Why Training Fails: The Shocking Truth That Most Leaders Don’t Even Know by Shawn Doyle, CSP

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I have been involved in training, speaking, and consulting for 28 years, and the same issues have been present all along. In this article, I want to share with you the 11 main reasons why training fails. The shocking truth is there is a lot of money spent but tons wasted because of the barriers organizations have in place around training. 

  1. No one tells them why they are doing the training. When I am facilitating a training program and I ask people why they are there, the No. 1 answer by far is “because my manager told me to be in the training.” In the majority of the cases they are not told why. Solution: Mangers should tell people the reason why they are in the training.  

  2. Training is as boring as watching paint dry. In today’s world of instant entertainment, if they are not entertained they check out quickly. People tell me all the time that most training programs are  very boring. Solution: Train internal people on how to facilitate great training or hire an outside expert. 

  3. Training is a legal requirement or is policy driven. Many organizations have certain training programs that are required like safety training and sexual harassment avoidance. Because they are mandatory, people feel like they are being punished and resent being there. Solution: Each manger should explain to their team how the training will help them and the company. If people understand why the training is important, they are much more likely to go along with it. 

  4. There is not enough time for training. When I am talking to a client about training and they ask me how long a program is and I say “a full day,” they want me to do it in a half day. If I say “a half day” they want me to do it in two hours. There are no effective shortcuts to effective training. Solution: Budget the time as an investment to help people learn. 

  5. There is no training at all. I am simply amazed that there are so many organizations that don’t train people at all. They use the world-famous “just follow Fred around for a week” and rely on other people to show new employees the ropes. Solution: Every new employee should have an initial training program for orientation.   

  6. The company uses a subject matter expert for the training. Just because someone is a SME does not mean they can teach the subject to others. Solution: Be careful whom you select for training. They need to be both a SME and an expert at training. 

  7. The company thinks that education is training. Education is learning about something. Training is learning how to do it. I can learn all about feeding lions at the  zoo, but if I’m going to do it I need to be trained on how to do it or I will face dire consequences. Solution: Make sure the outcome of training is that people can do what they need to do. 

  8. The company thinks that training has to occur in a classroom. There are many different ways to train someone, and it doesn’t have to be in a classroom. We can mentor, coach, have on-the-job training; we can rotate job assignments to cross-train; or someone can study a how-to guide. Solution: Find other creative ways to train people. 

  9. The employees find the training to be goofy. I have seen some activities in training that, to me, belonged in a Kindergarten class. When training exercises are too juvenile, people will stop learning. Solution: Know your team, and don’t have exercises that are too childish. 

  10. There is no follow up. Many people attend training, and then they are done. Their manager doesn’t meet with them to see how the training went and discuss what they learned. The retention or information goes way down when they only talk about something once. Solution: Every manager should talk with their direct reports within two weeks of the training to discuss what they learned and develop an action plan. 

  11. The employees think that training is an event. Many people think of training as an event. The reality is that great training should be a process, with many elements involved. This helps organizations implement changes as a result of the training. Solution: Have better training plans and know how they all relate together.  

Thinking about all of these elements and how they fit together will make sure that you don’t waste your training dollars.  

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For more business and personal development insight from Shawn Doyle, check out his titles from Sound Wisdom, including his Jumpstart SeriesThe Sun Still RisesThe Leadership Manifesto, and Two Months to Motivation.