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The good news for training professionals is that more and more companies are seeing the value of investing in training. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, 83% of organizations want to build a more people-centric culture and 81% of Learning & Development (L&D) departments are helping them get there. 

At the same time, research predicts that skill sets for jobs will change by 50% by 2027, leading to 89% of L&D professionals agreeing that building employee skills today will help businesses navigate the evolving business landscape tomorrow.

The bad news is that those responsible for implementing a training program at their organization often make similar planning mistakes that can have costly consequences. While this may be true for companies that send their employees to generic training courses or bring in trainers to teach a prefab course, it is even more accurate for custom-built training programs.

Here, we explore the ins and outs of a training program, including who is involved, and warning signs of trouble if you are responsible for managing training. We close with how to deal with a bad workplace trainer and ensure your training program succeeds.

TL;DR What is workplace training?

Workplace training is the act of developing the knowledge and skills of employees. There are different types of workplace training. For example, onboarding training introduces new employees to workplace systems, processes, and culture. Workplace training also includes upskilling or reskilling the current workforce to better prepare them to do their job successfully. 

Workplace training typically takes the form of an employee training program. This program consists of a collection of trainer scripts, training materials, and other tasks and activities ready to launch when needed. 

A trainer, an instructional designer, and a training project manager typically all work together within a training department, and are the people in charge of facilitating the training program. Then, there’s a training project sponsor—who vouches for providing training courses for employees.

Let’s explore all of these roles in more detail.

Who is involved in workplace training?

When most people think of training, they think of the trainer:  the person in the front of the class who does the talking.  Well-designed and executed training programs, however, are the result of a combined effort of several different training roles: 

Instructional designer (or ISD or ID): The person who analyzes the training needs, creates the strategy for how to solve the training needs, designs and outlines the course approach, and creates the detailed training material.

Training project manager:  For larger, more complex projects with multiple instructional creating several courses and having technology components, a training project manager coordinates and leads the training team and operates like any other project manager.

Training director: This person manages an in-house training department and is an in. The training director approves the training strategy for the company, manages training budgets,  assigns work to department members, finds consultants to develop customized training, or finds training companies that sell off-the-shelf courses. 

Training coordinator:  This person manages the logistics of training program delivery.  This could include scheduling sessions, matching trainers to specific class dates, reserving rooms for the training, registering participants, ordering supplies for classes, ordering food & beverage for training events, and printing training materials.

The training project sponsor: is a high-level manager within an organization who has budget authority to pay for a training program, and is an ambassador of the training. At Comprehensive Learning Solutions, we often work with project sponsors who are not part of the training department, such as project managers, who recognize the need for training.  

For example, let’s say a department is putting in a new system or process and they want to train employees how to do the new process. A training sponsor would be the person to back this. In many organizations, there is no training department and every senior member of staff (the sponsor) does what they believe is best. Although it’s great that sponsors are pushing for training, this can also lead to siloed training across an organization for lack of a holistic vision. This amounts to synergy conflicts in the future and ultimately tugs at the company’s bottom line. 

💡 CLS Top Tip: Training professionals is the term used to collectively refer to trainers, ISDs, and training PMs can be referred to as training professionals. 

6 Signs of bad workplace training

With so many moving parts surrounding holistic workplace training, many companies find themselves with unsuccessful training programs. Here are the six most common mistakes we have noticed from our 25 years of experience providing consultation services to organizations around the globe on training matters.

1. Failure to define success

Before you pay a dime to develop a custom training solution, you should be able to answer these two questions: 

  • How will you know if this training program is successful?
  • What will success look like?

At CLS, when we ask clients these questions, we receive answers like “Our people will understand our new system” or “They’ll use the system properly.” True, but how do you measure that? 

Will you, or more importantly, your boss, consider the program a success only if 100% of the people use the system 100% accurately? Is that realistic? What if there’s a 10% error rate? Is that successful enough? Until you know where your target is, it’s hard to hit a bullseye. Define your target before you do anything else. 

2. Delaying planning for evaluation

Related to the first problem, some companies that have difficulty defining success request permission to return to it later. If they do come back to it, they often pick criteria that are now hard to achieve. 

Choosing the metrics initially makes it easier to design a program that meets those goals. 

For instance, if you develop customer service training without specific goals, you might create activities focusing on providing high-quality care and not stopping until the customer feels the problem is resolved. 

If management decides later that the measurement for success is how many service calls are answered in a given day, then the program might not seem successful because the focus is on quality, not speed. Had you known that speed was the goal at the beginning, you could have designed staff training activities to teach how to respond to inquiries helpfully and expediently.

Don’t put off planning for evaluation! Remember to define success criteria at the start.

3. Failing to consider each team member and their needs

External training professionals have a general sense of the target audience’s needs, but nothing replaces the judgment of someone with a long corporate history. 

Often, subject matter experts and other reviewers look at the accuracy of the content or the wording of job aids but fail to consider how their employees are likely to react to an activity, difficulty level, or content delivery format. 

Good training should incorporate the diverse learning styles and difficulties of those taking the training. Perhaps you’ll be teaching neurodiverse staff, or team members hard of hearing or sight. Your course materials and training style should adapt to everyone for more inclusive training. 

💡 CLS Top Tip: A good review should address the appropriateness of the material for the corporate culture.

