Why Training Often Doesn’t Meet Expectations

April 28, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

The world is full of trainers. Very often people who have had a successful management and/or sales career and who want to pass on their knowledge. There are also people out there who have been taught how to conduct a management or sales training without having any experience in those fields. There are people with great didactic skills and there are people who have a hard time teaching somebody that three plus five equals eight.

In other words; trainers range from being great in their profession to being right-out charlatans. It is not easy for a company to pick the right one to train their management or sales force. And if a company has contracted a bad apple, the conclusion is often that training doesn’t work instead of what the conclusion should be: the trainer did a bad job, we should hire a better one.

But that is not all there is to it. Even the best trainer cannot do the job he is expected to do if the program doesn’t work the way it should. Developing a training program is not an easy task. Sure, the subjects are easy to pick. Spend 30 minutes on the internet and you have the synopsis ready for a training program. Spend another hour or two on the internet and you have all the knowledge on paper to fill your training with. And regrettably, that is what a large number of trainers actually does.

Communication is old. Very old indeed. As long as there are human beings on this planet, there has been communication among them. Trainers don’t invent anything anymore. Everything we tell participants in a training has been told before…. thousands of times. Maybe in a different order, maybe using different words or descriptions, but it all boils down to the same thing; learn to listen, to empathize, to ask the right questions and to talk sensible when you talk.

So, why do a lot of training courses fail? To answer that question, we have to look at the goals first. A company that decides to hire a trainer wants two things; a change in attitude/behavior and a lasting result.

The change in attitude and behavior is the first pitfall. There is a distinct difference between a training and a course. A course is about knowledge. A course is like a school. The teacher talks, the student listens and tries to remember what has been said. A training is about doing. A training is about converting knowledge into behavior. A salesperson knows that he has to ask open questions to build rapport. That doesn’t mean that he is always doing it. In other words; don’t expect a change in attitude or behavior if somebody comes back from a course or has read this great sales or management book.

A real trainer will use the training session mainly to let the participants do things with their acquired knowledge. Workshops, role-plays or whatever tools he chooses to use. We show our attitude or behavior by doing (or not doing). So, if we change the way we do things, we change our attitude or behavior. That makes sense, right?

Usually up to a few weeks or maybe months after a training session we see the results. People are enthusiastic. Managers see their relationship with their employees improve, salespeople see their numbers go up. Everybody is happy and content.

But after a while people regress. Even while they know that what they have learned is best practice, they stop doing it. What causes that? To answer that question we have to look at two specific parts of the brains; the conscious and the sub-conscious part.

Our conscious brain is the thinking part. This is where we store fresh knowledge and where we process and use that knowledge. Our sub-conscious brain is the doing part. Everything we do ‘naturally’ comes from this part of our brains. We don’t have to think about walking, how to use our utensils, how to speak and how to behave in front of strangers.

Almost everything that is now stored in our sub-conscious brain was once planted into our conscious brain. We had to think how to walk, talk and do all kinds of other things we do now ‘naturally’. It takes time and practice to embed knowledge into our sub-conscious brain and let it change our behavior. Our emotions come out of our sub-conscious brain and that is a major influence on how we behave. Consider this: about 10% of everything we do and say and think is directed from our conscious brain. About 45% of what we do is habitual and comes from our sub-conscious brain. The other 45% is directed by our emotions and therefore also coming from our sub-conscious brain.

And here we have the cause of why training almost never meets the expectations in the long run. Training is often a more or less one time occasion. After the sessions people expect lasting results. But our brains are not given enough time and repeated input to let knowledge and trained behavior ‘sink in’ from our conscious brain to our sub-conscious brain. And we need all these new skills and techniques to be embedded in our sub-conscious brain in order for us to use them ‘naturally’.

If you are planning to invest in a training program for your employees, you better make sure that you invest wisely. Implement coaching after each training session, make sure that there are refreshment training sessions in certain intervals. Keep assessing the gap between the current situation and the goals you want to achieve. Adjust your training needs accordingly.

Changing attitude and behavior is possible, also in the long run. But it takes time, dedication and a professional trainer/coach whom you trust to do so. Don’t expect results from a one-time event. You will lose a lot of money and will gain some disappointments along with it.

Happy training.

Succinct Inc. is an Ontario based organization specialized in tailor-made training programs for sales and management. Succinct also provides Online Assessments that can be a tremendous help for all HR practitioners while hiring new employees or making the right choices in an employee’s development.

For more information: http://www.succinct.ca

Kees Scheffel.

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