How to wreck your training results

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Written by Paul Matthews on 2 June 2017

I was going to use the title, “'The shocking truth about training fails!', but decided that was a little too tabloid, even though it’s true.

You’ve heard the figures, and maybe even seen the details, of the research that shows how little effect most classroom training has on changing behaviour in the workplace. The figures I have seen vary from study to study, but all paint a disturbing landscape of training programmes, due to lack of learning transfer, that fail to deliver the expected business benefits.

How much do delegates remember one month after their day in the training room? 5%? 10%? 20%? More importantly, what percentage of delegates act to implement what was taught? What percentage of those delegates then continue to apply what they have learnt?

There are always a few training programmes that work brilliantly. These are the poster children of the industry, and we always hope, usually in vain, that our next training programme will be just like them.

What’s going on?

If most training isn’t working well, and the figures suggest that it isn’t, why aren’t we doing more to find the problem and fix it?

If we were doing something else with that level of failure, we would stop doing it, or seek a way to do it differently. For example, if you were making bread, and the results you got didn’t look a bit like the picture in the recipe book, and were only sometimes edible, you would call the celebrity chef who wrote the book a liar, or conclude you were not following the recipe correctly.

You would wonder if your ingredients, or the way you mix and combine them, or how you then prepare that mixture for the oven, or the type of oven you have, or something else, is not quite right. It is obvious that there is a full beginning to end process to do in order to get your bread. Miss any step, or get it wrong -> no bread.

Think of lovely warm bread and that amazing freshly baked smell wafting through the house. This is your return on your investment of the time, and efforts, and ingredients.

If you don’t get your return, any sensible person would try to find out what went wrong and fix it. Of course, some people will never try to bake bread again thinking that if they can’t do it now, they never will be able to do it; they will say that bread making doesn’t work.

Some people could keep using the faulty recipe/process in the hope that somehow the results will be different next time; that’s a weird thing to do isn’t it? If most training isn’t working well, and the figures suggest that it isn’t, why aren’t we doing more to find the problem and fix it?

Perhaps because we, and the organisations we serve, have become so complacent about lacklustre results from training, we consider it ‘normal’, and therefore acceptable.

It isn’t!

Training is not something new we are experimenting with. We have been doing it for a long, long time. Why are people delivering training not being held accountable for results? They should be!

Let’s revisit our bread analogy. Of all the steps, the training room can be thought of as the mixing bowl step. There is a lot to do before that step, including choosing a recipe, preparing ingredients, and even planning how you might enjoy your bread, and what a successful loaf of bread will look like and taste like.

There is a lot to do after the mixing bowl step as well. Just because you have done a great job of mixing some great ingredients in the classroom does not mean you get your bread. Far from it. All of us in L&D need to be paying far more attention to, and be held accountable for, the full end-to-end training process, not just a happy mixing bowl experience.

What do you need to do to successfully make bread for your organisation?


About the author

Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy and expert in workplace learning, especially informal learning, learning transfer, performance consultancy, and how Learning & Development can help achieve business targets. He is the author of “Informal Learning at Work: How to Boost Performance in Tough Times” and “Capability at Work: How to Solve the Performance Puzzle”. 


Read more from Paul here

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