One of the most important measures of successful training is application of the material. When executed properly, training should color the way things are done and leave a lasting impression on the learner.
Sadly, most training is never applied. ESI International surveyed over 3200 people in a study about their companies and the successful application of training. They sent the survey to training-related managers and leaders at both government agencies and commercial institutions around the globe. Almost sixty percent stated that half or less of the training was ever applied. The remaining forty percent that stated they applied more than 50% of training couldn’t actually prove it in most cases.
When asked about their primary method of proving application, more than half of the respondents stated they used anecdotal evidence or ‘simply a guess’. This makes the numbers even worse as it indicates the responses are probably skewed to a more positive bent then reality would show.
This is alarming. These numbers essentially indicate that companies waste more than 50% of all training dollars . Economists estimate the North American corporate training market is over 100 billion annually. That is $100,000,000,000! If over half of that training is never applied, corporate America is essentially flushing $50,000,000,000 down the drain every year. It’s no wonder that CEO’s are increasingly demanding a measurement of ROI on their training expenditures.
So how do we fix this?
- Recognize and accept that 100% application is not the goal. Nothing will ever be perfectly learned, perfectly understood, or perfectly applied. Shoot for something reasonable based on training goals and ROI needs.
- Stop trying to cram so much material into each training session. Remember, the goal of training is how much information gets applied and changes behavior, not how much information can be thrown at the learners. Don’t over-teach.
- Plan instruction around repeating key elements to increase the chance of retention and application. No child ever learned 2+2=4 after hearing it once. If you aren’t re-teaching key elements, you are placing unrealistic expectations on your audience. Material that was not understood likely counts for a large percentage of the material that is never applied.
- Pre-train attendees and mentally prepare them before the training. Consider how the material should change behavior, then search for barriers. Note these for the trainees so they can begin to accept the pending change. Then preview how the change will improve the situation and get trainees excited to come into the training session.
- Provide follow-up support for the training to reintroduce concepts and support initial application attempts. Performance Support (a huge buzzword in training) conveys the idea that trainers/managers/peers need to support performance of new learning after the training ends.
- Analyze and assess the effectiveness of the training, identify areas of low application or barriers to application, then re-teach.
This much wasted money is no minor problem, but is certainly one that can be overcome. Training departments need to move beyond the mentality that they are done once the session ends. Sometimes the difference between application and wasted money is a single reminder. And even when it isn’t that easy, following the six steps above is still far cheaper than re-training all the material.