PHOTO elephant in room

Corporate Training’s 70+ Billion Dirty Secret

According to analyst Josh Bersin, US companies spent well over $70 Billion for employee training in 2013. Analysts predict that amount is will be significantly greater in 2015.

These are the kinds of statistics that C-suite executives usually pay attention to. So it’s odd that they seem not to be paying much attention to the ROI for corporate training. cost/benefit ratio of training.

It’s abysmal.

This is not my opinion. The subject has been studied at length by leading experts and it’s a conclusion that is widely held.

One of these experts is Dr. Art Kohn, who has done a great deal of work on “the forgetting curve.” He’s also the recipient of not one but two Fulbright Fellowships for work in Cognitive Psychology and Educational Technology. Recently, he wrote the following:

“It is the dirty secret of corporate training: no matter how much you invest into training and development, nearly everything you teach to your employees will be forgotten…this investment is like pumping gas into a car that has a hole in the tank. All of your hard work simply drains away.”

This research is not new; it’s been out there for anyone to see for years now. And it’s critically important. Yet it doesn’t seem as if corporate America is internalizing the message and acting upon it.

Bersin’s research also found an explosive growth in technology-driven training, including self-authored video, online communication channels, virtual learning, and MOOCs. Worldwide, formal classroom education, now accounts for less than half of total training “hours.”

Additionally, mobile devices are now used to deliver as much as 18% of all training among what Bersin calls “highly advanced companies.”

What are we to understand from this? That employees are using their iPads to access Udemy courses?

And is there a significant difference in retention rate for employees who have the information presented by a live trainer while sitting in a room with 20 fellow workers or as they receive it on mobile phone the subway on the way home at night, or on an iPad in their living room after the kids have been put to bed?

The statistics we need to provide answers to those questions won’t be available for some time yet.

But we should be looking carefully to see if these methods of delivering training achieving a whopping 400% increases in retention among employees when they’re on the job.

And we should remember that even if they were able to improve retention by a jaw-dropping 400% that will mean that one week after training, the average employee would then forget only half of what was taught.

That’s hardly a stunning success rate.

Research has made it abundantly clear that the basic premise driving corporate training is fatally flawed.

We know that what we’re doing now to train workers does not succeed in making them retain the information they need to perform properly on the job. So why does corporate America keep throwing good money after bad, trying to find a “patch” or download an “updated version”?

It’s as if an elephant is standing in the “break room” and management is only willing to acknowledge that there’s an unusual scent in the air, or the Emperor is standing naked in front of us, and everyone keeps complimenting the cut of his suit.

It would be a better use of resources to look for truly new solutions, instead of trying to achieve incremental improvements in what we know doesn’t work.

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