Why Training on its Own is a Waste of Time

corporate trainingThis will sound strange coming from someone who has been involved in training for over 20 years: Training is a waste of time unless it is followed up on the job. Before I explain more on that point, I want to tell you a story.

Just a few years ago, I was a young enthusiastic area manager working for Shell in New Zealand, enjoying the role immensely and doing okay. I was then asked to move into the role of Retail Training Manager. While I didn’t know anything about training, the job had a big lure: part of the role included looking after our incentive program, which meant accompanying the top 45 dealers on an overseas trip once a year.

So I started my introduction to being a training manager and I thought I was fantastic at it. I thought it wasn’t my business if people came to a course I ran and didn’t learn or take anything back. So long as I’d done my bit, I thought I was doing the job well.

It was a classic case of not knowing what you don’t know.

The saving grace was that anyone who had done the job before me was in the same boat.

After two years, I was looking for a change as I was over the training thing (not the trips though) and it was time to become a sales manager. Then, as fate often does, my life changed forever. I was introduced to two guys who were just starting out in their own training company and had a huge amount of experience. We spent some time together going over what we currently offered and talked about what it could be. It was a mind-blowing experience for me. Training could be so much more than I’d imagined! I also saw just how poor the training was that I’d been offering.

After a few hurdles, we ended up working together and the rest is history. I was bitten by the bug and haven’t looked back.

The biggest lesson I learnt is that “training hasn’t happened until behaviour has changed back on the job.” Training is the start. It has to be relevant and have good content, but unless the trainee adopts the new learning, it is a waste of time.  So let’s look at training in more detail, because it is the difference between your staff offering mediocre service and great service.

Training is the start, not the end

A number of business owners think that once their staff are trained that’s the end of it; they’ll put in place the new skills and maintain a high level of performance from now on. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I wish it were that simple.

There are many reasons why training doesn’t provide the magic fix. The training may not be good or effective, the staff member may be resistant to learning, or the manager might be a roadblock.

The manager has to support the staff member’s attendance at training, and be willing and able to follow up when the staff member returns to work. If the manager does not support their attendance, you can forget about the training! I have seen many businesses train their staff without the buy-in or involvement of the owner/manager, and the result is always the same: the training fails and the trainer is blamed.

Training doesn’t necessarily fix things

Another belief of some owners/managers is that training will fix things. A staff member is not performing to the required level, so the owner/manager thinks they need re-training. Unfortunately, it is often not a re-training issue but an attitude issue.

One of the best sayings I learnt early on in my training career was if you promised the staff member a million dollars, can they do the task? If they can’t, it’s a training issue; if they can, it’s an attitude issue. The staff member is choosing to not do the task for some reason.

If the staff member can’t do the task then they need help such as training. If they can do it, but are choosing not to, then the manager needs to find out what the blockage is. This could involve a number of things. The issue usually lies with the staff member themselves – they don’t want to, can’t be bothered, etc. This requires a much tougher conversation with the staff member and follow-up back on the job, not in a training room.

Roger SimpsonRoger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Retail Solution” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service and selling skills.