What Everyone Ought to Know About Training

Everyone wants effective training.  The trainees.  The trainers.  The business.

The problem is most doesn’t know the most important thing about typical business “training.”

What everyone ought to know about training - Mike Russell

It doesn’t work.

And it doesn’t provide the hoped-for ROI.  Training spending was almost $71 billion in the United States alone in 2015, according to Training magazine.  Standard lecture-based training has an effectiveness – at best – of 20-25%.  That means about $53-57 billion wasted.  In a single year.


What businesses want from training is not training.

What businesses want is behavior change to improve business results.

Typical single-session training does not achieve lasting behavior change and wastes the investment.

Here are actions to improve training ROI:

  • Follow-up.  The first follow-up should be in the first 2-3 weeks.  There should be at least 3 follow-ups to coach and confirm the trainee is on the correct path to mastery.
  • Application.  Trainees need to try out what they’ve learned and get coaching to improve for any training to work well.  Business is like sports in that regard.  Hardly anyone can start a new sport and be a “pro” after one training session.  It is the same in business.  Hardly anyone can leave a single training session with expert competency.  The fastest path to mastery is to try and learn with expert coaching, then keep repeating the cycle.
  • Manager support.  If managers do not view training as important, then trainees will not view training as important.  For example, I often see managers pulling people from training for some non-emergency issue.  Actions like that send a strong signal that training – and change! – is a not important.  Trainees will invest their time in what appears to be important for work success.  Managers must take responsibility for their part in achieving training ROI.  Even better – and much rarer – is for managers to participate in training.
  • Trainee interest.  If a trainee has no or little interest in the training but required to attend, the training is wasted.  If the training has no linkage to success in the trainee’s work, then training is wasted.  In either case trainees will comply with training but not be committed.  And without commitment, training will be ineffective.

Fundamental change magnifies the problems.  Transformation for business agility, for example, will NOT occur based on traditional training.  Fundamental change requires many application and learning cycles.  Effective coaching speeds up the process, but fundamental change will take more than training time.

Don’t commit these mistakes. Structure your training so it is relevant, reinforced, and returns investment. Will doing so require more leadership attention?  Yes.  Will more leadership attention be worth it?  Yes, in many ways.

As a leader, take action to ensure your training investments are not wasted in the new year.

Need help?  There are better, proven alternatives to wasted training.  See the 4X Training page for examples of how we currently structure training.  Our Peer Mentoring approach, for example, usually returns a positive ROI by the time the program completes.


By Mike Russell