Busting The Training Myth

Whenever I ask a group of people to identify the learning experiences that accelerated their career, people never identify a training course or any university class as their ‘career accelerator’. It is always an exposure to different companies, functions, cultures or a challenging assignment that had the most impact on peoples careers.

This strengthens my aversion to formal classroom training! I personally believe that in a majority of cases they are a waste of company money and effort. I have been saying this now for many years and slowly a body of formal evidence is popping up that confirms my personal experience, specifically on leadership and competency development.

The Center of Creative Leadership has now found that about 70% of organizational learning takes place on the job, through problem solving and through challenging assignments and other day-to-day activities. Another 20% occurs through drawing on the knowledge of others in the workplace; from informal learning to coaching and mentoring, and from support and direction from managers and colleagues. Only 10% occurs through formal learning, such as the classroom, a workshop or, more recently, e-learning. This insight is slowly becoming the 70-20-10 rule for organizational learning.

The interesting part of course is that most organizations invest at least 80%of their training budgets in formal learning, where little of the learning takes place. Having been there and done that I know why this is happening. It is because it is the easiest way out. It is very easy to ‘outsource’ the responsibility of developing your subordinates to a trainer and blame the ineffectiveness of the training, or the training department, if there is no tangible performance improvement.

So what are more effective sources of leadership learning? The Center of Creative Leadership studies have found that a number of universally important sources of leadership learning stand out from studies different countries across the world:

  1. Bosses and superiors
  2. Turnarounds
  3. Increases in job scope
  4. Horizontal moves
  5. New initiatives
  6. And specifically for South Asia: personal experiences and crossing cultures

So instead of a training course this year for your subordinate, think about how you can create a learning experience that has impact and lasts. Think about how you can help and how you can give your team member a hand’s on learning experience.

– Paul Keijzer


8 thoughts on “Busting The Training Myth

  1. Great work! Wish that all T&D and HR Leaders start thinking like you! My regards to Paul and his team for the great HR & OD work you guys are doing in terms of enriching Pakistan’s horizon of knowledge in HR practices.
    – Dr. Qazi Tauseef – TrO (T&D – HR)

  2. Paul it makes sense and I fully agree with your pov, in my personal experience few sorts of trainings make a huge difference majority are more fun and enjoyment, trainings which effect my own personal behaviour has impact, trainings which are tightly coupled which can help develop skills which I can apply in the workplace helps, trainings which help me understand company systems better helps, refer to Warren Bennis book on hr scorecard talks about what works and what doesn’t

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts via this blog. I recently came across a similar situation with one of my customers in SEA region. They are going through a large business transformation program and experiencing some adoption and change management challenges with the technology as an enabler of their business transformation objectives. Training was identified as one of the areas which needs significant improvement. What is your view around training needs for people while going through the transformation initiatives?

    • Dear Ali, thank you for responding. Having led and facilitated numerous organizational transformations I can understand the challenge that you are facing. In these circumstances, training can indeed have a very positive impact for two main reasons: (1) equip people with the skills to do their roles in the new organizational context and (2) it helps people through a formal intervention to adapt to the changes and at the same time provide an opportunity to find support in others that are going through a similar change.

      The key in this in not just to provide people with training but to design the training intervention with both the hard and the softer elements of the change in mind.

      Hope that this helps in giving you some pointers for your transformation program.


  4. Totally agree Paul! I also think that mentoring and coaching should be available to the new and young workforce graduating from institutes and even in high schools – talking about the South Asian market as I started my career there. It not only gives a chance for the mentee to learn about the industry and networking, but also opens up opportunities for new jobs in organizations and industries. Due to social media, all experienced and upcoming professionals should find ways to give/get coaching. Tremendous benefits professionally, socially and for the countries’ economy.

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