6 Reasons Your Training Program Isn’t Working

If your training program isn’t working, look deeper. Of course, it’s important to train your people and to build the confidence and competence they need for success. But a training program is never enough to ensure your team’s success. Be sure you’re looking at other systemic issues impacting your success.

If Your Training Program Isn’t Working, Dig Deeper

It was late.  Joanne, the HR Director, Pete vacuuming the floors, were the only ones left with us in the building. The only sounds were the swishing of the sprinklers hitting against the high glass windows. Joanne looked up at me from behind her desk with that exhausted, weary grin that comes from realizing that the work ahead is more complicated than you thought.

“There’s a reason you told me that story last week about that CEO you’re working with, isn’t there?”

I nodded.

JoAnne continued, “Just like the guy in that story, this is bigger than a training issue isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I smiled, a little embarrassed to be called out for my seed planting. “I had a feeling it would be, but there was no way to know until we talked with the team. Thank you for staying so late with me tonight to dig deeper. Now we can clear the decks of a few things and ensure the support structure is in place so the training will work.”

Most of the time, when a “We need training, right now!” call comes in, it’s not about the training. Sure, training can help, but not in a vacuum. Often, there are bigger issues at play.

6 Reasons Your Training Program Isn’t Working

If your training need feels urgent, your training program isn’t working, or, if your team is reluctant to attend, dig deeper. Here are six issues that so often get in the way, that with a little upfront work, can change the trajectory of results.

  1. Poor Leadership Behaviors at the Top
    Yes, in Winning Well we teach and encourage the skills and behaviors to create a cultural oasis.  In fact I receive calls every week from managers reading Winning Well who are doing just that. AND, if you’re the guy hiring us to train Winning Well,  please know we’re going to be very interested in your willingness to read the book and model the behaviors you’re hiring us to reinforce.
  2. Unclear Expectations
    If people are unsure of what to do or why they are doing it, training to do “it” better just won’t work.
  3. Lack of Support Systems
    For example: If you want people giving great behavior-based feedback, please be sure your performance systems focus on behaviors. So many more…let’s talk.
  4. Dipping
    We sat in front of an HR exec the other day who was crystal clear, “All the field wants is a one-day training they can attend. No pre-work. No follow-up. No-reinforcement. No action plans.” That’s dipping not training and won’t create sustainable change. Save your money.
  5. The Fix Me Factor
    As I was about to train a team the other night, one of the team members pulled me aside. “Everyone is making fun of us because you’re here. Why do we need the ‘expert?’ Everyone’s assuming that we’re broken and they are not.”  Never make training feel like a punishment.  They hadn’t… and yet the rumors prevailed. I addressed this up front and diffused — but now we need to keep listening.
  6. SASRNT syndrome  (So and So Really Needs This)
    It’s not me, it’s them. If you are in love with a training concept and want everyone you know to go through it, please pause first and consider how you can best leverage this concept in your own leadership.

If you’re looking to start a leadership development program, or to improve the one you have, I encourage you to pause first and consider the context.

See also: 5 Powerful Ways to Ensure Your Training Sticks

If you want a sounding board, please call me at 443-750-1249 for a free Winning Well consultation.

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.

5 Comments

  1. All training providers / experts / consultants etc. can learn valuable lessons from this brief article/ post (if they are serious minded in this regard).
    Welldone! KH.
    Zafarmanzoor,SE,Pakistan.

  2. Great words. Often the grumbling is a sign that training is not appreciated. When I worked in the field of education, we had a term called “Life Long Learners”. The goal of a teacher was to grow Life Long Learners – at least in the ideal classroom. The goal isn’t to teach “Why does the moon have phases?” but to teach that questions are healthy and students need to take responsibility for their own education… in part.

    When I read this post, I am reminded of the goal: to produce Life Long Learners. If management hasn’t created an environment where learning is the goal, then maybe management should look in the mirror, and ask what can be changed so that employees at all levels seek challenge and growth. After all, with challenge and growth comes great responsibility!

    • David, Thanks so much for extending the conversation. What an important aspirational goal…. love it! Very consistent with the Winning Well philosophy.

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