Training’s Dirty Little Secrets

photo cropThere are a number of secrets that most training departments would like to keep hidden because the solution to fix them is too hard to implement. Ask almost any Learning & Development professional or training vendor what their biggest strategic challenge is, and they’ll say something like, “proving that they make a real difference for their clients.” Measuring the value of learning and training is not easy; if it were, we’d all be doing it. Many evaluations of training have historically focused on the participants’ satisfaction with the training event. The challenge with measuring participant feedback is if you were to design the training to get real behavioral change to occur, the participants’ satisfaction scores would go down. Ironically, the measurement of most training effectiveness requires a design that reduces overall effectiveness.

We’ve seen the idea of measuring value and proving that value exists grow as a trend over the past few years. Given the growing importance of this idea, and the lack of confidence in proven mechanisms to address it, we feel this needs examination, and we are introducing a new approach to providing real behavioral change. The challenge is wrapped up in many training industry secrets that don’t often see the light of day:

  • The people who need your training the most embrace your training the least.
  • Because of the focus on knowledge acquisition and training effectiveness, most trainings entertain the participant and provide them with conceptual insights, and not behavioral change. The hope is the entertainment value of the training and the conceptual insights will lead to behavioral change.
  • Most trainings have a lack of systematic and engaging follow up.
  • Most trainings do not clearly state which behaviors leverage success, and how to adopt these behaviors.
  • Most trainings are rolled out to subgroups of people instead of everyone all at once. Yet, we know that if your boss does not take the same training course as you, the new learning will not be adopted.
  • Most trainings do not involve consistent managerial and peer feedback.
  • After the training is complete, there is a lack of access to the information learned during the training.
  • Most trainings provide few opportunities to practice or be tasked in real-world situations.
  • Best practice ideas are not shared systematically during post training.
  • After most trainings, over 90% of what is learned is forgotten.
  • After most trainings, there is no measurement of real behavioral change.


First, let’s take a look at one of the biggest challenges with training measurement. Training evaluations are taken for granted; in fact, most seminars carry out some kind of assessment at the end of a program. Evaluation protocols are systematically used to measure the satisfaction of the participants, and often used to measure knowledge acquisition. Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation have become a training industry standard. Kirkpatrick’s primary focus is on training events rather than on learning processes. These events include measuring the reaction to the learning (level 1), the knowledge acquired (level 2), and business results, when existing systems provide the necessary data (level 4). The event that is the most difficult to provide is the measurement of behavior (level 3), and most behavioral measurement is indirect measurement because it relies on memory and secondary sensory data. The best we can do to acquire the information necessary for level three measurements is measure perceptual memory in the form of 360-degree reviews and annual performance reviews, unless we were to deploy individuals throughout your company to measure these behaviors.
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  1. jim Reply

    So relevant! I love the perspective that if training is making behavioral changes, and they are being applied – they are new and clunking skills, requiring absorption, and brain training – Then scoring of training event should therefore lower! Almost like the higher the score the less I’m changing, cause I’m measuring satisfaction, and less change. I’ll keep doing what seemed to work before. Evaluations, referred to as smile sheets, simply reinforce the constant, not the change. Even the “will you recommend to others” measure may be less good. I have people fill out what they will change, after training; write it down; mail to them and their BOSS, in 30 days, to try a gain accountability.

    Also love the process over event discussion here. Kirkpatrick, again is less reliable. I say –
    “remember the teacher you had growing up – your best teacher – think about them – really your best teacher ! They were in many cases not so nice, rather, hard on you, or at the time you didn’t like them, only to truly love and value them later, as their lessons, and development of your character makes you proud today” That’s good training today. it can be fun, engaging, or hard and not easy – whatever it takes to get us moving, in new thought for our future success. Our training goal: create new questions. A brain with a new question can never return to its previous state! Great post Geoff!

  2. Silagra Reply

    There is certainly a great deal to learn about this topic.
    I really like all the points you have made.

  3. discount deals Reply

    Keep on working, great job!

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