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Still Too Much Reliance on Instructor-Led, Event-Based Employee Training

According to the 2013 State of the Industry report from ASTD, instructor-led programs continue to be the primary method for training and developing employees. The researchers estimate that 70% of training in companies is instructor-led. The content of these programs runs the gamut from basic skills to executive development.  

Although classroom-based training has declined over the past few years and some of the instructor-led ASTD 2013 Report Covertraining is done electronically (i.e., elearning), the predominant method is still sage-on-the-stage. Given that only 15% to 20% of the participants in these programs will end up applying their learning to achieving the strategic goals of their organizations and ASTD estimates $164.2 billion was spent on training in 2013,  a rough estimate of training dollars wasted in 2013 is $92 billion  (.80 X [.70 X $164.2 billion]).

EQMentor lists seven reasons for the failure of traditional, instructor-led training and why alternative methods, such as mentoring and coaching, are needed. To paraphrase EQMentor:

  1. Emotional intelligence, one of the keys to personal and professional success, can’t be developed in a one-time program. It must be developed over time with the encouragement and assistance of others.
  2. In order for training to be useful, it must occur close in time to when it is needed. Scheduled training programs can’t be timely.
  3. Instructors, alone, can’t ensure that knowledge transfer occurs. Even if learning occurs during the course, that is no guarantee that learning witll be applied on the job.  
  4. Today’s highly complex organizations, with their shifting customer demands and competitive pressures from around the globe, have rapidly changing learning needs that require agile learners and agile interventions.
  5. The cost of learners traveling to events off-site, in terms of time, money, and effort, is not worth the investment if the goal is improved organizational performance.
  6. Programs that are designed for large numbers of employees are not designed to fit the different learning styles and content needs of different learners in different situations. While intending to be efficient and cost-effective, these programs fail to meet everyone’s needs.
  7. Because these programs are removed from the day-to-day activities of the workplace, they lack relevancy.

The way to address the failure of traditional, instructor-led training is to end our reliance on these programs and develop a culture in organizations that supports continuous and agile learning. This kind of culture integrates many different methods of learning (including mentoring and coaching) into the daily activities of the organization.  In this kind of culture, learning from action is highly valued. People, in the course of their workday activities, are taking risks, reflecting on their experiences, and using that awareness to improve performance. In this kind of culture, formal training events only occur when it is determined that this is the best method of learning given the learning content and goals of the organization.