Infographic: Why Corporate Training is a Colossal Waste (and What to Do About It)

Would you get upset if you spent $1,000 on a watch that didn’t work? How about spending $40,000 on a car that didn’t go?

Would you be upset if you spent $97.5 billion on something that was never really used?

I’m not sure why corporations around the world are willing to spend that much without getting anything in return for that investment… or why they don’t seem to get too upset about it.

As you can see from the following infographic, there are some… er… issues with the way learning and development is being conducted.

Why Corporate Training is a Colossal Waste.jpg

On the bright side, there are some clear steps that can be taken – indeed, that organizations should insist on – in order to increase the effectiveness of corporate training.

These five solutions are based upon research and self-reported surveys. Have you tried anything on here? How has it gone for you?

What’s missing? What other solutions are available to transform learning programs into a results-drive, effective investment for organizations?


Want more information on possible solutions? Try:

21 thoughts on “Infographic: Why Corporate Training is a Colossal Waste (and What to Do About It)

    • Solution 1: Provide a better visual experience. Solution 2: Get supervisors involved. Solution 3: Space out the learning over time (as opposed to cramming everything in as quickly as possible). Solution 4: Make sure it’s relevant and solves an actual problem. Solution 5: Involve the audience in the planning of a training program.

  1. I use a “learn and do” approach to training. Short learning bursts of two hours that conclude with a clear “to do” to implement the main 1-3 learning objectives. Full day trainings are a waste of time and money. It’s too much information to retain which means too little of the information actually gets applied back on the job; missing the point of running people through training in the first place.

    • “Learn and do” sounds like a great approach. Sometimes when an organization or a key decision maker or stakeholder insists on a compressed, day-long training, it sounds like the combination of short 2-hour learning boosts plus time *inside the training room* to plan/practice how to implement the 1-3 main learning objectives could be a more valuable use of time than trying to cram more content in there.

      Thanks for the comment, Jamie. I love the “learn and do” approach!

  2. You say ” I’m not sure why corporations around the world are willing to spend that much without getting anything in return for that investment”. There’s a simple answer. They’re not. Your claim that there is no ROI is just that, a claim. The implied assumption that “they” are ignorantly wasting money and therefore need you to fix it is arrogant and unsupported. Perhaps it’s not them that need the overhaul, but your metrics for value?

    • Thanks Ross. I appreciate your passion. I’m not sure how you’re defining “arrogant and unsupported”, but they’re interesting adjectives. To make that claim I cited one study from McKinsey Quarterly (there are plenty of others out there) that concluded only a quarter of respondents to their survey said training programs measurably improve business performance.

      While there are plenty of other studies and research and surveys out there, I haven’t seen anything that contradicts this number. But thanks for taking the time to seek clarification!

      • Brian, stick your guns – you are on point! The simple fact of the matter is MOST corporate training departments fail to measure at Kirkpatrick Level 4, or Phillips Level 5. As I once stated during an address at a gathering of CLO’s, “there is a whole heck of a lot of training going on – there just isn’t much learning going on!” Yes, I was allowed to finish my address and I was not escorted from the room. 🙂 Further, I have yet to find consistent evidence of learning practitioners and leaders willing to tie their annual compensation to their delivery, output, and results. This is unique to the training department. Most functions in corporations today have an element of their compensation tied to their results.

      • Thanks John. Yes, I agree – it may be difficult to measure training results for some initiatives, but that doesn’t mean we *shouldn’t* try to measure those results (and by measuring results, I’m talking about something deeper than simply employee-reported results or Level 1 evals). If a learning program is supposed to improve performance, then there should be a way to correlate the results… correlation isn’t always the same as causation, but it’s certainly more than just having blind faith that a training activity will address performance issues.

      • Remember, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. We must make. individual, sustained, performance improvement happen. It will not happen without the proper, best practices, methodology….meaning it will NOT happen with event based training.

  3. I love this blog and I especially love this topic. I’m a corporate trainer. Companies send their employees to our facility to train (Or we can go to them), and we train them in 3 areas: professional development, application, and technical classes. The classes are 8 hours long.

    I totally agree about the lecture. People don’t like to be lectured to. I too implement the learn and do approach. The rough part about the solutions suggested in this article is that I don’t have the power to use them. Sure I could tweak my slides to be more visually appealing. However since the people who train with us don’t work with us I have no idea if the training content is being applied in their jobs. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to see them again and they’ll tell me how the training has helped them. I also don’t know the students motivation for coming to the training. During the introduction I ask them, but that’s too late to change anything or to do something differently because at this point their company has paid for a specific 8 hour training that must be delivered. Our training materials are purchased from a 3rd party and we teach that material. Lastly, my company really discourages half day training sessions because they feel it’s not a good use of the company’s resources. They pay be for 8 hours of work and during a half day session I’m only doing 4. The goal for them, as with any business, is to get the most bang for their buck. With all that being said, what would you suggest? What’s a corporate trainer to do? Lol. Thanks again!

