Why Training Programs don’t impact Business Objectives? – Thought Paper

Training programs are designed with a business need in mind. However in reality, after the initial “wow” effect, the momentum goes away and next year we have another training program with the same end objective in mind.

Training [ˈtreɪnɪŋ]

n the process of bringing a person, etc., to an agreed standard of proficiency, This is the training definition as per dictionary.

The most important part of training is not training but doing training need analysis properly and then executing it for maximum impact. We first need to determine if training is required in the first place or is the business issue at hand part of a greater organizational issue. Training is like an antibiotic course. If the training need analysis (TNA) is not done properly then:

  • Either we use the wrong antibiotic for the wrong illness, Or
  • We might have identified the issue (illness) correctly, but don’t complete the antibiotic course and next time the course dosage has be more to have the same desired effect.

What happens in reality (in the companies where training programs don’t work)? Training consultant offers to do a training course. A quick TNA is done. The HR team negotiates on the pricing. They mark a tick box in the annual training plan.

What should actually these companies be doing? For companies, the objective should be how to impact business outcomes (revenues, profitability, innovation, culture etc.). At the end of the day, training is an investment and not a cost.

What does the Trainer do? He looks at his short term objective of getting the training mandate. He gets in the transactional mode. He does a “quick”  Training Needs analysis and shares the program outline. Negotiates on the program rates and signs up the mandate. He is happy with his deal. This seems to be a win-win for the HR and trainer but actually is a loss-loss for everyone including the company and the participants.

Loss – Loss for Everyone

Company: They don’t meet their business objectives. Revenues are stagnant, Attrition has worsened, morale is down.

  • Trainer: He does one program only, when a better option for him would have been to “invest” time in a detailed Training Needs Analysis and provide the right solution, which could be a mix of training interventions and rejigging business objectives(applying “big filters”) or highlight people issues which are impeding achievement of the business objective.
  • Participants: They attend a training session filled with anecdotes and exercises, which has a “wow” effect but no habit formation happens. They look at these training programs as company paid holidays to get away from regular work.
  • HR Team: It gets alienated from the business team for delivering sometime which didn’t meet business objectives.

Training Need Analysis as a Menu Card These companies don’t pay for the Training Need Analysis exercise since as per them, if you go to the restaurant, you don’t pay for the Menu card ! But they miss the point, that they choose the type of restaurant to go themselves. In the same sense, Training Needs Analysis is the “Restaurant of Choice” and not the Menu Card. If you are getting an informed choice, you need to pay for it.

How much time to spend on the Training Need Analysis? Business and HR should spend atleast 10-15% of their time on Training Need Analysis and preferably engage an external consultant to do the exercise. The more detailed and customized the Training Need Analysis, the more effective it will be. It is like going to a doctor for diagnosis. You always look for the best doctor who can do the “right” diagnosis and not the one who gives consultation (TNA) free and just charges for the medicines (Training programs).

Benefits of Paid Training Need Analysis

  1. You can assess your training requirement objectively.
  2. Trainer will not tailor the training need analysis to push his programs/content
  3. Trainer will not use some standard tools/templates to do TNA, which are not suited for the issue at hand.
  4. Sometimes, the solution may lie in rejigging your internal people/processes and not doing more training.

Practical Case Study: I know you must be thinking how you can apply these learnings to your workplace. Your need practical examples. I will take a live case study for a company that we did recently.

Issue as per the Company: Let’s call them XYZ company. Sales were not happening in the Sales division because attrition rate in Direct Sales Team was very high. The Direct Sales Team (DST) was supervised by Key Account Managers (KAM).

What XYZ Company initially requested us

Help in hiring better quality sales executive team so that revenues go up.

What We did?

We did a Training Need Analysis for them which helped identify:

  1. What is the situation today in the company’s sales team?
  2. Where to make the impact?
  3. How to make the impact?

This approach was divided into three parts

  1. Discussion Note Where our understanding of the situation was presented to the company.
  2. Interviews with Business Head, HR, End users i.e. DST (Direct Sales Team)
  3. Training Need Analysis Session and Where do we need to make an impact (Specific areas)

To continue reading, download the paper Why Training Programmes dont give Business Outcomes

About the Author: Sandeep Kaul is an alumnus of Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon with 17 years of leadership experience in large domestic and multinational firms. His experience has centered around direct P&L responsibility, business development, product management and operations.

Since 2012, Sandeep has been the Founder Director of WhiteLight Consulting Pvt Ltd. His business credo is“Consult.Inspire.Result.” Thanks to the support of his gifted team members, his firm delivers inspiration to corporate employees pan-India through Executive Coaching, Business Storytelling, Theatre, Corporate films, designing board games and OD engagements. Inspiring people is the connecting thread for him in this jigsaw puzzle.

He is an executive coach to leadership teams in large corporates and also has individual coaching clients in US, Europe and Central Asia. He is a voracious reader and you can expect him to have insightful views on a wide range of subjects. He is your point man, if you are a senior business leader looking for someone to bounce your ideas with or get yourself coached.

Link to the website: Whitelight Consulting
Twitter Handle: @sandy_kaul

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  • Lakshman Rao

    I totally agree with the Author that Training programs in general and Corporate training in particular have lost its importance and significance ,Training and Development which are vital expects of management to maintain and practice updated knowledge and skills have scanty regard and respects and HR managers are significantly responsible for this fast deterioration.T&D is nore ritualistic than realistic T& D is not aimed at change and transformation.None cares on how the knowledge and skills are implemented in the work environment..What is learned in a two week intensive training program evaporates in just work days if not practiced,in work environment. The Consultants and trainers are also equally responsible ,on their hurry to catch business they promise to do wonders and say that highly involved technical professional programs such as SIX- SIGMA, PROJECT MANAGEMENT, TQM,STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT,KAIZEN … would be taught to busy executives in just 5 days time and prepare them for a certificate. In such programs only certificates can be awarded but certainly no Knowledge and skills.> These are just t heretical and conceptual lacking in real life application.How can one impart attaining in technical and statistical , QM oriented knowlwdge and skills area in just five days.But people believe and this business of T&D has been going on without rationality. What is hard to cover in two years by IIT , IIM is promised to be covered and made experts in the field by trainers, in two weeks time without a tinge of practicality!!

    Management, Statistical * Six sigma Consultant,Chennai

  • Lakshman Rao

    Dear HR Managers

    Corporate Trainers have certain inhibitions/ misgivings about T&D including:

    With Training and acquiring new skills , employees would go away to other organizations.

    Would demand higher perks/ remunerations

    Cannot spare time and energy

    Outside training will not help to solve in company problems

    Hardly any follow up action can be taken to ensure that the knowledge/skills acquired through training are implemented

    Expenses on T&D is a cost and not as a long term investment

    T&D is given more as a Motivation to employee, a paid Holiday etc

    i agree , we cannot change but be aware of this environment as trainers!!
    Dr. H.K.Lakshmanrao



  • Generally training programs helps to business objectives of organizations development.