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The 3,000-Pound Elephant in the Corner Office


Wed Jul 05 2023

The 3,000-Pound Elephant in the Corner Office

It’s the thing no one wants to talk about … not you … not your CLO … the CEO. But it’s sitting at the table every time a business executive engages an L&D professional in a conversation about the need for training.

The business executive and L&D professional both know that no matter how well a training program is designed and delivered, a certain percentage will not likely be applied back on the job. However, this reality is rarely discussed because neither has any ideas or experience measuring training transfer. And as the saying goes, “If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it, and if you can’t manage it, you can’t improve it.”


Knowing whether participants apply what they learned in a training program on the job is critical for both L&D and the business executives L&D supports. Demonstrating learning application back on the job speaks directly to L&D’s ability to be viewed as a credible partner by senior executives. An ROI Institute research study makes this point. It found that employee application of training is one of the top three metrics senior executives are most interested in seeing from their L&D partners.

Unfortunately, measuring on-the-job behavior change is not where many L&D professionals excel. For example, according to a 2019 ATD research study, only 54 percent of organizations evaluate learning programs at Level 3 behavior. Further, these organizations only assess 34 percent of all their programs at Level 3. However, when asked what value Level 3 evaluation data had for their organization, 79 percent indicated it had either a high or very high value.

The reasons offered by some L&D professionals for the disconnect include:

  • Level 3 evaluations are too hard.

  • They don’t know how to conduct a Level 3 evaluation.

  • Their leader doesn’t require Level 3 evaluations.

  • They don’t have access to Level 3 data.

  • Level 3 evaluations cost too much.

While some of these may contain an element of truth, it doesn’t absolve L&D professionals from providing business executives with the data they want.

Scrap learning research further magnifies the need to provide business executives with Level 3 job application data. Scrap learning is the gap or difference between training delivered but not applied back on the job. It’s the flip side of training transfer. It’s also a critical business issue because it wastes time and money, two precious organizational resources. Research indicates that scrap learning ranges between 45 percent on the low end and 85 percent on the high end in the average training program.


The message here is clear. What’s needed is a new approach to conducting Level 3 evaluations. This method must:

  • Be easy to implement.

  • Produce credible, high-valued data.

  • Provide clear direction for where corrective actions are needed to improve training transfer.

If you want to learn about a revolutionary way to measure training transfer, attend my Core4 session on Wednesday, July 26, from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. You’ll be glad you did.

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