5 Essential Elements for Effective Action Planning

Emma Weber

Anyone who has ever experienced corporate learning will have come across the idea of an action plan at the end of a training program. Unfortunately for most training participants this tends to be experienced as an afterthought at the end of the day, often with evaluation questions on the same document.

People are often cynical of action plans and perhaps for good reason. Seemingly cosmetic, they are often used as a tick box exercise. But action planning is an essential part of any learning transfer methodology.

Our Turning Learning into Action™ (TLA) action plan is different, not because of the plan itself but because of what happens afterwards. The TLA plan will come to fruition through a series of specific, structured, and accountable follow up one-on-one learning transfer conversations. We view the TLA action plan as the source document that will kick off the change process for each individual.

It’s not the action plan that creates the result – it’s what you do with the action plan that creates the results.

It is important to allow 45–60 minutes for action planning. The more reflection has happened throughout the training, the less time is needed to consolidate and create a plan with commitments.  Everyone in the room must have enough time to really engage with the process, so the creation of the action plan needs to happen towards the end of the training program, but not at the very end of it. Too near the end and people are out the door.

There needs to be a clear distinction between the training event and the creation of the action plan so that participants can fully appreciate that it does not signify the end of the training but the beginning of the next stage of the training process – learning transfer.

This is why learning transfer is often more effective when it is delivered by someone other than the original trainer. That other person can be an HR manager or L&D professional from within the business or equally it can be a trained learning transfer facilitator from outside the business. When the learning transfer facilitator is someone other than the original trainer, participants are better able to make a clear division between the training event and the follow-up transfer of learning process.

For successful action planning, participants should identify these 5 elements in their action plan:

  • Targets – what are they going to implement from the program
  • What success looks like for them
  • Calibration – where they consider themselves right now in relation to the target
  • Why the target is important for them – it’s the why that keeps people moving forward more than the goal
  • Their chosen next steps to achieve the target.

For an example of how to create an action plan that will collect these different elements, a sample Turning Learning into Action™ action plan can be downloaded here. We have recently updated the TLA action plan so that it is protected under a Creative Commons license. Rather than being completely copyrighted, this means that you can use or redistribute the TLA action plan, keeping the format and corporate identity intact.

So share, share, share away and start creating more traction from your programs.

Emma Weber

Emma Weber is a recognized authority on the transfer of learning. As CEO of Lever – Transfer of Learning, she has helped companies such as Telstra, Oracle and BMW deliver and measure tangible business results from learning. Emma has also been a guest speaker at learning effectiveness conferences worldwide and authored the hugely successful book Turning Learning into Action. Much more detail around the issues and solutions examined in this article are available in the book – please feel free to download a free chapter.