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How to Fix Corporate Training Failures


Corporations spend millions upon millions of dollars on training but are often disappointed by the results. And while corporations pour money into training, workers grouse about being forced to waste time sitting in seminars and come away either knowing nothing or forgetting what little they learned a week later.

Corporate training failures like these happen all the time, but the main reason they fail is that no one is interested in seeing them succeed. Workers do not care because they are annoyed. The teacher often does not care because he knows the workers are annoyed. But most importantly of all, the managers often actually do not care themselves, as they view checklist as something to be completed instead of a process to educate employees. Just look at Forbes writer Stephen Meyer, who witnessed a sales manager be completely befuddled at the idea of working to make the concepts taught in training stick.

There are tons of problems surrounding how companies do corporate training today. Here are some of the biggest concerns, and what managers who actually care about training can do.

Is Training Necessary?

Some businesses look around, see that their workers are underperforming, and assume that training is what is needed to fix it. But that is not always or even often the case. Other factors such as structural issues within the company, poor management and communication, or a lack of resources can be reasons for why workers are underperforming. 

Owners should remember that training does not make workers smarter or more industrious. It helps workers learn specific skills which can improve productivity. But if the worker already knows those skills, then training is a waste of time.

Consequently, before launching any training program, owners should first figure out if employees are truly lacking in necessary skills, or if they are underperforming because they are unmotivated or are just uncertain of what to do. Training can often be useful, but all the training in the world will not help unmotivated, confused employees who already possess the necessary skills.

Problems within Corporate Training

If you have determined that training is necessary, then you may have to rethink what your training program looks like. Far too many training program have people listen to some speaker drone on for an hour with some PowerPoint slides before doing a pantomime of a role play scenario. They lack real activity and participation. As the human resources website notes, “training is based on a mass of subject matter content, handled in a linear format, with heavy emphasis on the charisma of the trainer.”

The fact that the emphasis is on the trainer and not on the people who should actually hope to benefit from the program is a major and common problem. Place emphasis on the trainee with original games and activities which catch them off guard. There is a reason why as training firm Global Knowledge notes, gamification is becoming one of the biggest growing training segments in the industry.

Instead of a training program where many people gather into a small room, hold multiple small meetings which allows for greater personalization. Improvise so that even veteran workers do not know what to expect when walking into a training program.

Measures like these can be more expensive in the short term and so managers may balk. But the real long term expense is wasting dollars on seminars and lectures which no one remembers.

Follow up and Feedback

Think about a time when you learned something really difficult, like a foreign language or programming. Did you master it in a single class or an afternoon?

Of course not. Learning is a constant process which we labor at throughout our lives. Just look at how long it takes to become a carpenter making exquisite furniture. And when workers come out of a training class having learned something, managers need to constantly drill those concepts they learned over the next several days to weeks. Put workers into situations when they have to apply the skills they learned, talk to them about what they learned, and do your best to prevent them everything the trainers taught them.

This is not just so employees remember. Employees will often come away from training with new ideas, but find themselves trapped by existing power structures and thus fall back into old habits. The manager should be an ally fighting so that trainers use what they learn and not an enervated person pretending the training never happened.

But if despite all your efforts the training did not take, then you need to find out what went wrong. For that, you need feedback. Outside training programs will often ask workers for their thoughts on the program so that they know how to improve. Businesses should be doing the same thing. If the workers did not like a training program, you need to know just as much as the trainers did.

All of these steps should make clear that successful training requires far more effort than an afternoon lecture. But if you work to provide original training with feedback when it is necessary, your business can prosper.

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