4. Failure to test the training in front of a sample audience

When a training need arises, usually it should have been fixed yesterday. In the rush to get something out, organizations often skip testing the course in front of a limited sample. “We just need something,” becomes the mantra. 

Unfortunately, this approach usually backfires because “any old thing” does not meet the audience’s needs and creates a wrong impression of the training within the organization. 

Taking the time to pilot the program to a small sample audience, get feedback, and adjust the materials before offering it to a broad audience provides an opportunity to fix issues like boring training exercises, inaccurate company information, unclear wording,  or disengaging materials. A sample training session avoids creating a negative impression that is hard to reverse later.

This is also one of the perks of hiring external training providers:  Even though they might be developing a custom solution, they can leverage different formats, styles, and strategies from previous successful projects.  This hastens the development process while providing activities that are already proven.

If you’re assessing the effectiveness of training with a sample audience then look for a mix of qualitative and quantitative signals when gathering feedback. Ask trainees about areas for improvement, what they enjoyed, and any learning methods they’d like more of. Ask managers to pay attention to potential issues with how explanations are worded or any “hot button” language that might cause an adverse reaction from the target audience.

At the same time, if you’re able to run moderated (in-person) test classes, try to read facial expressions and body language; consider the learning pain points and warning signals that participants may be physically flagging, but aren’t directly voicing. 

5. Failure to consider post-training plans

Classroom-style learning is only the beginning of the process. For training to stick, it needs to be enforced regularly back at the job. A good custom training program plans for how to reinforce and coach the participants after class. Classes teach the skills, but enforced practice builds the skills and habits.

For training to be successful long-term, you need to embed continuous learning strategies in company culture. These ensure employees keep learning fresh in the all-important few months after the initial class training. 

💡 CLS Top Tip: As time goes on, these can get less frequent. Consider monthly or quarterly, and continue to keep these refreshers fresh. 

6. Lack of clear communication

This may seem like common sense, but what may be clear communication for one person is not necessarily clear for someone else.

Unclear communication can be a result of: 

    • Language and dialects: Miscommunication between those who do not have the company’s primary language as their first language. This can get even more specific to dialects or lingo across countries and even regions. 
  • Personal cultures: A trainer should never presume someone fully understands a cultural reference, colloquialism, or idiom.
  • Lack of learning direction: A lack of communication often comes when there’s a misalignment between the training team and the participants. If all stakeholders are not aligned, the training courses might reflect this misalignment

You can resolve a lack of clear communication by hosting a sample class or by hiring a professional in staff learning. Get in touch today to see how CLS can help you

How to improve ineffective training

Perhaps you’re nodding your head in agreement with some of the problems and signs we’ve listed above. If so, it’s not too late to fix your training strategy. 

The CLS team contributed to the IFC’s Guide to Training; sharing critical insights into what good planning for training looks like, as well as providing support on roadmapping and implementing successful training programs in emerging markets.

Here are three ways you can ensure you provide great workplace training. 

1. Amend your curriculum design 

You may have received negative feedback on your curriculum or noticed it’s not sticking with employees as well as you had hoped. As you prepare your curriculum for a redesign, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • How can you adapt the curriculum and the program content for a more local context?
  • Are there any digital solutions that would enhance participants’ learning? 
  • How can you ensure your program is equal parts sustainable as it is affordable?
  • Do participants need safety and security training or briefings before, during, or after the training?
  • How can the program contribute toward personal development goals? 
  • How can the program build core skills as well as technical skills? 

Answering these questions, many of which we shared in IFC’s Guide to Training, will enable you to realign your course design in a way that’s better suited to your team, training goals, and company learning culture. 

2. Reconsider your course objectives

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to employee training, whether it’s for new hires or current staff, is that goals and objectives are unaligned in the first place. Take a moment to reconsider the ideal outcomes of your training, as well as key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help signal your training professionals are on the right track. 

Consider outcomes like learning objectives, timeframes, performance increases or decreases, time-to-complete goals, and more. 

Once you’ve reconsidered your goals and training objectives, you’re in a better position to understand what materials and training strategies you need to build, and better assess the knowledge staff learned and still need to learn to hit those goals.

3. Consider recruiting a training expert 

The Guide to Training eBook encourages you to ask yourself the following questions:  

  • What coaching or mentoring services can support your application of learning?
  • What remedial training or assistance might you need to bolster participants’ baseline skills to acceptable levels for the program?

Sometimes HR staff can handle training, but sometimes this is too much of a strain on resources. 

If it’s obvious from your learning goals, team size, and complexity of the topic that you need to bring in professional trainers, then don’t be afraid to do so. For what you’ll spend on hiring an expert, you’ll save on getting training right the first time around.

The team at CLS is more than ready to have a discovery session with you to see if we could be a fit for your training needs. Get in touch today, and let’s find out! 

Bad workplace training FAQs

What are some common signs of a bad trainer at work?

A few signs of a bad trainer in the workplace include a failure to define success criteria, a lack of clear communication, and a failure to establish a clear evaluation process. 

What steps can I take when dealing with bad workplace training?

Firstly, identifying that you have bad workplace training is a great step. Once you’ve identified a problem in workplace training you can reassess your training goals, redesign your course curriculum and learning strategy, and consider bringing in a training expert to lead your business to success.

Karen Feeley
Karen Feeley

Instructional designer

Karen Feeley is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in workplace learning and development. She is a published author, trainer, instructional designer, editor, and project manager with a proven track record of success in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

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