Saturday, 19 October 2013

Why 90% of Training Programs Fail

"All organizations want results from training programs but most of them don't do their due diligence in understanding what's needed. And most of those who do; don't spend enough effort in designing relevant programs."
Today, organizations think that their performance issues lie in one simple thing: Training. So what do they do? They spend their time and energy designing a learning agenda for the year which usually constitutes 5-7 man-days of training for every individual. Once they have designed this yearly agenda, they spend the rest of their time convincing their employment to attend the training. And when finally their employment attends the training program; to their surprise the results are nowhere to be seen. Why is this the case? Why is it that 90% of the training programs conducted result in an absolute waste?
and foremost we must commit to move away from the quick-fix mentality

The deadline is approaching and you've been so busy with other work that you never had the time to finalize the training program and now you'll take anything that comes your way. You haven't given yourself enough time to pick and choose the material for the training session and match it against the requirement of the trainee with alignment to the organizational goals. This requires some planning, this requires being proactive and, more importantly, it requires discipline to not be lazy and take the easy way out. It requires some due diligence on an HR executive's part. But most of us are tossed around by our circumstances, controlled by them. Before organizations train their mainstream employees in areas like delegation, time management, prioritization and individual effectiveness, they ought to train their HR staff to ensure these skill sets are ingrained in them first. After all if the HR executive himself does not have a handle on things because of his lack of discipline, inability to delegate tasks and disorganized priorities, then how can he be expected to do his due diligence through the planning phase of a training program?

we must strive towards enabling understandings rather than 

Techniques change as time passes. The technique used to fish a hundred years ago is different than the technique used today. The understanding here remains constant: there is a fish underwater and it needs to be caught and brought outside; why? to be eaten, traded, etc... The understanding is the 'what' and perhaps even the 'why'. The technique is the 'how' which changes from situation to situation. Different fishing equipment is used in different waters i.e. The Dead Sea VS The Pacific Ocean. We must understand that if people know what they're trying to accomplish and why they're doing it, how they do it just might amaze us.

we must recognize the fact that training may not be the answer to all our performance related problems
The problem could lie in one or more of three major areas. Pin-pointing the problem is the hard part, it's the part that requires the HR executive to not be lazy.

If the people lack the required skills knowledge or experience then training is required

If people don't want to develop themselves because they don't fully understand the value of training. This requires motivation. Leaders need to inspire them by relating work to what's most important to them - Needs, Values, Goals, Attitudes, Interests, etc...

They may know how, they may even be motivated to do the work but might lack authority, guidance, information, personnel, facilities, supplies, tools, technology, transportation, funds or other resources. Since these things are depended on the organization, people rely on management to empower them

This is the success rate of an average training program in light of the real performance issues.

The success rate of an average training program is a mere 10% with respect to the desired outcome from the specific program

That is because we disregard the real performance issues. 

Performance issues could be in one off three main areas: Lack of Desire, Lack of Skill, Lack of Enabling

Of the three areas; two -knowledge and interest- could be controlled by HR executives. The third is an organizational initiative which is to make resources available. But by doing this we will increase our odds of providing an impactful solution.

Identifying the problem
Below are some of the key competencies which were identified last year for the mid-level managers of a major manufacturing company. Every mid-level manager was put through four days of training. Each training day covered a different competency as each of these competencies were identified as a need from the Training Need Analysis. No competency was consider to trump another as no priority or importance value was given to them. As a result, there were four training programs: Strategy -which covered decision making and strategic thinking; Prioritization - which covered planning, work/life balance and delegation; Influencing/Persuasion - which covered negotiation, driving results and empowering employees and Team Work - which covered collaboration, competition and unison. Because the company had mandated four days of training for every employee, Martha, the HR executive, now had to try to fit all these competencies in those four days. Without the sense of importance of a specific competency with reference to context, Martha was unable to effectively prioritize between competencies, hence considered them all equal. "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail" -Mark Twain (See Table Below). A one-day session for each of these competencies were arranged and executed with great expectations but they were in for a shock. An assessment conducted 90 days after each session revealed that less than 20% of what was taught was retained. A greater shock was that the subordinates didn't feel there were any changes in the manager's approach in the previously taught competencies, i.e. problem solving, decision making, etc... (See 'Training Outcome' below to see Competency Importance compared to the Training Outcome). What happened here was that there were four standalone ideas which were presented by, possibly, four different people/vendors. As a result, nothing much was absorbed or internalized by the trainees.

