Why Training Fails…and What We Can Do About It Blog Header

Before becoming an instructional designer ten years ago, I was a teacher. As I reflect back on the education courses I took in graduate school, I think of a class that seemed odd at first, but then ended up being one of my favorites.

It was called Change Strategies.

We learned how individuals are very wary of change, and how they often resist it at first. A study done many years ago by educator Gene Hall at the University of Texas looked at why innovative programs and training didn’t have the impact they were supposed to have. These training programs seemed okay during their pilots, but upon further evaluation, they found that the programs were not working because they were never fully implemented. In layman’s terms, the change process had failed. Why does this happen?

Reason #1: There’s A Lack of Up-Front Information

A learner’s first response to proposed training is the need to understand, “what is this all about?” Many training courses skip over this and try to sell the benefits of the training before it is fully understood. Learners don’t necessarily accept change at first; they want to understand what the training is all about. For example, in a previous job of mine, upper management felt it was necessary to move to a different building. When the change was first announced, employees wanted to know what was going on, or “what this is all about?” This is the first concern that needs to be addressed when training is being proposed. The learners need to know what the training is all about.

Reason #2: The Training Isn’t Personal

Perhaps the most overlooked and undermanaged item in designing training is addressing the learner’s concern: “How will this affect me personally?” If we don’t take the time to address the specific needs of the learner, it’s difficult to ever get them beyond this basic level of concern. If you think about it, why would a learner want to change behaviors if we don’t consider how the change will affect them personally? So, going back to my example of moving to a different building, most of us had concerns, such as, “How will this change my commute?” and “What will my new work station be like?” etc. We needed to know how these proposed changes would affect us at a personal level. Learners completing training are no different. They need to know how the training applies specifically to them.

Reason #3: No Benefits are Apparent

Most learners are not interested in hearing about how beneficial the training will be until the concerns I mentioned above are met. Let’s assume, for a moment, that we’ve adequately met those concerns. Now the learners are ready to evaluate the training based on its benefits. “How will this training help me do my job better?” is typically the overarching concern at this point. For example, when we moved into the new building, all of us started looking at where we benefitted from the move and where we lacked benefit. Then, we all had to answer the question for ourselves, “Has this move been worth all the effort?” It’s the same with training. We need to help learners understand how they’ve benefitted from the training.

Share your ideas on this topic in the comments below! Or contact us to set up a call to find out how eLearning Brothers Custom Solutions team can help you create beneficial eLearning that learners want to take!



About the Author

David Christiansen is an Instructional Design Rockstar with the eLearning Brothers. Liked this article? Check out another of his posts: “Scope Creep: It’s Not Just the Project Manager’s Problem.”