3 min read

How to Transform New Skills Into Daily Habits

If we train our people and they leave, that is bad. But if we don't train them and they stay, that is even worse. 

Sales and recruiter training is ultimately about changing behaviors, but most corporate training is designed for ease of delivery, not cultivating change.  In a traditional training workshop or webinar hosted by an instructor or team leader, knowledge is imparted on behalf of the learners. Paricipants are introduced to key insights and likely (hopefully) get excited about implementing a handful of a new ideas.  But in the end, very little, if any of the new knowledge is ever operationalized and put into action. 

After just two or three weeks following a training event, only a small percentage of participants remember the concepts, and even fewer remember how to implement the concepts.   

According to a survey from McKinsey & Company, adults only retain 10% of what they hear in classroom lectures.  While cramming as much information into a single training event makes logistical sense for today's crazy-busy manager(s), it limits learner retention and stunts employee growth.

Good companies invest in their people. But great companies avoid trying to achieve a quick fix.  They understand that it's not just what you do, but how you do it.  They understand that it's your structure that matters.

Sales training, recruiter training, and leadership training is all designed to enable employees with new skills and knowledge in order change their behaviors to become a top individual contributor and eventually a leader of others. But simply introducing employees to new insights, skills and knowledge over the course of a few days doesn't lead to a change in behavior, or results.

How to Transform New Skills Into Daily Habitshow to transform new skills into daily habits

Habit formation doesn’t just randomly occur overnight.  In fact, the human brain is not wired to quickly and easily adopt new habits.  No matter how good or engaging your training may be, habit formation takes time. 

Habits form when a new skill, like objection handling, is practiced repeatedly, over and over.  Each time you practice your objection handling skills, neurons in your brain start firing away which creates a new neural pathway. With repetitive practice, the neural pathway becomes stronger and stronger.  As your neural pathway becomes stronger, applying the skill becomes easier. You could say, it becomes habitual.

While a neural pathway, such as the pathway for objection handling skills, can be created or discovered in a training workshop or webinar, it can only be strengthened through deliberate practice. 
Role-playing with your peers or manager is a great way to practice. Experiential learning exercises is another great way and a safe way for employees to practice. But even role-play and experiential learning can't replace the real thing.  Only by applying the skill in a real-life situation can you get actual feedback that validates how the skills work and adjust your mindset and approach to what it feels like and sounds like when applying those skills.
Initially, applying new skills, tools or approaches doesn't always go accordingly to plan. As human beings, we need to reflect on what went wrong, what could be improved and what we can apply on our next attempt. This is where the real learning happens, through self-reflection.
Here is the process for how to transform new skills into daily habits.
Step 1: Learn
Learners are introduced to new skills, behaviors and knowledge during training. In our industry, the staffing and recruiting industry, most training is delivered via live, instructor-led workshops where the instructor does the majority of the talking to impart knowledge on behalf of their employees.  I suggest that 90% of instructor led training be spent on experiential learning exercises. Imparting the skills and knowledge is not nearly as important as the application of the skills and knowledge.
Step 2: Apply
Application occurs in two ways; learners are given a safe environment to practice in and real-world application.  It is absolutely critical that when Learning and Development and Enablement leaders teach their employees a new skill, behavior or piece of knowledge that they immediately give them the opportunity to practice applying it in a safe environment. Research shows that spaced reinforcement is critical and absolutely key to learner retention. In a workshop setting, leaders should allocate 90% of the time to be spent on practice. Employees need room to practice applying the skills and reflect on how it can be improved before trying it in a real world setting. This is how you activate and stengthen the neural pathway. 

Applying the new skill outside of the safety of the workshop or experiential learning exercise brings a whole new element to learning. The employee is no longer in a structured and controlled environment.  This is where learners venture outside of their comfort zone, which is exactly where we want them because this is where the real growth occurs.

Step 3: Self Reflection

In this context, self-reflection refers to giving the employee an opportunity to reflect back on what went well and what could be done differently. Self-reflection gives employees the opportunity and the time to actually think about and evaluate their thoughts, behaviors and attitudes towards the skill and the application of the skill.  Sounds simple but this doesn't happen often enough in today's fast-paced working world!

Self reflection serves two purposes. First, it holds employees accountable to applying new skills and taking responsibility for their own actions. And self-reflection provides coaching opportunities for managers. Second, it allows employees to assess and evaluate how they did and how they can apply the new skills more effectively in future conversations. It enables them to take action and evolve.


The Learn, Apply, Reflect model is designed to support your employees in skill practice. The quicker a recruiter or sales professional can apply what they learned in a real-life situation, and evaluate their effectiveness in executing it, the quicker the new skill becomes habit.  What steps are you taking to enable your recruiters to transform new skills into habits?

Check out our eBook, Seven Keys to More Effective, Efficient Recruiter Onboarding and learn more about how you can transform new skills  into daily habits.

The seven keys to more effective, efficient recruiter onboarding

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