It Doesn't Matter How Good Your Training Is

Thursday, May 2, 2013

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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About the Author

Andy Jefferson, JD, is President and Chief Executive Officer for The 6Ds Company.  He is co-author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning and Getting Your Money’s Worth from Training and Development. Andy is a frequent and popular global presenter who excels in helping companies maximize the value they realize from their investments in learning and development. He is an accomplished executive with deep line-management expertise as well as experience in strategic planning, sales and marketing, productivity, and technology development. Andy views learning as a critical source of competitive advantage in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. He knows the challenges of running a company and making every investment count. Prior to joining The 6Ds Company, Andy served as the Chief Executive Officer of The Fort Hill Company, CEO of Vital Home Services, and Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of AmeriStar Technologies, Inc. Andy is a graduate of the University of Delaware and graduated Phi Kappa Phi with honors from the Widener University School of Law, where he served on the school’s Board of Overseers.

About the Author

Roy V. H. Pollock, DVM, PhD, is Chief Learning Officer of The 6Ds Company and co-author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning and Getting Your Money’s Worth from Training and Development. Roy has a passion for helping individuals and teams succeed. He is a popular speaker and frequent consultant on improving the value created by training and development.

Roy has a unique blend of experience in both business and education. He has served as Chief Learning Officer for the Fort Hill Company; Vice President, Global Strategic Product Development for SmithKline Beecham Animal Health; Vice President, Companion Animal Division for Pfizer; and Assistant Dean for Curriculum at Cornell’s Veterinary College.

Roy received his BA from Williams College cum laude and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and PhD degrees from Cornell University. He studied medical education at the University of Illinois Center for Educational Development. Roy served as a member of the faculty at Cornell for eight years, where he received numerous awards including the Ralston-Purina Research Award and Veterinarian of the Year.  He is a Fellow of the Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Program.

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