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ATD Blog

It Doesn't Matter How Good Your Training Is

By and

Thu May 02 2013

It Doesn't Matter How Good Your Training Is-949d6ea7b3409de4aab0fe0d5a80b8e9aab8aff4a5788adcaeb6d502f203b45d

It may come as a surprise to many training professionals, but business leaders don’t really care how good your training is. They don’t really care that your Level 1 reaction scores were 5 out of 5, or that trainees showed a 100% improvement on post- versus pre-tests.

What business leaders care passionately about is performance. They care about whether or not performance improved after training; training is just a means to an end.  


That’s not to say, of course, that you don’t need to deliver top-quality training, or that you should not look for new and more effective ways to teach. But it does mean that if all you try to do is improve instruction, then you are missing the boat. The real issue is not learning, but learning transfer. And right now, that is where most training programs fall short.

How big a problem is it? It is very serious. In a survey conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council of the Executive Board, 56% of managers felt that employee performance would not change or would be improved if L&D were eliminated completely!

How can that be? We have never had better training tools, techniques, and technologies. What is going on? What is going on is that managers can readily see the amount of time and money being invested in training, but they are not seeing a commensurate lift in performance. To them, it’s obvious that “the training failed.”


Closer inspection usually reveals that the training was fine, perhaps even excellent, but that the transfer climate was not conducive to the on-the-job application of what was learned. So the training went to waste and was added to the learning “scrap heap.”


Whose fault is it? Everybody’s.  As learning professionals we don’t, of course, control the post-training environment. But for our own longevity, we need to learn to influence it and to improve learning transfer. To claim that the training was successful when performance remained unchanged is like saying “the operation was a success, but the patient died.”

So by all means, learn about how to use gamification, mobile computing, social media and all the rest, to improve learning, but don’t neglect the post-course transfer period. It’s where the rubber meets the road, and it can make or break the success of any training program.

Interested in learning more about learning transfer? Attend the preconference ASTD 2013 Learning Transfer Certificate Program, May 17-18, 2013 or in a city near you.

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