Why do most training programs fail?

Why do most training programs fail?

Learning new skills is an often pleasurable part of working.

Attending training courses is interesting, low in pressure, often fun and also quite social. Courses provide opportunities to network with others within our own companies or potentially others with similar interests outside our own company.

Unfortunately, precious little usually changes when we return to our desks after a day, or even a week away at a training program.

In fact, research conducted by training guru Robert Brinkerhoff demonstrates that if 90% of your company's efforts are in the delivery of training, 70% of the people will try new skills and fail.

However, if 50% of the effort is in the delivery, and 50% in the follow-up activities, then 85% will sustain the new behaviours.

This is why we developed the Clarity First Program as a month-by-month experience for experienced professionals wanting to turn their communication into a real asset.

We offer instruction and support over a time frame that niches with the participants availability and needs.

Here are a few things that we have seen work lately:

Help us understand the real problem that you need to solve

When working with a professional services firm recently, I was asked to help a small group improve the quality of the thinking in their client reports.

It quickly became apparent that the team was struggling with applying our clarity principles because they were using precedent documents rather than working from scratch.

Unless we either revamped the precedents or found an economic way for the team to work from scratch each time, the quality of their reports was not going to improve.

During Clarity First we make a point of using our live sessions to build relevant stories together, so participants can see our structured approach in action while also solving real, tangible issues.

Surprisingly often too, these cross discipline groups come up with breakthrough ideas for each other both in terms of the content of their messaging and the working approaches they can use in their own work.

Check in regularly to make sure the program delivers real impact  

This might include an email series offering participants regular challenges that can be discussed in working sessions, sharing success stories from other similar clients, or incorporating mini online learning modules to remind participants of core skills and concepts.

This feeds into the way we have designed Clarity First for individuals and also for corporate groups.

Rather than designing and delivering a ‘training event' we work with participants along their learning journey, for as long as that is helpful for them.

Change the way you think about your skill-building

Focus on regular, small opportunities to learn rather than participating in a ‘once and done' experience.

This way you can learn some ideas, put them into practice and benefit step by step along the way. 

The alternative that I have seen far too often is watching people have a great day at a workshop only to return to their desks to a tsunami of emails and other demands which quickly wipe the learning from their minds.



Keywords: leadership, leadership communication, learning and development

How to take the drudgery out of building a new skill

How to take the drudgery out of building a new skill

It is no secret that dopamine hits are seductive.

They trigger a very real and frankly delicious biological response that make us want more.

This is why Facebook introduced ‘likes’. This is why gamification of social media is a major focus of all platforms.

This is why success feels really really good.

Until recently, however, I had no idea how much this everyday hormone impacted my day to day work.

Why do I enjoy grasping new concepts? Why do I love finding new and different ways to help others grow as communicators? Why practising a new skill feel so boring?

It turns out that harnessing dopamine is hugely powerful in helping us persist so we go beyond knowing about something to doing that thing well.

Experience tells me I am not alone in this, so I wanted to share some simple and practical ideas that will help you master skills that matter to you.

Here are two suggestions to help you go from knowing to doing:

  1. Learn to ‘rig’ your own dopamine hits
  2. Magnify the ‘hits’ by setting milestone rewards

Learn to ‘rig’ your own dopamine hits

I have recently been refreshing my understanding of how people learn by completing an online course called Learning How To Learn by Dr Barbara Oakley and Dr Terrence Sejnowski of McMaster University & University of California San Diego.

One of the things that has stood out to me is the impact of our biochemistry on our willingness to go beyond just knowing about something to achieving mastery. Within that context, dopamine is the standout hormone for us to understand and harness. As recently as 1957 Swedish pharmacologist Dr Arvid Carlsson showed that dopamine controls our motivations.

Dopamine is triggered in many circumstances. It is triggered by ‘aha’ moments when an idea resonates with us and when a new idea ‘clicks’ together in our minds.

More importantly, it is triggered when we receive a reward or perceive that we will receive one in the future.

The excellent news about dopamine is that we can ‘rig it’ by setting ourselves future rewards.

All of a sudden, the seemingly simple idea of setting goals and breaking them into chunks not only helps us intellectually, it feels better.

Ticking off each chunk triggers a dopamine surge that we can influence with simple behavioural steps.

This is one of the reasons why we ask people to reflect on the way they are using ideas from the Clarity First Program and the successes they have achieved along the way.

We want to help rig those dopamine hits for you as you learn to communicate complex ideas clearly.


Magnify the ‘hits’ by setting milestone rewards

Until recently, I had never been big on rewarding myself for hitting milestones or achieving goals, believing that the achievement was enough in itself.

However, last year I took on a challenge to set some goals and on the advice of a coach chose a reward for a scary target.

If I hit a certain target, I would buy myself a special new handbag. (No, ladies: it wasn’t a Birkin. Not THAT special!)

In setting my goal and my reward, I very much enjoyed the process of choosing the one I would buy.

The interesting thing for me was that when I hit the target (and then shot past it by about 25%), I was tempted to not follow through with the reward.

I had enjoyed choosing the handbag and had achieved my goal: wasn’t that enough? Did I really need to spend part of that hard earned on a trivial gift for myself?

Well, yes. My coach was clear that I must follow through, so I did. And am I glad.

Every time I use it, I remember my success and am reminded of the importance of rewarding myself when I do succeed, which I have discovered is far less trivial than I had realised.

Now each time I use it I trigger a tiny dopamine hit as I remember the goal I reached.

So, a question for you: what goals do you want to set for yourself?

In the Clarity First Program we encourage people to celebrate their successes. I particularly loved hearing recently when one of our participants had been promoted to a new and challenging position in part because of his ability to communicate clearly.


Davina Stanley is Managing Director of Clarity Thought Partners, and founder of The Clarity First Program. She and her business partner Gerard Castles collaborated to write the The So What Strategy which offers a simple strategy for communicating clearly as well as the seven most commonly used storyline patterns in business.