Why Employee Training Fails (And What HR Can Do About It)

Employee training, when executed effectively, can significantly enhance an organization’s appeal to current and potential employees. However, many training programs do not meet expectations and often fail to yield long-term improvements in skills, management ability, or corporate compliance. In fact, only 29% of employees report being satisfied with their current training opportunities. 

Identifying why employee training fails requires examining several key areas: strategic planning, employee engagement, the relevance of training topics, and the effectiveness of follow-up. Additionally, the way leaders exemplify company values, policies, and conduct plays a vital role in the success of training programs.

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Six Reasons Why Employee Training Fails

Understanding why employee training fails is essential for organizations to improve and optimize their learning initiatives. Here are the top six reasons training issues arise in the workplace:

1. Lack of engagement

Once a training audience’s attention is lost, regaining it can be difficult. Engaging presenters are typically subject matter experts who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and understand learning patterns and teaching techniques.

If you plan to use in-house presenters, provide training for these trainers before the sessions. This preparation should focus on incorporating audience participation and multimedia visual aids to maintain audience engagement. Additionally, using role-playing, games, interactive exercises, and engaging instructional videos can further enhance engagement and ensure the training is effective and memorable.

2. Irrelevant content

One of the quickest ways to lose an employee’s interest during training is by including irrelevant filler material that doesn’t relate to their industry or company culture. To maintain audience attention, trainers should avoid vague generalities and obvious statements. It’s also important to use examples that are directly relevant to the employees’ field.

3. Inadequate planning

Generic, one-size-fits-all approaches to employee training often fail due to their lack of customization, freshness, and sometimes outdated information. Detailed planning is essential to counteract these issues. Every aspect of an employee training program should be outlined in a strategic plan that is reviewed regularly.

Collecting information is another critical component of effective planning. Gathering feedback through regular surveys of staff and management provides insights into the content and learning methods that work best. This feedback is instrumental in designing and planning successful training events that are tailored to meet specific needs.

4. Failure to get feedback

Most training events and seminars require participants to complete an evaluation form to assess the relevance, quality of presentation, and level of audience interest. To maximize the benefits of feedback, trainers should allocate at least five minutes at the end of each session to ensure participants have sufficient time to provide their responses.

By prioritizing continuous improvement and valuing audience feedback, organizers can uphold high standards in both current and future training events.

5. Failing to gather preliminary input

In the early stages of planning, it’s beneficial to gather suggestions from company managers and staff to gain insights into any skills or knowledge gaps among employees. Conducting a company-wide needs assessment can further help pinpoint deficiencies in job skills that training can address.

6. Skipping the post-event analysis

In addition to surveying participants and conducting check-ins with managers, feedback can be collected through informal conversations, emails, and focus groups. Additionally, conducting a SWOT analysis can help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, and potential challenges or other threats.

Five Reasons Why Leadership Training Fails

Leadership training for managers and executives is comprehensive, addressing skills like delegation, goal-setting, and inspiring cooperation, with a strong emphasis on emotional intelligence. Essential skills taught include active listening, establishing rapport with staff, and developing an empathetic managerial style. However, without proper reinforcement and support, this training can fail to produce desired outcomes. Here are some key reasons why leadership training might not be effective:

1. Unrealistic expectations

Reading a training manual or taking a management course alone won’t immediately change behavior or enhance job skills. Effective leadership training requires a commitment to learning and applying new principles. Without this dedication, improvements in leadership skills may be inconsistent or nonexistent. Personal commitment is the key driver in the success of any leadership training program.

2. Communication breakdown

If a presenter speaks too quickly or does not enunciate clearly, trainees might not grasp the key points of the presentation. Additionally, when company executives send conflicting messages about goals, policies, and organizational values, it creates communication issues that can confuse employees. Poor communication between departments also poses a problem, as it can hinder collaboration, problem-solving, and the application of skills learned in training.

3. Ignoring proven teaching methods

Even the most engaging speakers can fail as trainers if they do not reinforce key information and engage their audience in the discussion. Benjamin Franklin emphasized the importance of involvement in learning when he said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Effective leadership training requires personal involvement, consistent reinforcement, and repetition to truly impact management styles and instill leadership principles.

4. Lack of psychological safety

A significant barrier to effective training programs is the absence of psychological safety. This issue affects leadership teams as well as employees. If managers feel they cannot ask questions without fear of criticism or judgment, their ability to learn is severely reduced. To encourage open communication and learning, instructors, trainers, and coaches should stress that all questions are valid and that there are no “stupid questions.”

