Organizations spend millions of dollars every year on training. Unfortunately, many of these training initiatives fail. While Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook may embrace the motto “move fast and break things,” failing isn’t always good for business. Indeed, failed training programs can lead to lost revenue and talent. While it is difficult to determine the total value of these losses, a 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review reported, “American companies spend enormous amounts of money on employee training and education—$160 billion in the United States and close to $356 billion globally in 2015 alone—but they are not getting a good return on their investment. For the most part, the learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things.” Today’s post outlines just some of the most common reasons workplace training programs fail and explores how to avoid big fails and big losses
Seven Common Culprits of Failed Training Initiatives
1. Bad Timing: As they say, timing is everything and this holds true for training. If morale is low or you’re organization is suffering under some other pressure (e.g., a seasonal crunch), hold back on training. Employees need to be focused and on board if the training is to succeed.
2. No Clear Incentives: Another common reason that training initiatives fail to deliver is related to poor incentives. Remember, incentivizing does not need to be monetary, but employees need to feel like they are getting something out of the training (e.g., a new skill that may eventually lead to a promotion or give they more currency on the job market beyond your organization). Be certain to make any employee take-aways from your training initiative clear from the outset.
3. No Clear Mandate: Too many training programs fail because their purpose is never clearly articulated. If you ask employees to participate in a training program, make it clear why they must complete the training (e.g., you’re introducing a new software program or a series of new compliance polices have been implemented and they need to understand these policies to avoid errors on the job).
4. Not Personalized: Calling in an outside contractor can be strategic but bear in mind that every organization is unique. If you’re bringing someone onsite, ensure they understand your organization and are prepared to gear any training workshops to your specific employees. If you’re using a learning management system, ensure the system can be easily adapted to suit your organization’s needs and even to designed to reflect your brand.
David Stein, one of the world’s leading experts on sales training, suggest customization may be especially important in the retail sector: “Ideally, a sales training program should be implemented only after you’ve researched how your customers want to buy, and assessed the ability of the current sales team to address that group of customers. Only then can you know what needs to change in order to sell more effectively.” For more on customization, read on here.
5. Too Time Consuming: Everyone is busy and many workers already feel burnt out. Demanding training programs that stretch well beyond one’s regular work hours are likely not going to do much to raise morale or have a high completion rate. Use a learning management system with mobile compatibility to create opportunities for employees to complete training modules in short spurts, even on a five minute break.
6. Uninspiring Format: Most people now appreciate that handing employees a training manual is a bad idea. Simply turning all the training manual’s text into a series of online slides, however, is also not likely going to be very inspiring. Use a variety of formats (e.g., videos, text and gamification) to keep your employee’s engaged throughout the training.
7. Disconnected from Actual Work: According to McKinsey & Company research, “even after very basic training sessions, adults typically retain just 10 percent of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus nearly two-thirds when they learn by doing.” This means that if the format is too disconnected from one’s actual work or simply uninspiring, there is a high chance that the training will have virtually no impact. Track employee’s engagement levels and success rates and use this feedback to hone future training initiatives in your workplace.