Dr. Sharmila Subramanian

Trained employees are an asset to the organisation. However, training has to be purposeful and effective to accomplish organisational goals. There are many reasons why a well-crafted training does not make the impact as it intends to make. When analysed, it is found that the session feedback is excellent and the trainees have thoroughly enjoyed the programme, but the results have not been translated into performance. This definitely is a matter of concern for those organisations that invest heavily in employee training and development. An interesting research conducted by the author revealed that the trainees provide feedback on the basis of their engagement during the training period. If they find the training engaging, they rate the programme high. Apparently, the sessions have great outcomes with respect to the reaction of the participants, which is collected through session feedback. The learning is evaluated by providing an oral / written test, usually a quiz. Even this has a good result. Nevertheless, the learnings do not translate into performance. This article presents certain reasons that impede training effectiveness in terms of behavioural modification and performance.

Training and Development (T&D) is a vital Organisation Development (OD) intervention. Without T&D, the human resources in an organisation will become irrelevant and obsolete. Therefore, it is pertinent for all organisations to keep training their people. A training programme is an elaborate process that includes: Training Needs Analysis, Training Planning, Training Preparation, Developing Training Contents, Choosing Training methods, identifying appropriate resources and so on. Much emphasis is laid upon developing the training calendar and training content. However, training methods are usually left to the Trainer or the Resource Person to decide and deliver. Here, lies the actual magic of engaging the participants.

A trainer decides to deliver the contents of the training using appropriate training methods which include presentation, cases, games, activities, simulation, role-play, hands-on approach and so on. In behavioural training like communication, leadership, team dynamics, interpersonal skills and so on, the best way to engage the participants is through games and activities. These are interesting and so these keep the participants involved in the total process. However, there is a thin line of difference between the engagement the trainees experience vis-à-vis the actual learning that takes place. Actual learning is not possible unless the trainer is equipped enough to minutely observe the activities, and is competent enough to provide apt feedback. In the absence of appropriate feedback, the session simply remains an engaging experience without being translated into a learning experience. Thus, one of the reasons for ineffective training is the inappropriate use of training methods.

Next we look at TNA. “Training needs?”, we are quizzed “whose training needs?” Of course, that of “the employees’”. But are they aware? Many organisations, until this day, let the HR department decide on the training needs of the employees. Seldom do the employees realize why they are required to undergo the training (unless it is for promotion). This makes the participants reluctant and rigid. Thus, the whole cause of learning gets defeated. In order to bridge this gap, the trainer resorts to ‘edutaining’ methods in which the engagement is higher than the learning component. Thus, emerges the second reason for training ineffectiveness and that is trainee’s ignorance of her own training needs, and trainer’s inability to make the trainee realize the need.

Further, not all participants go back empty-handed (without learning); some of them truly want to implement their insights at the workplace. They are enthusiastic to transfer the essence of training into performance. However, the environment does not accommodate their new know-how. This happens in situations when the training precedes an anticipated change(technological and the like). The gap between the learning and the implementation is too wide so, the performance remains impeded. Thus, we land up with the third premise that implementing new knowledge is not possible unless the organisation (top management) owns the responsibility of making provisions for new knowledge to flourish, else the scholarship-gaining exercise will be in the guise of an engagement that may yield no results.

The fourth reason for training programmes to remain uninspiring is a lack of holistic evaluation. There are many ways to measure training effectiveness like the Kirkpatrick Model, the CIRO Model, the Phillips ROI Model, the Brinkerhoff model, the Kaufman's Model of Learning Evaluation, and the Anderson Model of Learning Evaluation. However due to its bulkiness; many companies remain satisfied with training feedback only. Other important measures like learning, performance, behavioural modification, return on investment etc. are omitted. 

It is time that organisations stop looking at training or learning as an obligation because in the current business environment, employees are shaping up their career through up-skilling and re-skilling. In case they aren’t given a proper learning platform, they would better look for other opportunities outside the workplace. This will make employee retention difficult over a period of time. Therefore, corporate houses and trainers have to think beyond training as mere session engagement exercise. They have to establish an evaluation model to assess the training effectiveness.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)