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Volume 7  Number 11   |   November 2017

The Fallacy of Training

The training industry in the US alone generates in excess of $100 billion annually. External firms sell programs to companies to teach everything from specific content issues to what are often called “soft skills,” such as priority setting, conflict resolution, decision making, and planning. These are often associated with “getting your ticket punched,” in that you don’t progress without a certain number of these programs under your belt.

We’ve all sat through them (or taught them). They tend to have very little impact in the longer term despite the fact that they require time off the job and significant additional investment (travel, overtime, etc.).

The Wrong Default

Many of you default to training. You envision a classroom of some sort—real or virtual—and an instructor or facilitator taking people through a curriculum of some kind. The problem here, beyond the fact that such training is rarely effective, is that you can usually only charge fees based on the numbers of people (called “head count”), or the day, or even the hour. Some charge for materials.

Why does this happen?

• You deal with HR people who see their roles solely as providing classroom training evaluated through smile sheets and participant happiness.

• You don’t see yourself as an advisor or expert but as a trainer.

• It’s easy to plan your time and income based on clearly delineated time frames.

• You respond to an easily described prospect request.

• You’ve always done it this way.


Training firms have traditionally been opposed to business metrics to evaluate the success of their programs because the lack of ROI would threatened their revenues. They argue that “soft skills” can’t be measured or that training is environmentally dependent. HR doesn’t want a measurement of their output, only of their input (conducting programs). Management feels that they have fulfilled requirements by simply spending the money (amazingly, this includes areas such as diversity training).

In fact, skills building occurs best when it includes application on the job, oversight by immediate supervisors, accountability for implementation, and rewards for success. None of that is accomplished in a classroom.

Think about reassessing your priorities for business improvement with clients. Counterintuitively, training as traditionally applied seldom results in skills improvement.

So why do it that way?

© Alan Weiss 2017


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