Here’s a statistic that should strike fear into the hearts of anyone responsible for employee training, says Dr. Jim Kirkpatrick in his new book, Training on Trial.

In a 2008 study, only 15 percent of employees who went through training actually achieved sustained behavior change.

So is it any wonder why execs continue to ask what they’re getting for their investment in training? And why when the budget ax falls, it often lands on the neck of employee training?

What’s the problem with employee training?

Let’s do a pretest:

Q: Training is most likely to fail because:

A. Participants don’t prepare before the training session.
B. Participants don’t engage during the training session.
C. Participants don’t practice after the training session.

If you answered C, give yourself a gold star. A 2006 study from the American Society of Training and Development found that 70% of training failures occur after the employee training takes place.

Specifically, the study found that training often goes to waste because participants don’t have the opportunity to put the training into practice, and/or supervisors don’t reinforce the training after it’s delivered.

Another 20% of training failures can be chalked up to lack of preparation before the training event. And only 10% of failures have anything to do with the training event itself.

Chances are, these results won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever trained employees. It happens all the time: The training went great. Everyone knew their stuff. They aced the post-test. But nothing changed.

In other words, they learned just fine. But they didn’t do.

The training buck stops here

If you want to avoid that always-awkward and sometimes-career-stalling conversation with the CEO about “training ROI,” Kirkpatrick offers this advice: Focus more on follow-up.

Most trainers put most of their effort into planning and delivering the training content. They think that’s the job. But the job is to change behavior. Which is why you can’t just leave reinforcement to the line managers. If you want training to be effective, stay involved. Make sure people have opportunities to implement what they’ve learned. Provide tools. Run refreshers. Measure results. (If you’d like to see how we deal with follow-up in Rapid Learning Institute programs, click here.)

Kirkpatrick offers more good advice: Start now, and keep your boss in the loop. You can’t wait until someone asks;“I don’t know what we’re getting for our investment in training…”

Because the rest of the sentence usually goes something like this: “…which is why we’re cutting the budget.”

photo credit: robynejay


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