4. Including too much “learning”
This may sound strange. If the objective of training is learning, there is nothing like 'too much of a good thing', right?
Well, not quite.
People are inherently social beings, and we require a little bit of practice before going out into the real world and trying something new. Tiger Woods didn't just pick up a club. Lady Gaga didn't just put on any ol’ dress and start singing in front of four-thousand people.
When I review corporate training programs, as I'm sometimes asked to do, the first thing I usually do is cut about 30% of the content. Why? Because engaging training means that sometimes 'less is more'.
There's a limit to what people can retain in terms of information. We want opportunities to ask questions, engage in dialogue and interact with others and hear their opinions. And we need time to practice, in a safe environment, and get feedback after we are done.
My ground rule? About 30% of any training should be theoretical concepts, models and frameworks. Another 30% should be group interaction, discussion, dialogue and Q&A. And the final 30% should be practice, like role-plays, workshops and case studies.
5. Not setting clear objectives and outcomes
Traditionally, there is a set time when we talk about the objectives and outcomes of a training program.
When is that time?
At the start of the first day of training, when the instructor stands up, grabs a whiteboard and a Sharpie and asks everyone “so what would you like to know at the end of today?”.
Where that is a nice way to break the ice and get some group interaction going, it really shouldn't be the first time we think about the objectives and outcomes of a training.
For me, I like thinking about objectives and outcomes in two dimensions:
- Time - I like setting some short-term objectives as well as long-term ones
- Measurement – similarly, I always develop some quantitative as well as qualitative objectives
Setting clear objectives and outcomes is not only key to the success of the training program itself - it's crucial also to my next two points.
6. No benchmarking and before/after comparison
If you don't know where you're going, how will you know you’ve arrived? Most training programs measure participant satisfaction (also known as 'happy sheets'), with a post-training questionnaire asking a series of questions.
That's great, but more is needed.
First, you need some way of determining how participants performed before the training - a benchmark. I like using assessments for this: a rigorous, scientifically valid method of measuring someone's behavior, skill set and acumen before any kind of training has taken place.
Once you know where someone is before training – assuming you'd like to measure progress - the second thing you need to measure is where they’re at after training. And you really want to measure this at specific points in time - not just right after the training.
So I recommend to most of my clients to do periodic, quick 'spot checks'. For example, asking participants to self-report progress on a predefined set of skills after one week, four weeks, three months, six months and one year. That's a minimum by the way. In many cases, we ask management to assess progress as well, and in some cases we include additional, independent observation and/or assessments.
7. Under-resourcing and under-investing
If 'training' is the objective, then pricing is almost always an issue. Think about it: unless you're clear on the objectives and outcomes, short-term and long-term, quantitative and qualitative and you’ve translated that into real, hard impact, it's hard to see what the real benefit of training is.
Better leadership skills? More sales acumen? Higher productivity? What does that even mean?
Put yourself in the CFO seat for a second: would you happily invest tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands to 'put people through a training program'? If you're anything like most CFOs I know, the answer is 'not really'.
But would a CFO happily invest in something that would increase his gross margin by 15%, grow topline revenue by 20-25% and increase the average deal size by $150,000 ?
You get my point: unless we clearly know and value what we’re getting, any price is too high. Unfortunately, many corporate training programs do not translate or impacting too real, hard contributions to core business drivers. Meaning they are considered an afterthought, and many are chronically underfunded.
Many corporate training programs suffer from one of these seven classical training mistakes to one degree or another. And that's a pity, because it typically means that don't deliver the impact it could, and make the contribution they should.
By Ago Cluytens is Practice Director EMEA at RAIN Group, and a recognised global B2B sales thought leader on understanding the buyer's perspective in sales, Insight Selling and selling to the C-suite. You can learn more about Ago, read his blog, and watch him in action or connect on Twitter, Linkedin and Google+