How to train employees to learn more skills

By PE Admin | Leadership

Apr 22

Employees learn skills in stages

As we learn new skills we will go through 4 stages. Each stage has two measures

  • Awareness The level of conscious thought on a topic or skills
  • Ability The level that something can be done.

The Awareness to Ability learning process demonstrates how each employee goes through the different stages from being first aware to forming habits.

Adapted from “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”, Noel Burch from Gordon Training International (1970)

Stage 1 - Unaware & Unable

During this stage, an individual lacks the awareness of the needed skills, knowledge and capacity to do a certain task

Imagine that you are responsible for teaching a group of trainees how to use a new computer programme for processing customer complaints.   Before seeing the programme in action the employee/s are unaware of its capabilities or how it works.

Stage 2 - Aware & Unable

During this stage the induvial becomes aware of their lack of knowledge and skill.

After attending a training session employees become aware of the computer programme and its features and functions. They become aware of it but do not know how to use it

Stage 3 - Aware & Able

Through practice they start to develop and retain the needed knowledge and skills, however progress is slow. You know when people are going through this stage as they are constantly talking to themselves as they complete the task.

After a week they have had a chance to practice using the new software and each of the employees is able to use some of the basic functions, however, progress is slow these take time and effort to do. In this phase the progress is generally slow

Stage 4 - Unaware & Able

After a period of time and repeated use the individual can is able to complete the task without conscious thought, tasks are done quickly. It is at this stage that habits are starting to form (both good and bad) as each employee finds ways to do their job easily

It is now 7 weeks after the training, and the employees have been using the software daily, each employee is becoming both very competent and confident using the computer programme. They are able to use the general features of the programme with minimal thought, completing tasks with ease, almost as though they are on auto pilot

How to apply

When training employees it is important to be aware which stage each of your employee is at so that you can adapt your training to support their development needs. All training needs to move from a teaching style (telling and directing) for employees new to the knowledge and skills where they need to learn each of the steps and stages to a more coaching style (asking and guiding) when they are competent at doing the task but need to build their confidence or willingness to implement their training on the job.

When training you teams you need to ensure that each employees learning is focused on their current stage of ability; this means tailoring your delivery to suit their progress and development. Teach when you need to, but also give them a chance to practice and figure it out for themselves. Offer support and guidance in a timely manner, being sure to give constructive feedback to praise good behaviours and correct negative ones.


About the Author

I have been involved in Learning & Development for over 15 years in Australia, and the UK. Having worked with a range of public and private business in both private and public sector. I have seen a lot of what works and also a lot of what doesn't. I believe that with the right tools, guidance and support anyone can train better on the job.