    • Thanks Mechelle. I think one of the tricky things about your scenario is that by the time you’re in front of the audience (even with some slide tweaking), it probably is too late. Yes, there are things that a trainer can do to make things more engaging (and hopefully more memorable/”sticky” so that people retain it) during the delivery, but I think a lot of the failure to transfer onto the job comes from the organization itself.

      Here are a few thing that I’ve found helpful from a training provider point of view:
      1) Negotiate a pre-training survey into the contract and get a better feel from all those who will be attending what the *true* problem to be solved might be. I’ve found many times this is different from the training that is being requested. Then there is some data to suggest a different focus for the training.
      2. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with clients who are willing to break their full day training request into multiple half-day workshops. This allows the learning to be spaced out and forces people to remember stuff we’d done in a previous session.
      3. While an engaged supervisor/manager is the #1 way to get people to apply what they’ve learned, not all managers/supervisors have time to follow up with their employees… sometimes they even have very little knowledge about the training their employees took. So having some sort of manager/trainee action plan at the end *might* be one way to help make sure there’s a conversation that takes place between the manager and trainee after you’ve cleared out.

      These are just a few thoughts, but feel free to reach out via email, it would be fun to kick around more ideas in more detail!

    • Yeah, it reminds me of so many other things at work: are we celebrating the activity (the fact that we had a training) or are we celebrating the results (what do people actually *do* after they’ve received training)?

  4. How long is a tweet? How long is the average text message? What is the one device that everyone on the planet has at least one of?

    You are all looking in the wrong place. While I agree training needs to change the change isn’t going to come from these ideas. It’s coming to come your phones with short bursts of training based on what your phone knows you are doing. It’s going to come from what your company has planned out in advance based on your competencies and skill delivered before the next assignment you receive.

    Consider a learning engine that a company programs to know what needs to be embedded in an employee’s mind before the task begins. Sound like this is years away, it’s not. Two or three at most.

    Get ready for machine replacing the majority of the work trainers do today because it’s coming.

    • The future is now, eh? I don’t disagree with a lot of what you’ve written John, in terms of what’s possible and maybe even what’s coming in the next few years.

      Where I would pause to agree, however, is with your optimism that there will be a major transformation (the much-heralded “learning revolution”) within the next few years. And the reason, which is similar to what the infographic shows as the sticking point to more effective training, is rooted in key decision-makers in organizations.

      As long as organizational leaders still feel it’s a “win” when they have held a training (or launched a new elearning platform) as opposed to when their employees are demonstrating improved skill sets and performance, there won’t be enough investment in machines that can replace the majority of the work trainers are doing. There’s a difference between the *technology* being ready (indeed, a lot of what you comment about is already possible) and an *organization* being ready.

      • You both make interesting points, both of which I’ve seen happening.

        There IS a huge library of easily accessible proven, best practices, research and information on why traditional one size fits all training does not contribute to sustained, individual performance improvement and why traditional one size fits all training needs to be changed to contribute to sustained, individual performance improvement.

        This is the first step to change, knowledge.

        The real reason to change is competitive advantage. If you ask any CEO if they would like to see a ROI on training/learning, tied to advanced individual performance improvement, consistent with individual/organizational goals/objectives, I would expect to hear a resounding yes!

        What is someone said that you will see these results from educationally innovative software? (these are proven results)

        More Stimulation per Minute of Study
        300% Improvement in Retained Learning per Hour of Study
        11% less study time, 22% less test time, and 95% higher test scores

        You will benefit from: (I) Improved Learning Outcomes and Increased Competence; a. Retention to fluency (95% vs. 28%), b. Behavior change through accountable reinforcement, c. Improved application, d. Advanced individual performance and e. Advanced organization performance

        The problem is that traditional educators have been brought up to believe that rapid learning is possible (its not) and that power point (one size fits all teaching) is king (its not). Compound this with legacy LMS’s replicating this event based teaching scenerio, coupled by rapid content development software, you have an ineffective and inefficient, unchanged current teaching paradigm. because of this we are stuck in the past, because change is hard (weep, weep).

        Its quite simply an institution focus of teaching (cause its easy for us) vs a required, individual student advanced, sustained, performance improvement focus (that requires a complete paradigm change from teaching to 21st century learning)

        Whats happening, bit by bit and what will continue to happen bit by bit, is innovators are embracing the new paradigm and will see dramatic gains in individual performance improvement outcomes (see above), resulting in long term sustained contributions to their bottom line.

        Others, who waited to change, will be competitively disadvantaged and will change to try to catch up, but then it may be too late.

        From a business perspective, there is NO justification to keep the old ineffective, inefficient, teaching paradigm.

        The real problem is that training is not business outcomes focused (its event focused) and for some crazy reason aren’t willing to change from one size fits all teaching to 21st century learning .

    • I agree that smart phones are becoming increasingly important as a part of delivery. Small learning segments with concrete action plans can work well with the phone. Some solutions come to mind that I have looked into, Mindmarker and Axonify.

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