Training - as you never think about it

Every business achieves results when people do things.

How is that for stating the bleeding obvious?

This topic may initially seem to have limited appeal if your job does not involve training.  But whether you are a buyer, a marketer, an operations manager or a supplier – training is relevant to all of us because we all can only achieve results through people – even though your role may not require you to think about training directly much.

If that is not enough incentive, I will show how you can save money (most organisations are wasting money with common training approaches) and if that is not sufficient, I will link you to some freebies as a reward for sticking with me. It is that important!

Training is seen as the panacea for many organisational ills. It could be, but it isn’t.

Training does not always work very well. Here is a study to prove it to you.

According to the American Society for Training and Development (2008), US companies spent about $1103 per employee and $134.39 billion in total in 2007 to enhance their employees' skills and competencies. However, approximately 40 percent of participants of job-related training programs fail to transfer newly acquired knowledge and skills to the job context immediately after training, and altogether only 50 percent of training investments result in organizational or individual improvements (Saks, 2002). 

It is generally accepted amongst L&D professionals that the 70-20-10 philosophy applies when it comes to training efficiency. (See diagram below.)

  • 70%
  • 20%
  • 10% from formal training.

The idea originated at Princeton University and although this ‘rule’ has not been substantiated by any formal research, it makes intuitive sense when you consider how much time the employee spends in formal training versus on-the-job training.

Even if it not 70% but only 50%, it is reminiscent of Lord Leverhulme’s (founder of Lever Brothers) famous quip:

I know that half of my advertising budget is wasted, but I don’t know which half.

The same can often be said for training, and if we are wasting ‘only’ half our training budget, that could be a substantial amount of money.

OK, so what does all that mean? What should I do with this information?

ONE: Make the FORMAL learning more effective.

Organisations should really (re-)think training and align training expenditure with where/how the learningactually takes place.

1.            Make it relevant


There is a time and place for ‘chalk-and-talk’, but because that is so difficult to scale there is less and less of that. eLearning is not a panacea either, but it is extremely cost-effective (and therefore attractive) for the right types of training, such as:

  • some compliance training
  • employee inductions
  • franchise manuals/ standard operating procedures
  • supplementary/ reinforcement training as part of a blended learning program

To give you an idea, after setup/development costs ALL the online training in your organisation can be conducted for under $100 per employee per year.

Imagine being a 100-store Franchisor that only needs to spend $10,000 annually on training!

2.            Be positive – make it fun

Research has proven that two things play a major role in the development and retention of skills and knowledge.

The biggest drivers of training efficiency are motivated, satisfied employees. Training is by itself not the ‘motivator’ and neither is it a sustainable ‘reward’. There are many more factors that make a workplace ‘satisfying’ and getting a small improvement in this area will have a multiplier effect on your training dollars.

In tough times like these employees can be apprehensive about the security of their job (even part timers and casuals) and they take their cues from the owners/managers/leaders in the business. If you are negative about economic conditions, and are constantly harping on the impact of the economic climate, the online threat etc., it does not make much sense to spend money on training because it won’t stick anyway. Even the ‘free’ training sponsored by the Government may be a waste of time because there is a real opportunity cost to consider.

TWO: Make INFORMAL learning more effective

People have always learned most of what they know through a process of experiential osmosis. (We call it Social Learning.)

Technology has now caught up and we are able to offer solutions that actually work effectively as social learning platforms and importantly, people have become used to some of the practices and protocols that apply on sites like LinkedIn Groups, Facebook etc.

1.            Make it Social

Organisations are attempting to harness the learning that happens anyway in the workplace to be better organised, to be recognised and be valued internally, and to be more effective. (Some thoughts from a leading thinker can be found here if you are interested in training matters.)

An Accenture study has found that:

The majority of workers surveyed (55%) report that they are under pressure to develop additional skills to succeed in their current and future jobs. But only 21% say they have acquired new skills through formal, company-provided training during the past five years; only 6% have participated in training through podcasts and other informal mechanisms.

(Another related Accenture article in HBR can be found here.)

2.            Make it continuous.

Learning is a lifelong journey and that is not just a cliché. It is obvious in a 24/7 world – and a world that is constantly changing (as we all experience) that learn-as-you go is the only solution that is viable. But this learning must still be ‘managed’ and guided to ensure it is relevant (not fun for fun’s sake) and that risks are appropriately managed.

It may be obvious. It may be cost-effective. It may be necessary. But how DO you make learning social?

There is no easy answer because it is not an easy process. Most organisations will still need a progressive L&D professional to help manage the processes and to implement a non-training approach to workplace learning.

We know it works, and can will reveal on Friday how we are leading the way in responding to this challenge.