Unrealized competencies are one in the same regardless of the actual urgency of a certain skill for the company. There is no discrimination with respect to the competencies

This causes HR executives to distribute the training days and their efforts across the board on all the competencies. This  leads to not having successfully taught any of the skills

When HR executives begin to show discrimination towards the competencies based on what is most urgent for the company at the current moment, they can highlight and focus on that competency and tackle it head-on

Does this mean that the training programs which were conducted we not effective enough? No. Maybe the trainers weren't good enough. Not that either. Maybe the content wasn't effective. Not at all! As ironic as it sounds, the outcome of the training had very little to do with the training itself. It had to do with the intangibles of the training. One of Martha's first errors was to not be proactive in recognizing the most important competency of the set gathered from the TNA. Many of us reading this study might be thinking: "That's not me, I certainly consider what's more important." But the truth is that most of us do what Martha did at one level or another. We may not do it to that extent, yet we become lazy in aligning the identified competencies with what's most important; not only for the individual but also for the organization at the respective level. If Martha had done that she would have found that all competencies are important, which is why they were identified in the first place, yet one competency holds precedence over all others (See 'Competency Importance (Actual)'). She would learn that Influencing/Persuasion is most needed in this specific scenario for these group of people. This would enable her to put more stress on Influencing/Persuasion programs than on the others. But there's more to the solution than just this.

Regressive Progression™

"Regressive Progression™" is a term coined collectively by TeamMemcorp through one of their "Breaking Barriers" sessions. Regressive Progression™ is a process of training. It focuses on developing new skills without losing what has been taught in the past. In order to apply the understanding effectively it's important to prioritize the competencies first.

The idea is built on sequential-tasking as opposed to multitasking. For instance, if Martha was to apply a Regressive Progression™ approach in her project, she would focus her efforts towards tackling the most important competency - Influencing/Persuasion. She would design the four days of training around four interconnected aspects of Influencing/Persuasion. Further, she would ensure that each session progressively builds on what was taught in the previous session. This equates to four sessions on similar material with an add-on each time. This in itself becomes a support system to the trainees as they can come back to the next session and discuss the challenges they had in the application of what was taught initially. Trainees usually try to apply what they learn but due to the lack of a support system, they're forced to give up. Regressive Progression™ keeps the retention rate high as it's a continuation of where the last session left off (See 'Training Outcome (Regressive Progression™) below).

Though as an outcome, other competencies are not work upon at all, HR executives can expect to have successfully taught one core skill which was initially the most urgent of all skills

Corporate Training must be more than just a yearly budgetary exercise for Corporations. As firms grow and evolve, they must also consider the personal and professional growth of their employees. This can be done through a deep training need analysis, high-impact learning sessions, periodic interventions to ensure continuous improvement and constant feedback which makes the learning process itself evolutionary in nature.
Subramanian Kalpathi
Associate Partner, Memcorp LPS

Now that we have clearly understood our predicament, the question still remains; how do we identify if the problem is lack of knowledge or interest?

The easier of the two to tackle is the lack of knowledge challenge. It comes with definite signs. These are the people who are usually motivated at work. They're the ones who will ask about the upcoming training programs. They are also the ones who will be in constant council with their managers to learn about the areas in which they could improve. As you read these characteristics you might think to yourself that these people are incredibly rare which is not true. The fact is that there are many people with at least some of these characteristics, they would just do these things, but very subtly. No one likes to make a fool of themselves by letting others know that they don't know what to do in a certain situation. Yet you'll find them reading self help books and articles which give direction to overcome challenges. You will find three or more of these six characteristics in these people: Job Satisfaction, Commitment, Discretionary Effort, Emotional Stability, Locus of Control and High Self-Esteem. If these are the people who are not performing at higher levels, nine times out of ten the problem lies in either knowledge or resources. Training these people can and will resolve the problem given that the content of the training is ingrained in the trainees through some form of reiterative method. 

