Five Reasons Why Trainings Don’t Work

You might find it ironic that, as a trainer, I don’t believe that trainings work. The truth is that I believe they can work – it’s just that many organizations either don’t know how or when to use them. The following five examples are almost surefire ways to guarantee that you will waste time and money as well as lower morale and trust through your trainings:

1. Not Addressing the Real Problem

In many cases, organizations don’t do their homework to find out what the real problems are. Instead, they make assumptions, follow the latest trends, or don’t gather enough information to make informed decisions. Offering trainings on diversity when the real problem is a lack of openness to innovation, trainings on teaching technical skills when the real problem is a lack of teamwork, or trainings on time management when the real problem is a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities does little except create resentment and cynicism amongst the employees who already know what the real issues are but who aren’t consulted. On top of the time and money spent to produce minimal results, this approach ensures that the initial problems will not only persist, but potentially worsen.

By taking the time to do proper research and gather information, organizations can discover the real problems and find trainings to deal with them effectively.

2. No Follow-up

People may think that your training was amazing and life-changing; they may gave it excellent reviews; or, they may leave with a “training high” and can’t stop talking about it. None of those responses guarantee that the training will have any significant impact on the organization.

In order for a training to take hold, it must be integrated into the daily operations and norms of the organization. Not only must the goals of the training be supported by management and/or leadership, but employees need practical ways to apply their learning on a regular basis, especially when they run into problems or get confused. Having ongoing support and tools for implementation, support from co-workers who are also committed to making changes, and policies and procedures that support the goals of the training will ensure long-term success.

3. No Buy-in

Think about it – if someone forced you to attend an event, how receptive would you be to appreciate it, let alone have anything to do with it once it was over?

Unless employees have a good incentive to participate in a training, they will likely do little to support its objectives. The threat of losing one’s job or getting in trouble is not an incentive to create real change – it will only ensure that the person will do just enough to get by, all the while rolling their eyes and generating cynicism and lack of faith in the organization. They might appreciate that the training gets them out of work for a while, but they will likely go back to business as usual once it is over.

The same goes for those leaders who sponsor the training. Unless they are committed to implementing its objectives in standard policies, procedures, and practices, there won’t be a strong enough foundation to sustain any change. When leadership doesn’t support the implementation, employees then wonder why leadership wanted the training in the first place, which creates less trust and more doubt in the organization’s direction and values.

By doing their homework to address the real problems and committing to implement the training’s objectives, leaders, directors, and executives don’t repeatedly “cry wolf” and waste everyone’s time. Employees get value that they can understand and apply. When everyone is on board, the enthusiasm, commitment, and community that is generated provides ample leverage to make the training and its objectives to take hold and get results.

4. Avoiding the Real Problem

In some cases, leaders are aware of the real problems but don’t address them out of fear of change or the belief that addressing them will cost a lot of money. They use trainings as band-aids to placate employees, go through the motions, or make themselves look good.

This short-term gain will only guarantee long-term pain and result in excessive costs down the road. Not just financial costs, but lower morale, loyalty, buy-in, and trust, not to mention the problem festering and causing further damage.

By contrast, using trainings to deal with the real problems might incur short-term pain as people have to make changes and a higher initial investment. Doing so, however, will ensure success and prosperity in the long-term.

5. Abdicating Responsibility

Trainings are sometimes used to fix employees. In such cases, leadership assumes that the problems have nothing to do with them. By making this assumption, they avoid taking personal responsibility or accountability for the problems and overlook ways in which they might be part of the problem. This is especially evident when leaders don’t participate in the trainings that they sponsor or participate in or support any follow-up.

Through offering relevant trainings, actively participating in them, and implementing new norms based on the training objectives, the sponsors exercise their leadership and model a commitment to real change. This creates camaraderie, respect, and community, resulting in a unified organization committed to achieving the same goals and being successful.

While these five examples will increase the effectiveness of trainings, it is important to consider that trainings aren’t always the answer. By working with a skilled consultant or trainer who is willing to raise these questions, your organization can determine if and when trainings are necessary or provide alternative solutions to address the real problems so you can thrive.

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