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Are you getting the training results you want?

The difficulty of measuring results as a direct result of training has been an almost insurmountable barrier for many years. Achieving behavioural change in the workplace from training has remained an elusive objective. This means that justification to invest money in training has been a challenge.


Effective training has become more important


Training and development has become even more significant in the profitability of most organisations. There is a greater demand for skill development. This means, the effectiveness of training has taken on a much greater importance. We cannot ignore the need for measurable training results any longer. We are faced with demands for higher levels of skills in all parts of the organisation.


What we have been doing in training needs a critical examination because of the potential waste of money, time and creation of learner disengagement. Most training courses require a change in behaviour back in the workplace but very few achieve this. The reasons are clear:


Information overload


Many training courses are attempting to train in a skill and have lost sight of the objective. Information plays a small part in the development of a skill, yet training courses are packed with information to the point of overloading the learners. A skill is something you do, rather than something you know. Developing a skill requires guided practice. Most training courses do not offer follow up coaching in the workplace.


The information spouted in training courses is largely irrelevant because it does not reflect the individual context in which the learner operates. The process of instructor-led training courses avoids most of the recent research in how humans learn.


Our learning and development regime has made some assumptions that are preventing progress to keep up with the skill demands of today's workplace. This means that we have not fulfilled our obligations to staff members who have to cope with ineffective training. We tend to provide training events instead of training processes.


Assumption One: All humans learn the same way and at the same speed. We have provided "one size fits all" training without any consideration for the range of differences in human beings. Furthermore, the environment in which each learner works is a much different mixture of personalities, stress, work-load and pressures.



Assumption Two: We assume if we tell people information, they will do it. On the other hand, we know from experience people don't do what they are told and don't do what they know. In spite of this, we base our training on this assumption. Knowledge alone does not guarantee behaviour.



Assumption Three: We assume when we tell people information, they will remember it. We are ignoring the work of cognitive scientist Professor Henry Roediger and his team at Washington University in St Louis. Their work on forgetting and memory is vital to training design. Unless we have a strategy to interrupt the forgetting process, 50 percent of information delivered on a training course is forgotten in an hour after the end and 90 percent is gone within a week. If people cannot remember things they cannot change their behaviour.



Assumption Four: We assume that delivering cost efficient training is a better strategy than delivering cost effective training. As a result we have sacrificed training effectiveness in our drive to be efficient. This has meant that using a classroom type environment to train practical skills has become the norm because it is cheaper to put a group of people in a training room than to coach them in their relevant environment.



Assumption Five: We assume that we can develop a skill by delivering information alone. This means that content has taken a much higher priority than behavioural change back in the workplace. This is shown clearly in most leadership training. We train the skill of leadership in a classroom by giving them information.  Learners return to work knowing a little more but have not developed their skill. The same can be said of safety training. We have used the classroom environment to train people in the practical skills of leadership, safety, sales, customer service, retailing and supervision. You can't learn to swim without getting wet nor can you develop practical skills in the relatively sterile classroom setting where the workplace personalities, tensions, pressures and stresses are absent.



Assumption Six: We have assumed that the best way for everyone to learn is in long learning sessions that last days at a time. Research tells us the opposite. People learn in small increments. They learn new skills by breaking it down into small steps, trying it out, reflecting on the outcome and then modifying and building on their original behaviour to achieve a better result. Training courses do not have the luxury of time for reflection, yet this is an essential part of learning.



Assumption Seven: As part of our assumption that efficiency trumps effectiveness, we have ignored one of the most important parts of learning and development. We just cannot afford to omit it from our learning design. If we want to alter behaviour, we have to practice it. This means repetition. Our drive for efficiency has eliminated this aspect of learning because it appears to be a wasted step.


Some or all these assumptions pervade our thinking about training. Over the years we have been content with positive feedback on "Happy Sheets" distributed by trainers immediately after the sessions, believing that this is a measure of effectiveness. These are irrelevant to the workplace behavioural change or lack of it created by the training course.


We need to reduce the amount of training and demand a new level of effectiveness so that results are evident and easy to measure. This means a completely new approach to training totally focused on the results and changes in workplace behaviour. Where are the training providers that guarantee results so that your investment is simple to justify?





Training courses do not have the luxury of time for reflection, yet this is an essential part of learning




Peter Mitchell, owner of Evidence Based Training Ltd,  is a trainer, writer, speaker and specialist in workplace behavioural change. He has been developing successful methods to transfer learning into workplace behaviour during the last ten years. Peter guarantees the results of his programmes. His business helps organisations to become self-sufficient in training and dramatically reduce costs with enhanced results.