The truth about why the training industry fails to help organisations

November 10, 2020 in Manage Training



The truth about why the training industry fails to help organisations

The training industry fails to help modern organisations. This sounds harsh, but our recent survey of Australian organisations suggests that the training industry fails to supply solutions which organisations need and want, and instead focuses on providing solutions which suit the industry itself.

This means employees complete training which is less relevant and less valuable to them, simply because the training industry fails to provide organisations with the necessary solutions to do otherwise!

Recently, Tribal Habits exhibited at the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) National Virtual Conference (#Shift20) where we were able to once again engage with the human resources and training communities in Australia. It was a terrific and well-organised event, with many important lessons from key speakers.

As an Exhibitor, we invited attendees to participate in a survey about learning and training at their organisations with a focus on two critical areas.

  • How is training content developed at your organisation?
  • How has COVID-19 impacted training at your organisation?

In this article, we dive into the first question and reveal how the training industry fails to use training and learning as a key driver of organisational success.

The training industry fails to address organisational needs

There were two key questions in our survey.

  1. What training outcome receives the most resources (time, effort, money) in your organisation?
  2. What training outcome would be the most valuable for your organisation over the next 12 months?

Ideally, the answers to these questions should be the same! In reality, they couldn’t be more different.

In fact, only 13% of organisations reported that the most valuable training outcome receives the greatest training resources.

The most startling differences are in skills and best practices – investments in the individual capabilities of employees, either through improved personal skills or greater access to proven, internal best practices within the organisation.

These critical areas of human improvement are significantly underrepresented in current training sources – 75% under-resourced in skills and 50% under-resourced in best practice sharing.

Why does the training industry fail to address organisational outcomes?

Why would organisations knowingly avoid giving the most resources to the most important training? To understand this seemingly illogical outcome, we need to dive a little deeper into supply and demand in the training industry.

We can see the demand for best practices and skills training is high. That makes sense. It’s easy to see the correlation between improved human capability – the sharing of insider tips, mistakes and expertise – and improved organisational results. In a Kirkpatrick model of training effectiveness, improved behaviours (Kirkpatrick Level 3) leads to improved outcomes (Level 4). So the problem isn’t a lack of demand from organisations.

We should be asking, how does the training industry provide supply to meet the demand from its customers? Answer: Not very well.

The training industry fails to help organisations create training content!

Our survey asked organisations how they created content for internal training and – promisingly – 58% responded that they ask internal subject matter experts.

This means asking experienced employees to capture and share their expertise, which is the perfect source of content for skills and best practice training. While that sounds like great ‘supply’ of training, as we will see below, the ‘training’ created by these experts is typically just a PDF document or set of slides.

The remaining 42% of organisations which didn’t use expert staff for training content, were forced to rely on training managers to come up with content (17%), hire external consultants (14%), or give up and purchase external training modules (10%).

So we can see that, once again, organisations want to tap into internal knowledge.

How is internal training content shared?

As a final step, we then asked organisations to reveal how they shared training content created internally. Since we know organisations want training on best practices and skills, and they are prepared to turn to their expert staff to create that training, all we need now is for that to happen!

Alas, it does not. You might be forgiven for thinking that the training industry hasn’t evolved since 1990, when it turns out that internal expertise becomes ‘training’ via:

  • 21% write a PDF document.
  • 24% present slides at a meeting.
  • 24% present slides via a webinar.
  • 4% have given up and don’t share internal expertise via training.
  • Just 7% have the staff expert create training.
  • Only 22% have a training manager who can interview the expert and then create training.

Despite all the demand for internal training, for the majority organisations ‘training’ means simply reading a document or listening to a presentation – the most passive, non-interactive learning, which cannot be tracked, assessed or easily distributed.

The bottleneck in the supply of training content

When we look at this data, we can see the problem lies in the supply. While organisations highly value training on skills and best practices, they simply cannot get access to that training content via the tools provided by the training industry.

Even if the organisation is large enough to have a training manager (only 22% of organisations in our survey), that still creates a bottleneck as it requires training managers – who are not experts on the content – to interview the expert staff and translate that knowledge into training. That’s a slow process with risks of content being ‘lost in translation’.

Only 7% of organisations are currently able to have expert staff directly create training – the most efficient way to create the most relevant training on the most valuable topics for each organisation.

This is because the training industry fails to provide a means for this to occur. When you take the training industry as a whole, they want to avoid having organisations create training and instead perpetuate a reliance on content provided by the training industry itself.

Consider these training industry fails…

  • Learning management systems which simply manage users and rely on training content created elsewhere, providing no source of training content themselves.
  • eLearning authoring software, which is complex and requires specialist skills, providing no ability to create training content for organisations without expert training managers.
  • External consultants, who are expensive and time-consuming, providing no source of training content for organisations without large training budgets.
  • External training libraries, which provide generic, unbranded and uneditable training content for which they want large on-going subscriptions.

What organisations want (demand) and what organisations can get (supply) are far apart in the training industry. Innovation in the training industry has simply iterated on the failures above and attempted to retain control over organisations and their ability to source training content.

The training industry fails to ‘open up’ training options for organisations

Organisations typically do not lack for knowledge. They are filled with expert staff, proven techniques and valuable processes. What they need is a way to unleash that expertise within the organisation – quickly, effectively and at a low cost.

The training industry fails to address this problem. Instead, it largely prefers to perpetuate the myth that ‘organisations cannot create training of their own’ and must instead rely on solutions which suit (and benefit) the training industry.

This is not a situation which can last. Cloud-based platforms are creating an awareness among employees that they can actually create content – of all forms – easily and directly. Building infographics in Canva, uploading videos to YouTube, sharing ideas in Teams, adding presentations to Slideshare and more.

There will always be a role for external experts to help organisations which lack certain internal skillsets, or have particularly tricky training needs to address. However, it can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach which we currently see.

It’s time for the training industry to join the democratisation of training content and encourage organisations, and their staff, to directly create relevant training perfectly suited to the needs of that organisation. It’s time for a new approach to training which puts organisations and their needs first.