Why Training Doesn’t Work – And How to Fix It
Training is an important function in businesses across all industries and sectors. The problem is that it often doesn’t work. It doesn’t deliver the outcomes the business needs, it fails to mitigate risks, and it is ineffective in equipping employees with the skills required to ensure the business achieves its objectives and remains competitive.
Training can fail for a number of different reasons, and the failure is more often than not multifactorial. However, understanding the reasons why training doesn’t work is essential to knowing how to fix the problem.
Reasons Why Training Doesn’t Work
Not the Best Time
A theme that will run through many of the points in this blog is relevancy, i.e., training doesn’t work because learners don’t find it relevant. One of the causes of this issue is timing.
The best time to learn new information or a new skill is when you need it most. That isn’t possible for all training topics, but where it is possible, a just-in-time training approach can improve your overall strategy. A just-in-time training approach is where you create a library of e-learning courses that learners can complete at a time that best suits them. Often this will be when they have an immediate need for the information.
Training is Generic
Another reason why learners don’t understand the relevance of training is that it is too generic. In other words, the learner can’t align the content of the course with their day-to-day experiences or responsibilities.
Fixing this problem involves making training courses as personalised as possible. At the very least, training courses should be personalised to your organisation. For example, a scenario in an e-learning course should be based on a situation that learners should immediately recognise.
You can also take personalisation a stage further by allowing learners to follow individual learning paths.
Training is Boring
Training that is not interesting, engaging, or enjoyable is not going to work. In modern UAE and Saudi Arabian workplaces, employees expect more than seminar-style training sessions where an instructor delivers information using slides with no learner interactivity. In fact, they expect much more.
Using e-learning courses as an example, you can make training more interesting, engaging, and enjoyable by including video and other media elements, as well as gamification and social features.
Another problem that can cause training to fail is trying to cover too much too soon in a training course. The reality is our brains can handle a limited amount of information at a time.
Breaking training courses into modules is one solution to this problem. You can also use a microlearning training strategy, where each section in a training course has a specific outcome, covers a single point, and can be completed in a few minutes.
Learning for the Wrong Reasons
Sometimes training in corporate environments doesn’t work because it has been created and delivered for the wrong reasons. For example, the topic or course might have some relevance to the business, but it is not tied to an overall training strategy. The overall training strategy might not even exist.
The best approach is to focus on business impact, i.e., what are the business outcomes you want to achieve? Decisions on the training courses that will be developed should be based on their contribution to achieving those business outcomes.
Training is viewed as a cost in many businesses. As with other business costs, there is then pressure to keep it as low as possible. The result is often predictable – low-quality and ineffective training courses.
The solution is to focus on quality and treat training as an investment in your business. This could be categorised in many ways:
- Investment in people as part of your talent retention strategy
- Investment in mitigating business risks
- Investment in future business success and achieving goals
It is then important to allocate a sufficient budget to produce training courses that will generate a return on your investment.
Back in the 1800s, a German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, created the Forgetting Curve. In summary, this research shows that we forget most of what we learn over time if we don’t apply the information. This happens in days, not weeks.
Therefore, for training to be effective, it is not enough to create fantastic training materials and courses. It is also important to put a significant amount of effort into post-course activities. Examples include:
- Getting feedback from learners and their managers and using that feedback to improve training courses and materials, as well as to decide on the next steps.
- Assess whether there has been behavioural change. This can include analysing business metrics and KPIs, or it can involve speaking to managers to see if employees are applying what they have learned.
- Provide additional learning materials.
- Create refresher or next-level courses.
Lack of Management Buy-In
A lack of management buy-in can also cause training to fail. In some situations, this could be a lack of buy-in from senior executives. However, a more common problem is a lack of buy-in from supervisors and middle managers.
It is not enough to train frontline workers if their supervisors or managers are not involved in the process, as the supervisors and managers will continue as before. Getting buy-in at all levels of the organisation is important.
Making Training a Success
The first step to making training a success is to ensure you have a well-defined strategy that is aligned with business objectives. It is then important to critically assess all aspects of training in your organisation, from the delivery method (instructor-led, for example, or e-learning) to content quality and everything in between. You can then start making changes that will make training work.