Training Courses - How to Make Them Stick


Author: Jason Watson

Strategy to Revenue CTO Jason Watson explains why so many are failing to benefit from highly-rated, external training, and where the solution lies.


A recent Harvard Business Review post touched on employee training courses and where many organisations are going wrong. Here’s why this resonates so strongly with me:

“The only people who get a return on training are the training companies,” says my boss - an odd sales pitch from someone who has forgotten more about training people than most will ever learn. The ex-salesman in me wants to kick him under the virtual table every time we talk to a new potential client, the ex-customer loves him for it.

Simply put, the statistics speak for themselves. Virtually every business I’ve worked with falls into the same traps and Nigel Harrison of Performance Consulting UK calls it the ‘Conspiracy of Convenience’. Here’s how it looks:

Team manager calls the L&D Team…
  • Steve – “Hi Jenny, Steve here. I have five sales people leaving money on the table - can you get them on a negotiation course?
  • Jenny – “Hi Steve, sure. Where are they based? Do they all speak English? Have you got budget?”
  • Steve – “All in London. Yes, all English speakers. I have surplus training funds from last year.”
  •  Jenny – “You are right, you do. So, five people in London, need a negotiation course ASAP. I can see space with our regular supplier in two weeks for a five-day residential.”
  • Steve – “Five days? Hmmm, can they do it in two?”
  • Jenny – “Just checked. Sure, they can do a 2.5 day version. Does that work?”
  • Steve – “Perfect! Thanks. Book them on.”

Two weeks later….

Trainer: “Well folks, that’s the course. I’m passing out the post-course questionnaire. Once you complete this we’ll get your certificates signed and you can leave. We even managed to give you three hours back to beat the traffic.
Two weeks after that….

  • Jenny – “Hi Steve, it’s Jenny from training. Just wanted to touch base – got the end of course survey results back following the Negotiation course. Feedback was fantastic across the board – 5/5 for the venue, 5/5 for the food, 5/5 for the trainer.”
  • Steve – “That’s great, Jenny. I spoke with one of the reps she was really happy also.”

Six months pass…

• Steve – “Hi Jenny, do we have any advanced negotiation courses available? Those folks we sent on the training haven’t changed at all and are still heavily discounting to win deals."

What the HBR article describes is everything wrong with ‘talent development’ in most organisations. In the medical profession they have a saying; “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice”. Yet, isn’t that exactly what’s been described here? Back to my boss’ statement on training companies being the only ones to benefit from courses - what he’s really saying is if you don’t change your mindset and think ‘change program’ and having to cover all bases (communication, tools and operating environment [through Knowledge, Skills, Behaviours, Attitude, Process]) then don’t expect any real return.

We help businesses identify the root cause of their problems with some remarkable results and would be happy to work with those who feel some new thinking would be of benefit.

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