Why so many companies get training wrong

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Training is often seen as a bore and a chore. Is there a way to make it better?

Several studies show that employee training can be more problematic than productive, wrote BBC Capital May 3. A 2010 McKinsey & Company report found just 25 per cent of respondents felt that training programs had a measurable improvement on performance. A 2015 study from online training company 24×7 Learning found that only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in training to their jobs.

With about $359 billion spent on training globally in 2016 – up about 21% over the past five years – businesses are investing more and more into beefing up their staff’s skills. But groans continue to fill office hallways every time someone gets called into a session.

Alan MiddletonMany programs don’t actually improve skills [and] are too generic, too basic and too boring. The misguided one-size-fits-all approach comes from companies training everyone, in every department, in the hope they will feel equipped to try new things, adds Alan Middleton, executive director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre. “There’s not enough attention given to what objectives the company wants to accomplish and the current level of knowledge and skill of those who are going to be trained.”

If bosses really want to help people move around, they need to make career development more personal, identifying individual people who want to learn new skills and tailoring their approach accordingly, Middleton says.

The offer of skills improvement has become part and parcel of the standard job hunt. Indeed, a 2015 study found that 69% of employees under 40 say that training opportunities play an important part in deciding whether or not to stay at a job, while a 2016 Gallup report found that 87% of millennials say professional development is important to them in a job.

“We all want to learn things that re useful and will move us ahead – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want that,” says Middleton. “What people don’t want is irrelevant training that’s a waste of time.” In other words, training for training’s sake doesn’t work.

Keeping workers ahead of the curve is “a three-legged stool,” he adds. “It’s experience with appropriate coaching, networking and training to keep people up to date.”

For more information on how SEEC approaches training, read Our Approach to Program Design.

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