Why Your Training is Failing

One of the things The Training Doctor specializes in is Training Triage. In other words, we fix sick training. We figure out why it isn’t working and then provide solutions to fix it.  Over the years we’ve identified a number of typical reasons why “your” training isn’t working. Often it’s because it was designed by a subject matter expert – someone who is expert in the content, but who doesn’t know how people best learn. Here are the typical mistakes we see, in no particular order:

There’s too much information – it becomes a fire hose of information for the learner who does not know how to apply importance to what is being presented to them.

Example: A software trainer explained the difference between a comma-delimited file and one that was not. This explained how the software worked, but now how the worker was to do his job.  Someone could easily do the job without understanding what a comma-delimited file was.

An SME designed the training and it includes all sorts of information that is fascinating to the SME but not necessary to do the job.

Example: A project management course taught a way to manage projects that we had never heard of. Upon further research we found one example of this method in a Harvard Business Journal dated 1991. This was not a ‘standard operating method’ for project management but it was a nifty nuance that the SME/designer threw in because it fascinated him.

The person designing the training is an SME who doesn’t remember what it was like to be new and needing “just the basics.”  When designing training ask yourself, is my audience in need of ‘basic,’ ‘advanced,’ or ‘expert?’ And design the content  accordingly. If you give people too much information at the beginning, they haven’t had the opportunity to master the basic skills yet so there is no way they can advance to more difficult work.

Tip: It’s often a good idea to design your training and then have someone else review it. Preferably someone who doesn’t know the topic at all. They will help you to see the gaps.

You have no idea how you do what you do. This is a constant challenge for subject matter experts. At some point one becomes so expert they can’t even explain what they do – it’s intrinsic to them and they can’t imagine how to explain it, so large parts of  “why” and “when” are left out of the training.

Example: An instructional designer was hired to teach a 3 day grad school course in instructional design but jumped from topic to topic without starting at ‘step 1’ because he really couldn’t remember what step one would be for a newbie.

Trainers can’t imagine why their audience “doesn’t get it.”  Typically this is because the training doesn’t include any practice and no repetition of the content (people rarely understand something simply because you’ve told it to them once) OR because there is an inadequate learning process applied to the content.

Example: A participant guide designed for a software training class was 70 pages long, single-spaced text. A helpful guide would have included facts, step-action-result tables, practice exercises, problems to solve, etc.