Most organizations spend a lot of money to develop their people. They know that people are where ideas come from. People interact with customers. People solve problems. People make things happen. You can’t expect to hire employees who already know everything they need to know to perform at a high level. Smart executives gladly commit funds to upgrade employees’ knowledge, skills and performance. According to the American Society for Training and Development, more than $100 billion is invested in learning and development programs every year in the U.S. alone.
What they don’t tell you is that most of this money is wasted.
Unfortunately, this is not an exaggeration. What is called “the transfer of training problem” in the Human Resource Development (HRD) profession has been known for many years. Because executives have a lot on their plates, this shocking problem hasn’t captured their attention.
If you’re a business owner or top-level manager, chances are that making sure classroom instruction translates to lasting changes in behavior and improved performance isn’t a high priority issue with you, either. So if you’re one of those well-intentioned executives who invests in people, here are some things you need to know.
It boils down to four important facts that you may not be aware of. Without this information you could make erroneous assumptions and have unrealistic expectations about the training programs you’re funding. As a result, about 80% of the participants of these programs won’t change their behavior in the long run. Since changing behavior is the whole point, most of the money you invest in learning and development programs may be going down a hole. When you understand how skill development actually works, you’ll know why you need to support the initiatives needed to “make training stick.”
Here are the four facts…
1. Only a fraction of what you spend on training actually changes behavior.
Without months of follow-through reinforcement, application, feedback, encouragement and accountability, 80% or more of classroom instruction doesn’t “stick” in the workplace. This fact has been documented by training and development research and is supported by brain science research related to learning.
2. People won’t use a skill consistently until it’s ingrained.
Until a new skill has been ingrained, people have to concentrate to do it right. In a busy workplace, conscious awareness is quickly filled to capacity. So until a new skill becomes an unconscious work habit, old habits will prevail most of the time. Repeated failures to apply the new skill are discouraging, and people typically go back to their old, previously ingrained patterns.
3. A skill won’t be ingrained without quite a lot of follow-through repetition.
To ingrain any skill, routine, habit or behavior pattern, a person has to perform the correct action again and again to stimulate the interconnection of brain cells involved in the skill. Only after the new neural network is established will someone consistently perform the skill on the job. Because of the time involved, this repetition can’t happen in the classroom. It has to happen in the workplace.
4. People can’t achieve high levels of performance without people skills and personal strengths.
Ingrained business, management and technical skills aren’t enough. To succeed in life and work, the abilities to build strong relationships and use personal strengths are at the core.
If these four facts are new to you, then you need to put systems in place to make sure your training and development programs have lasting impact.