5. Lack of HR support

Leadership training is a vital step in organizational development, yet employees frequently require additional support after training to fully integrate new skills. This support often includes coaching, consultation, and follow-ups from human resources, which help to reinforce the training and address any ongoing challenges or questions that may arise.

Four Reasons Why Sales Trainings Fail

Effective sales training seminars combine product knowledge, sales strategies, and motivational techniques. Because sales representatives and account executives require superior communication skills, training encompasses establishing rapport and using active listening skills.

While participants may have varying takeaways from a sales training seminar, common reasons for its failure often emerge, pointing to gaps in the delivery or content of the training:

1. Failure to engage

When instructors fail to captivate their audience and training materials are uninspired, participants are unlikely to learn new skills or effective sales tactics.

2. Failure to reinforce

Even valuable sales training often results in participants retaining only a small fraction of what they learn. This issue can be addressed by providing supplementary materials, such as:

  • Recordings they can listen to in their car
  • Video tutorials they can view in their free time
  • Flash cards
  • Printouts

For training to be effective, it must be reinforced regularly. Follow-up methods could include periodic coaching—either face-to-face or via video conferencing, email reminders, customized newsletters, and brief refresher courses. These strategies help ensure that training lessons are reinforced and retained over time.

3. Failure to measure needs and progress

Off-the-shelf training programs frequently fall short because they do not meet the specific needs or leverage the unique strengths of a sales team. Customizing training ensures that the content is relevant to the specific industry, market dynamics, and the organization’s goals, which boosts engagement and information retention. Aligning the training with the company’s culture and sales processes allows participants to gain practical insights that are directly applicable to real-world scenarios, thereby building their confidence and competence.

Additionally, tailored training can accommodate individual learning styles and address specific skill gaps within the team.

4. Failure to teach sales methodology

Sales techniques vary significantly depending on the product or service and the salesperson’s personality. Nonetheless, all account executives need to understand fundamental marketing concepts such as cross-selling, upselling, qualifying prospects, negotiating, and closing sales. Effective sales training also teaches how to adeptly handle customer objections and questions.

Sales training programs should prioritize areas such as relationship building, creating compelling sales presentations, enhancing sales skills, and deepening product or industry knowledge. These components are vital for developing a proficient sales team. Additionally, a comprehensive sales training program must include effective strategies for responding convincingly to objections and questions, a fundamental skill for any salesperson.

Other key topics for sales training could include:

Eight Steps for Producing Superior Training Results

Implementing an effective training program is critical for both employee development and to achieve a strong return on your investment. High expectations from both employees, who seek career advancement, and employers, who demand a strong return, underline the need for a well-structured approach. 

Here are several steps HR can take to ensure a successful outcome::

  • Step 1: Set a realistic training budget that aligns with employee career paths and retention strategies.
  • Step 2: Develop a comprehensive long-term training plan that aligns with company goals and addresses the needs of the various departments.
  • Step 3: Ensure the training covers all essential areas, including compliance, diversity, safety, technical skills, customer service, and communication skills.
  • Step 4: Consult with managers and key staff to identify training needs and skill gaps.
  • Step 5: Select trainers who are subject matter experts and possess strong teaching and engagement skills.
  • Step 6: Match course selection and training approaches with the organization’s objectives and culture.
  • Step 7: Establish a feedback system to ensure training remains relevant as skills requirements and technologies evolve.
  • Step 8: Provide ongoing support to trained employees through coaching, reinforcement, and additional resources.

How KnowledgeCity Can Help

Whether you’re planning an in-house training program or opting for an online training strategy, KnowledgeCity can help. Our robust eLearning platform provides administrative tools for creating custom content, managing users, and tracking their progress. In addition to the more than 35,000 video tutorials we have in our learning library, we’re actively expanding our selection every month, with new courses on business skills, technology, compliance, safety, and finance. 

Take a look at our wide selection of in-demand training courses and request a free demo to get a first-hand look at our online video courses.

Free White Paper Offers Training Strategies

Effectively connecting with employees in a training program takes finesse, careful planning, and a vision of desired results. The white paper we’ve created focuses on identifying and avoiding common pitfalls of employee training. It also outlines important additional steps for implementing a successful employee training program. 

Get the full strategy by downloading your free copy today.

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