16 Reasons Why Training Fails (And What To Do About It)
Like Johnny Cash said, I’ve been everywhere. Here's what I've learned.
I’ve worked with 22 Fortune 500 companies in my career.
As partners to these companies, we have one clear goal: to help their people reach their full potential.
I’ve seen passionate clients who pour their souls into transforming people. They strategize like CEOs and design learning experiences like the Old Masters.
I’ve also seen tired, underpaid ‘professionals’ who consider developing people “just a job.” People who rinse off what they did the previous year, paint over the ugly parts and rush training out the door.
Seriously, as Johnny Cash said, I’ve Been Everywhere.
So I sat down with one journal prompt:
Why has training failed?
Here’s what I wrote down.
16 Reasons Why Training Fails
Training is a hammer, and the performance problems aren’t nails.
Training is the right solution, but the training content doesn’t get results.
Too much training content is delivered too quickly and too soon.
The instructional design is weak, resulting in a poor learner experience.
An endless parade of talking head SMEs and PPTs.
No reinforcement plan to foil the forgetting curve.
No deliberate practice with built-in feedback loops.
No purposeful plan to help learners apply what they have learned.
No measurement plan to assess the effectiveness or allow pivots.
No checkpoints, assessments, skill validations, or certifications (what do they know or what can they do?).
Managers don’t coach their people to mastery.
"Go get 'em, tiger!" (i.e., hire experienced people, give them some training, and leave them to "get on with it")
No focus on behaviors (i.e., not answering “what should they do differently?”)
Events like in-person or virtual boot camps with no follow-up or continued tracking toward milestones
No widely accepted change management plan
Poor hiring and selection practices
13 Things You Can Do About It
To radically improve your outcomes, you need to start doing things differently. So I sat down with another prompt:
What should learning and enablement practitioners do differently?
This is what I came up with.
Ensure you're teaching content that matters and will get results in the real world.
Prioritize need-to-know content and teach it by milestone.
Set performance milestones that progressively move people toward acceptable levels of performance.
Set those levels of performance based on behavior you can measure.
Incorporate prior knowledge in your learning design.
Chunk, sequence, and layer your content for better absorption and retention.
Don't teach randomly organized content, even if it's chunked, sequenced, and layered.
Maximize modern learning methods for efficiency and effectiveness.
Use process and workflow to teach people how to do their job.
Encourage your people to teach each other.
Support your training program with systems thinking.
Create a culture in which learning is continuous.
Learn from your mistakes.
This was an incredibly valuable exercise, and I hope you found my reflections helpful.
I’d love to hear from you this week.👇
What would you add to either of these two lists?
Oh my goodness. Can I tell you how many times I have sat through a professional development for teachers and haven't gotten anything out of it? The reason is many of the sixteen that you listed.