their training stick.

Isn’t the beginning of a new year a good time to make your own action plan for increasing the effectiveness of action plans in your training?

Until next time…..

Barbara

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