3 Surprising Mistakes That Are Making Your Training Irrelevant

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


It makes sense, right? If you want learners to apply what they learn in training, the training has to be relevant. Surprisingly, though, you may be making a common mistake that is preventing the training you design from being relevant. 

#1: Going Generic 

Honestly, generic information doesn’t help anyone. It’s too, well, generic. Often the theoretical content in a course is solid. What’s missing is the know-how to specifically apply that content to the job. 

For example, I have been diligently trying to learn how to use social media to market for the past three years. It’s not rocket science, really. There is no way that it should have taken me three years to figure out. But my progress was significantly slowed because the initial learning resources I found were too generic. It was only when I stumbled upon learning resources that spelled out the nitty-gritty, how-to details that I finally got it. 

This is why I am a big fan of role-based training. I know it can be a lot of extra work. But unless you connect the dots for people by showing them specifically what to do and how to do it, the training won’t be relevant. 

#2: Going Thematic 


What I mean by going thematic is that you chunk the training content into logical units, and then sequence those units in a way that seems to make sense. For example, you might sequence the content from less to more complex information. 

I can’t say this strongly enough: You should never organize training content thematically. Seriously, never. 

The reason: People don’t use information thematically. On the job, in real life, people use information at multiple levels of complexity all at the same time, depending on what they are doing.  As a result, you should organize content based on what learners will do after the training. In fact, the more closely training content mirrors the job, the more relevant the training will be. 

Here are my three go-to organization schemes for training content:

  • steps in a task or process
  • questions to answer (this is especially useful for sales and customer service)
  • problems or issues to troubleshoot. 

#3: Going, Going, Gone 

I know that the “National Sales Meeting” is only held once a year in January. But if people won’t have a chance to apply what you taught them during the “training” portion of the meeting until April, I can assure you that everything they may have learned will be going, going gone. 

The same goes for every type of learning experience. If people don’t have a chance to immediately apply what they learn, they are more likely to immediately forget it. Although immediate application can be difficult to pull off, just-in-time training is essential to relevancy. Ideally, people should learn one day and then do either that same day or the next. 

An example of just-in-time training is a class I designed for one of our clients. The morning was reserved for formal learning and the afternoon for structured doing. Each afternoon, learners were assigned real work projects to be completed under the guidance of a peer mentor based on what they had learned that morning. In this way, we were able to shrink the gap between learning and doing to nothing. 

Share how you are combatting these common “mistakes” in the Comments below. 

About the Author
Diane Valenti, founder of Applied Performance Solutions, Inc., uses her instructional design ninja skills to help companies reduce their sales onboarding ramp time and help sales teams rapidly acquire product knowledge. She works with Fortune 500 and startup companies, alike. Get Diane’s checklist to learn if you are making these 10 incredibly common mistakes that slow sales onboarding.
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