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  • Gregor Wynnyczuk

There is No Proof That Training Works

There is a truism in marketing: half of a company’s advertising budget is a waste of money – the problem is figuring out which half. That’s because demonstrating how an ad campaign changes customer behavior is really hard to do.


I was thinking about this after being asked to help make the case for the approval of a training course. A group of skeptical executives seemed to believe that training was a waste of time and money, and my task was to find the data that would prove them wrong. 


I failed.


Demonstrating that training changes employee behavior is just as difficult as quantifying the impact of an ad campaign. And as with the advertising budget, half of your organizations training budget is likely wasted. But that doesn’t justify avoiding all training.


While organizations create and contract for training programs for a variety of reasons, there is only one reason they should do so – to change something


Yet most training classes are not designed for change. That’s largely because training providers sell training as an event, not a process. Real change doesn’t happen in a conference room over the course of a single day. Real change takes time and concerted effort. Real change is a process


Let’s say you want your technically minded engineers to focus on building relationships and supporting business development. A skeptical executive might say they could never do that because it’s just not who they are. They would correctly assume that sending an engineer to a day of business development or soft skills training would likely have no impact.


That’s because getting that engineer to think and act differently is a process. As such, it requires an initiative not just a course. An initiative might include a classroom training component, but would also involve coaching, support, feedback, on-the-job practice, management engagement, incentives and measures that are all aligned to help support that change.


Programs like this have been shown to support change, however they are the exception to the rule. That’s because they take a lot more time and effort than simply sending folks to a class. But if your organization is going to ask more of your employees, it has an obligation to provide more.

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