It’s no secret that employees at all levels love professional development opportunities. In fact, 94% of employees would stay at a company that invested in helping them learn. And fortunately, it’s not a one-sided equation! Employers benefit from higher engagement, retention, new skills and a boost in morale. However, whether employees are flying, driving or zooming in, most conferences aren’t free; and unless you are deliberate it might be difficult to get a return on the investment.
How can you use what you’ve learned?
Without repetition, review and reflection, we can forget up to 80% of what we have learned within a week. (Murre and Dros 2015) So, how can you actually retain what you’ve learned and apply it in your environment? We’ve compiled a few helpful tips to get you from charged-up conference attendee to changemaker.
Here are 8 ways to maximize what you’ve learned from any conference.
When you make plans to attend a conference, alert your team of your absence and provide them with resources. Make your conference day like your workday, plan for the things you want to attend. If you’re a leader, it’s very important to set the expectation that time spent away for development should be taken seriously.
Set an intention for what you want to accomplish while you’re attending the conference. Whether it’s sharing 5 business cards, getting 3 new leads on a learning management system or bringing back at least one new skill for your team, it’s important to identify what’s relevant to your organization right now so you can go into your conference experience with the right plan. Creating realistic metrics can make it much easier to ensure you’re getting the most out of your experience.
Write it out!
Capture the things that you learned from each session in a notebook or in a notetaking app. If you are not able to take notes, take some time to recap the most important points you learned when you get back. It might also be a good idea to discuss major points with coworkers or peers who also attended immediately after a session. Lunch and learns are a great opportunity for conference attendees to share key findings will colleagues.
If you’re attending with a colleague, assign an accountability partner so you can divide and conquer. There’s so much to do at a conference and keeping up can become overwhelming. Create an itinerary to follow and report back on your experience. Did you meet someone new? Share best practices from your sessions and exchange information! When you arrive back at work, make time to check back in on the things that you learned and hold each other accountable for implementing new strategies at your organization.
Level set, then goal set
Speakers and experts often talk through case studies with amazing outcomes that have conditions, budgets and teams that may be very different from your own. Think clearly about what is realistic in your environment. Who do you need to get on board to help? Set goals related to what you want to accomplish.
Make it real
Break down big concepts and tasks into small actionable items. Create a project plan, assign responsible parties and create milestones. Add new action items to your calendar to take new initiatives seriously.
Dominoes not bowling
Pick just one new initiative to pursue instead of trying to do everything at once. Once completed, move on to the next. Of course, we all want to, ‘hit the ground running’ but instituting changes should be more of a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t try to do everything all at once.
Incorporating new ideas can be hard work. Be sure to give yourself an incentive for following through and achieving your goals!
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