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Why Training Initiatives Fail: The Problem No One Wants to Acknowledge

Why do corporate training initiatives fail so often? Well, it’s because organizations indulge in training for the sake of it, rather than as a means to achieve specific business outcomes. Most companies have no strategic focus to their training. They don’t train employees in the skills relevant to the business’s stage of progress. They pay little attention to the planning process and tend to focus more on the delivery of the training program. As a result, they usually end up sending the wrong people to the training. They then over-train them and spend almost no time on implementation and follow-ups.

Due to the lack of strategic planning, the training programs fall short of being both interesting and useful. They fail to inculcate qualities that should be mandatory. Owing to this, the participants soon forget what they learn and sometimes even end up spinning in the wrong direction.

For this reason, Roy Pollock, Andy Jefferson, and Calhoun Wick wrote an exciting book called The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning.

This book sheds light on the underlying problem that plagues the training industry. Delivery is glorified while strategically planning the process in alignment with the business outcome is thoroughly ignored. And to be honest, this is a HUGE problem.

Additionally, for training to be fruitful, senior leaders, middle managers, and individual learners need to contribute as well. They need to set the right expectations, be attentive to the entire process as opposed to just delivery and also participate equally in creating measures of achievement.

The book speaks about Six D’s:
D1: Define Business Outcomes: The decision to engage in training should begin with listing the desired business results. This should include what the learners should be able to do differently and better to achieve those results. Once everyone involved understands the business value, it allows for greater buy-in.Now let us not confuse this with learning skills. The business outcome is not the skill participants will achieve during the training; it is the value the participant will gain once they use the skills—such as more customer satisfaction and profitability.

D2: Design the Complete Experience: Transforming learning into business results is an on-going process and not a one-time activity. This stage takes place before, during and after the period of formal instruction is completed. As mentioned earlier, it’s ongoing and therefore cannot be fixed to a particular phase.

D3: Deliver for Application: What are the trainers supposed to do differently and better? Well-designed learning experiences use adult learning principles, connecting the learning with real business issues, and motivating learners by answering the question, “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM).

D4: Drive Learning Transfer: Great learning alone is not enough to drive change. The lack of follow-through post-training, lead to the failure of learning and development. Keeping this in mind, and actively encouraging and managing the process ahead of time, will ensure the transfer process from classroom to real-world usage.

D5: Deploy Performance Support: Getting better requires practice, feedback, and support. Managers have a direct impact on whether the learning is applied or scrapped. This stage is to increase the probability that learners will be successful when they try to apply new skills to their work.

D6: Document Against Business Outcomes: Documenting against the initially sought business outcomes is critical to support a cycle of continuous learning, adaptation, improvement, and innovation. Make sure you decide (or understand) WHAT to measure before you decide HOW to measure results.

Therefore, if all these aspects aren’t focused on then, TRAINING IS A WASTE. Focusing on only delivery will fail to create the desired outcome, in fact, it won’t even bring about a change in the participants. The only way to make training work is to align it with the business outcome in detail. This will require you to look deeper down the nitty-gritty of training, only then can you ensure that your corporate training initiative is a success.

To ensure alignment with the business outcomes, we at Challenging Horizons get involved in the training process right from the start. We work closely with organizations to understand their goals and accordingly design the training programs. We also pay close attention to the needs of the participants and choose delivery strategies accordingly. We follow a stringent process with both designing and delivering the training programs, thus ensuring the success of learning and development activities.

Credits: The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning.