The Biggest Loser
The television show The Biggest Loser provides valuable insights on developing an effective training program. The show focuses on repeated assessment and measurement and adaptive methods to improve results. Some of the actions and activities illustrate key principles for an effective assessment strategy.
Know Where You Stand
One of my favorite elements of the show is how it immediately starts with an assessment. Enthusiastic contestants are bused to a location, and immediately told to run a mile on a beach when they step off the bus. All contestants find it a challenge. Some contestants fail. This very honest performance assessment is an eye-opening experience for many.
The next level of assessment is very formal. Physicians evaluate each contestant’s health. Often the revelations are deeply personal and painful discoveries for the contestants. It is this drama that creates significant relevance for the contestants.
Why start a course with a standard (read: old school) introduction and statement of objectives? Why not immediately immerse your learners in a challenge to clearly evaluate what they can and can’t do, and the consequences? It is a great way to create tension and relevance, and allows employees to understand exactly where they stand.
In addition, if you capture metrics from this initial assessment, you can measure improvement in performance (in the short term) with a comparable assessment at the end of the training.
Optimize Time on Task
Allow employees to test out of content they don’t need to review.
This is extremely valuable with yearly refresher courses required in many industries. Why force employees through an hour of content if a valid assessment can confirm the employees can perform to specification within 10 minutes? Depending on the size of your workforce, this can translate into thousands of dollars in time saved.
Focus employees on what they need to learn.
Even if employees cannot test out of a course, a pretest can provide strong guidance to focus employees on the areas they need to improve. The pretest feedback can clarify what areas need improvement to meet performance thresholds.
Another key component to the Biggest Loser is repetition. Everyone knows that we can’t exercise intensely one day out of a year and expect sustained benefit. Consistency and repetition is what drives exercise program results. Coupled with constant monitoring (weekly weigh-ins, exercise metrics, and when necessary, medical assessments) the developers of the program can make the needed tweaks to optimize the performance results.
Learning professionals often treat training and development differently. It’s usually deployed as a “one and done” design despite common knowledge that most of the knowledge and skills gained through such an approach atrophy quickly.
Top graph shows the common “one and done” design where skills atrophies quickly.
Applying principles of the spacing effect, you can slow the decline of skills.
By designing solutions to address “the forgetting curve” and applying solutions for the spacing effect as described by Ebbinghaus, you can significantly slow skills atrophy.
Redeploy your performance assessments items so employees continue to exercise their skills. To meet this objective I developed a tool to create deeper question pools for more frequent practice scenarios. Provide feedback to guide employees to resources they need to improve on skills gaps.
Just imagine if you had a weekly practice assessment on probability and statistics since you learned it in high school or college. Where would your skills be today as a result? How many opportunities are there in your business to create quick, regularly deployed assessments to sustain the most salient skills of your employees? Are you letting them exercise regularly?