Three reasons your next training programme won’t stick

We hate to break the bad news so close to Learning at Work Week. But, as much as people want to learn, they’re also incredibly good at forgetting or resisting new information.

With that in mind, here are three reasons we think most training programmes fail. And three ways to make yours stick.

1. One-hit wonder training isn’t that wonderful

It’s easy to think that if you’ve sent your teams on a one-day course somewhere, it’s job done. But that’s rarely the case. Even if your people come back energised and raring to go, they’ll probably slip back into bad habits and forget what they’ve learned – especially if they don’t use their new skills every day.

The solution: Top up your training sessions with regular prompts and practice until people’s habits have really changed. Microlearning feels like a bit of an L&D buzzword at the moment, but there’s definitely something in it. The ‘spacing effect’ shows that breaking your top-ups into small reminders and delivering them over a few months will make them easier to remember.

2. Doing things differently feels uncomfortable

Training sessions encourage us to work in new ways. But instinctively, people don’t like that. Motivated reasoning’ shows that learners will often choose to ignore things that feel uncomfortable to them. (This usually happens to me in training sessions when I try to convince certain people it’s okay to start the odd sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’.)

The solution: One trainer might not change a tricky learner’s mind on the spot. But a group can. We’re wired to follow the crowd, and if it looks like everyone else is putting their learning into practice, it’s far more likely that the resistant few will follow.

So remember to reflect on your training sessions, share updates and celebrate success – making a positive example of the many people who’ve changed.

3. We don’t think we need to change

It’s always easier to spot faults in others than in ourselves. Especially becausemost of us overestimate how much we know. And we think other people are more likely to succumb to biases than us. That makes most people pretty tough to teach.

The solution: Create a safe learning space that even helps apparent ‘know-it-alls’ drop their guard. People who already see themselves as smart may be less inclined to change their behaviour just because a trainer’s told them to. But, if that trainer encourages the group to make new connections and come up with ideas themselves, everything changes. Learners leave the room with their sense of cleverness intact, and, better still, an eagerness to share their new thinking with everyone else. So the learning doesn’t just stick, it spreads.

Learning at Work Week runs from 14th- 20th May this year

We’ll be running free taster webinars on the powers of behaviourally savvy communication. If you’d like to know more, or you’d like a face-to-face taster instead, email me at

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