Why do most training programs fail?

Learning new skills is an often pleasurable part of working. Attending training courses is interesting, low in pressure often fun and also quite social providing opportunities to network with others within our own companies or potentially others with similar interests outside our own company.

Unfortunately, precious little usually changes when we return to our desks after a day, or even a week away at a training program. In fact, research conducted by training guru Robert Brinkerhoff in 2005 demonstrates that if 90% of  of your company's efforts is in the delivery of training, 70% of the people will try new skills and fail. However, if 50% of the effort is in the delivery, and 50% in the follow-up activities, then 85% will sustain the new behaviours.

This creates a clear mandate for leaders to invest in coaching and other post-training follow-up to ensure they actually see the results they want from the skill building programs their team members participate in. Here are a few things that we have seen work lately:

Help your facilitator understand the real problem that your team needs to solve. When working with a professional services firm recently, I was asked to help a small group improve the quality of the thinking in their client reports. It quickly became apparent that the team was struggling with applying our clarity principles because they were using precedent documents rather than working from scratch. Unless we either revamped the precedents or found an economic way for the team to work from scratch each time, the quality of their reports was not going to improve.

Ask your facilitator to set up warm up and cool down programs to remind course participants – and their team leaders – to check in regularly to make sure the program delivers real impact. This might include an email series offering all participants regular challenges that can be discussed in team meetings, sharing success stories from other similar clients, or incorporating mini online learning modules to remind course participants of core skills and concepts. You may even consider asking them to set up separate but parallel reminders for your course participants and your team leaders.

Change the way you allocate your skill building budget, either by skewing some budget to shorter, large-group sessions complemented by individual or small group coaching, or focusing on quality of result for a smaller number of people rather than putting a large number of people through a ‘sheep dip' that does not deliver results for anyone.

Click here to learn about our Clarity Refresh program which is created with the 50/50 split in mind.

Davina StanleyDavina Stanley is Managing Director of Clarity College.

Davina began her consulting career as a Communication Specialist with McKinsey & Company in Hong Kong and now runs Clarity College. She loves helping teams to use logic to push their thinking early on so that they can consistently deliver  brief and insightful  advice to their clients.