The real challenge is when we're trying to engage the non-engageables. Yes, there is a group of people in your very own organization who are non-engageable. These are the people who are not motivated about learning and developing themselves. They don't see any value in training. So when nominated to attend a training of any sort, they come back unchanged with no intention to apply anything they were exposed to. These people don't need a training program they need a more fulfilling job. They are in positions where they don't belong which is frustrating not only for them but also for their subordinates. The root of it all is a lack of job satisfaction which leads to an array of problems and dis-harmonies. Much of this actually has to do with the personality of the individual with respect to the function of the job. This challenge is best tackled at the very onset; at the recruitment stage. If the recruitment team is well equipped, they will weave through the potentially non-engageables. There are tools available for the recruitment team to assess personality types to avoid future disappointments of a bad recruit. But what if the deed has already been done and you already have these people on board? There are three areas which can potentially change these people's attitudes to be more receptive and engageable.

JOB SATISFACTION | They must feel a sense of satisfaction in what they do. Money will only go so far when it comes to real satisfaction. Satisfaction must be tied to an emotional connect for these people where they feel they're making a difference with what they're doing.

EMOTIONAL STABILITY | They must have a work/life balance in order to be emotionally stable. Companies must encourage people to leave work on time, to return home and resume their personal lives though the they may be adamant to stay. This will pay off on a longer run when the employee appreciates the time he had to spend with his family. 

SELF ESTEEM | Self confidence and self esteem cannot be taught in a training room. This has to be instilled by managers, peers and subordinates. Research has shown that negative, pessimistic employees with low self-esteem not only decrease your customer satisfaction, but they do not leave voluntarily. Consequently, your company must develop a culture and a process that supports the reduction of these types of employees especially in customer contact positions. Companies that have a positive culture automatically help people attain a positive high self-esteem. Cultural solutions are available for companies to take advantage of and to bring about a positive culture in their organizations.

To conclude...

If you consider the three areas that reason a failed training program, you'll find exactly why your very own training programs might have failed in the past. We're trying to solve a 100% of our performance problems with a 30% chance of success. That's worse than flipping a coin. So our failure rate has already increased to 70%. Now, with the remaining 30% chance of success, our training programs are not designed to ingrain information in the trainees as they're not reiterative in nature which shaves off another 20% and leaves us with the 10% of success rate (See 'Current Training Scenario' below). These 10% of people that you are impacting are the highly engageables in your organization and you would get the same results with them if you merely gave them bullet points of the training programs. They're proactive enough to do the research and learn on their own. Upon incorporating a Regressive Progression™ approach we're able to move towards accomplishing a 100% of the 30% of performance issues that training will resolve (See 'Regressive Progression Training™ Scenario' below). As for the remaining 70%, we're able to resolve 45% of that by enhancing the culture of our organization through various available measures to provide job satisfaction above all (See 'Multi-Solution Scenario' below).

When we see things for what they're worth, we find that only 30% of the performance issues can actually be tackled with training in the first place

As a result from misunderstood requirement, training only gives us a 10% success with respect to the desired outcome to resolve performance issues

With Regressive Progression, the HR executive is able to maximize the entire training gamut with a solution with a direct correlation with performance, nevertheless, only a maximum of 30%

When the HR executive recognizes the various means through which performance issues can be resolved, he/she is then able to employ those tools to enable approximately 75% of success in tackling performance issues within the organization

So does this mean you should shut down your training initiatives all together? NO! But it does mean that we ought to think about our performance issues on broader terms. "Corporate Training must be more than just a yearly budgetary exercise for corporations. As firms grow and evolve, they must also consider the personal and professional growth of their employees. This can be done through a deep training need analysis, high-impact learning sessions, periodic interventions to ensure continuous improvement and constant feedback which makes the learning process itself evolutionary in nature." says Subramanian Kalpathi, Associate Partner of Memcorp Learning and Performance Solutions.


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