I recently ran across an interesting article in HR Magazine that brought back memories of research I did quite some time ago on subconscious influence. Sometimes called subliminal programming, certain words, sounds, and/or pictures are introduced as a way of influencing the receiver’s subconscious mind. Dr. Gary Latham, who has also conducted research on training transfer, and his research partner at the University of Toronto, Amanda Shantz, recently conducted some new studies on subconsciously influencing employee behaviors. Skeptical at first, they were nonetheless impressed by studies in which groups of participants were left to browse dieting and exercise magazines. Later, when offered fruit or chocolate as a snack, participants in that group were more likely than other participants to choose fruit. Fruit instead of chocoloate? Hard to believe!
Latham and Shantz then conducted three experiments in call centers. In each case, the employees were given written instructions on how to urge donors to contribute to a university. Half of them received the instructions printed over a color background photo of a woman winning a race. The other half received their instructions over a neutral colored background. In each of the three experiments, the employees who were exposed to the photo significantly outperformed the others. Further analysis of similar studies has revealed consistently positive results for such subconscious “goal priming” as the researchers called it.
How could this be applied to training transfer? The same principles apply – to influence employees’ behavior to remember and use the skills and knowledge learned in training, and to influence their managers to reinforce and support practice and use. This technique is easy and inexpensive for a trainer to use, so why not try it? Here are some specific ideas:
Find a photo that depicts “success”. Remember, the one used in the experiment was a woman winning a race. I usually have good luck with Microsoft images. Other trainers I know like photos.com. Another option is Google images, but do be careful about copyrights.
Toward the end of the training — whether face-to-face, virtual live training, or e-learning , summarize the key learning points and either identify what participants should do or practice when they get back to work, or ask them to develop their own action plans.
Next, place the action items over the background of the “success photo” you’ve chosen. If participants have developed their own action plan, include the success photo, perhaps in soft focus, as a handout. Ask participants to write their action items on this page.
Or, use the photo as background in a PowerPoint slide as part of your presentation, in the same manner as above.
Or, email the photo with action item reminders on it as an attachment, to participants after the training. Encourage them to use it as a screen saver for 30-60 days to help ingrain their new performance.
Use the photo as background in the body of an after-training email reminder to use what they learned.
Have posters made of the photo with reminders. Send to participants and encourage them to post in their cubicles.
I can’t wait to try some of these ideas in my next training!
If you try any of these, will you please share your experiences with us – what you did and how it went?
Until next time….
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