Where Did We Go Wrong?

May 17, 2021

The good news for training professionals is that more and more companies are seeing the value of investing in training. According to a 2015 Deloitte University study of over 3,000 business leaders globally, 85% felt that “learning” is “important” or “very important” to their business’ success.

The bad news is that those who are responsible for implementing a training program at their organization often make similar planning mistakes that can have costly consequences. While this may be true for companies that either send their employees to generic training courses or bring in trainers to teach a pre-fab course, it is even truer for custom-built training programs.

Here are the five most common mistakes we have noticed from our 20 years of experience consulting to organizations around the globe on training matters:

  1. Failure to define success: Before you pay a dime to develop a custom training solution, you should be able to answer these two questions: “How will you know if this training program is successful?” “What will success look like?” Usually, when we ask clients these questions, we receive answers like “Our people will understand our new system” or “They’ll use the system properly.” True, but how do you measure that? Will you, or more importantly, your boss, consider the program a success only if 100% of the people use the system 100% accurately? Is that realistic? What if there’s a 10% error rate? Is that successful enough? Until you know where your target is, it’s hard to hit a bullseye.
  2. Delaying planning for evaluation: Related to the first problem, some companies have such a hard time defining success that they request permission to come back to it later. If they actually do come back to it, they often pick criteria that are now hard to achieve. Choosing the metrics at the beginning makes it easier to design a program that meets those goals. For instance, if you develop customer service training without specific goals, you might create activities that focus on providing high-quality care and not stopping until the customer feels the problem is resolved. If management decides later that the measurement for success is how many service calls are answered in a given day, then the program might not seem successful because the focus was on quality, not speed. Had you known at the beginning that speed was the goal, you could have designed activities to teach how to respond to inquiries helpfully and expediently.
  3. Failing to consider the target audience’s needs: External training professionals have a general sense of the target audience’s needs, but nothing replaces the judgment of someone with a long corporate history. Often, subject matter experts and other reviewers look at the accuracy of the content or the wording but fail to consider how their employees are likely to react to an activity or to the level of difficulty. A good review should address the appropriateness of the corporate culture, too.
  4. Failure to test the training in front of a sample audience: When a training need arises, usually it should have been fixed yesterday. In the rush to get something out, organizations often skip testing the course in front of a limited sample. “We just need something” becomes the mantra. Unfortunately, this approach usually backfires because “any old thing” does not meet the audience’s needs enough and creates a bad impression of the training within the organization. Taking the time to pilot the program to a small sample audience, get feedback, and adjust the materials before offering it to a wide audience provides an opportunity to fix issues and avoids creating a negative impression that is hard to reverse later.
  5. Failure to consider post-training plans: Classroom learning is only the beginning of the process. For training to stick, it needs to be enforced on a regular basis back at the job. A good custom training program plans for how to reinforce and coach the participants after class. Classes teach the skills but enforced practice builds the skills and the habits.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash



Valentine Kayumbi
10/06/2021 07:33 AM
Very great insights there. I have learnt and love the first point of failure to define success.
I want to add some quick pointers in the same direction.
1. Not looking before you leap
Creating an effective training program always starts with analysis. Take a step back and look at the situation as it currently stands. This gives you a foundation to build upon. L&D is always under the spotlight, particularly in terms of a return on investment. This is especially true if you were recently hired in your role. Resist the temptation to jump right in. Skipping the analysis stage is a bad idea. Be confident that this preparation will reap rewards in the future.
You should:
• Speak to all teams leads about current training.
• Get to know the challenges/barriers to effective training.
• Collect information on previous successes and failures.
• Ask for support and participation from colleagues.
• Decide your goals and objectives.
• Share findings to get buy-in.
Tip: Analyze..but avoid paralysis by analysis. Prepare well and accept that this is an iterative process.
2. Unclear goals or objectives
First things first, goals and objectives are not the same things! A learning goal is what the learner will be able to do once the course has been completed. A learning objective is a specific element that the learner will have mastered by completing the course.
Goals are broad. Objectives are specific.
You should be able to match overall needs to objectives. Needs dictate the goals, goals dictate the objectives and objectives dictate the assessment.
A goal is made up of a series of objectives. Let’s look at one example:
• Goal: Raise the standard of product knowledge
• Objective: All staff should know the 6 uses of the new feature
• Assessment: Create an exam with questions a customer may have in relation to this new feature
Using this basic model allows you to frame your thought process. Map it out on a whiteboard and use it to build your training programs.
3. Not considering practicalities
Once your goals and objectives are in place you need to temper it with a practical view. There is no point in creating a plan that isn’t feasible. Think about the time frame, budget, and resources at your disposal, and then decide what is achievable. Don’t let perfect get in the way of great.
Be pragmatic:
• How many courses can you create?
• Can you produce video-based courses?
• How many Instructor-led sessions can you run?

Thank you for allowing my contribution.
KCB Bank Group

Join the Conversation