You have a problem, such as workplace bullying. To solve the problem, you bring in an outside training program. The employees participate and the evaluations look great, but six months later the problem sparks up again. Why?
In our experience, we have found five reasons why training programs fail:
#1 You Didn’t Actually Have An End-goal In Mind
Many times people don’t know where they want to end up, they just know that they want it to be better than it is.
This approach makes training useless. The trainer goes through their prepared material, but it is just information with no action.
For every training you have, consider setting clear, measurable, end-goals that you can track on a consistent basis. See below for three examples.
By the end of the training employees will…
… have a clear idea of what conduct is and isn’t allowed.
…. be able to implement five personal action items related to the core values.
… be able to step in immediately using three steps of assertiveness when they witness inappropriate or negative behavior.
#2 There Is No Accountability For Behavior Change After The Training Program Is Over
This happens all of the time – you watch an inspirational Ted Talk, for example, and leave with a burning desire to change your behavior.
But then, a few weeks in you slip up and fall back into your old ways. That’s because you are basing your motives on one fleeting experience. The more time passes, the harder it becomes to remember why you even started, and what achieving that goal actually means to you.
The same goes with training. One single training alone isn’t going to rewire institutional behavior. Employees need support outside of the training in order to be accountable.
One simple way to do that is require managers work with employees before and after the training. Managers should talk to employees beforehand about what the employee hopes to learn, and then afterwards about what they will change and how the manager can help them do that.
So before your next training, make sure you are setting clear expectations so that your employees understand that this isn’t just a one-time compliance move, and that you are serious about eliminating toxic behaviors.
#3 Managers & Leaders Are Not Confident Enough To Step In
A trainer might teach managers and leaders how to step in when they witness bullying, for example, but without the appropriate organizational processes in place to support them, they won’t actually do it.
They need to know that if they take that leap in front of a train, their HR and leadership will support them. In the case of bullying, often it’s been allowed to go on for some time so the message is clear that there will be no support in stopping it.
No training in the world will make a difference. It’ll have to be much more action on the part of leadership than a training can offer.
#4 Leadership Isn’t Actually Invested In Change
Without more action and intention from the top, employees see the training for what it is – an event that will make small to no change.
I’ve actually delivered trainings where, as I was going around checking in with groups during an exercise, people said to me, “You’re a good trainer but this is a waste of time. The CEO won’t actually step in when something happens. I wish they wouldn’t have wasted their money… no offense to you.”
Employees know that training programs require strong support from the top. Without it, they feel like you’ve wasted their time.
#5 No One Thinks They Are Engaging In Bullying
Without self-awareness, the information is moot. As self-aware as we think we are, we will all tend to have a blind spot. This is why it is so important to keep yourself in check, regularly.
And those bullies in the training audience, they’ll be wondering why you’re wasting their time. They aren’t bullies, after all.
(And while I know that you most likely aren’t a workplace bully, most people (including myself) unintentionally do things that hurt others sometimes. If you’re interested in seeing where you land in the workplace bullying scale, you can download our “Are You a Workplace Bully?” assessment that we created for this specific reason.
At the end of the day…
Training is useful for disseminating information. To get sustainable positive change, you need much more than that.