The Problem with corporate training...

Put quite simply, most corporate training is a total waste of time and money. Because most of what is learnt is forgotten, there is limited development of useful, practical skills and a lack of converting training into action. Understanding these is the first step to corporate development that results in bottom line growth.

“If I send my staff for training, taking them out of ’production’ and funding the training expenses, is it unreasonable to expect to recoup this cost or [gasp!] earn a return on this “investment in people?”

If you shortcut training your staff it's like throwing money away

The answer is No. As with any business decision, the benefits should outweigh the costs, otherwise you may as well save the time and money you’d spend on training by shortcutting the process and throwing the money directly out of the window.

Put another way, the reason you spend money on training your staff is so that they learn new skills they actually put into use by becoming better or faster in their jobs.

the typical training scenario

Now think about the usual training scenario. Perhaps you've experienced this for yourself: 

You hire some expert, based on testimonials about how they can walk on water, and at their day rate you still think they are overcharging. You take time out of your busy schedule; maybe there are venue, travel, accommodation costs.

The training session is very entertaining; you sit there nodding your head because they really know what they are talking about. You are inspired. Tomorrow you are going to change the world. Today, however, you just eat meeting room biscuits until you feel disgusted with yourself. 

The day moves on, punctuated by coffee breaks and burst sessions of smartphone emailing and remote-control fire fighting. After lunch the caffeine starts to lose its edge. 

You never leave empty handed. Taking a copy of the training deck gives you a strange amount of reassurance. 


Back to reality...

The next day you’re back in the office assessing the damage/doing fire control/ triage/ [insert disaster control metaphor here]. The fact that you have already forgotten half of the session information might bother you if you stopped to think about it for a minute. But you don’t.

One week later life goes pretty much back to normal. So normal that it’s almost as if the training never happened – all that happened was you lost a day of your life in the Bermuda Triangle. Maybe the physical presence of the training deck creates some feelings of discomfort in your conscience that you really “should” do something. Eventually getting rid of the deck calms the conscience.

what the science says

The science behind this is pretty simple:

Xerox Corporation carried out several studies on coaching. They determined that in the absence of follow-up coaching to their training classes, 87% of the skills change brought about by the program was lost. – Business Wire

And it’s a pretty well-known fact that we forget more than 80% of what we hear by the next day.

Put another way:

  1. Knowledge retention is low because of various things like static learning, lack of spaced repetition.
  2. The training isn’t practical because the staff didn’t learn any skills. At best they've (barely) learnt some facts.
  3. There's a low rate of putting new knowledge into practice - in other words, there is a low (if not negative) return on training.

So now that we understand some of the problems of corporate training we can start to do something about it. On a simple level, if your training can address items 1, 2 and 3, then you will have unlocked one of the most powerful sources of improved organizational performance. 

To know and yet not to do is in fact not to not know.
— Stephen Covey

Why are we addicted to the training model?

There are a few other things to understand – the first is why are we addicted to this training model? In our hearts and minds we know it doesn’t work. Sure, my example and language may be a bit extreme to support my point, but you don’t need me to convince you that what I say is largely true. And I’ve probably upset the entire corporate training industry. That’s not what I’m trying to do. As in all things I do, I’m just trying to compound a lot of small improvements into something significant. Like I said, in my opinion, improving the skills of your staff is one of the most powerful ways to increase productivity, engagement and profitability. However, if you still want to criticize, please feel free to use this special feedback link I have created for you. 

There are a few reasons why we are addicted to this ineffective method, and it’s not just because that’s the way we've always done it. Once we understand why we are addicted to the conventional training model, maybe we can use this for a better training model: one that develops skills and results in an improvement to the business. 

However, to avoid this becoming another 10 minutes lost to obscurity, I am going to give you one thing that you can do right now. It takes about 5 minutes of your time and will introduce you to one of the best methods you can use to improve your own skills. Click here to start the process.

I hope you find these free insights and actionable tips helpful and inspiring. The best way to learn these skills is by doing one of the training modules and if you would like to learn more I would encourage you to take a course. This is how I support the creation of this content. Please see the side bar for course links or go to the training page to find out more.


Do you have any questions, comments or tips about corporate training? Help the rest of us out by sharing in the comments below.

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