Applied Learning or Lost Learning?


Who’s into camping? Yes, out in the wild, at one with nature? It is very popular. In-fact according to the UK Caravan and Camping Alliance holiday parks and campsites generate an impressive £9.3bn in visitor spending. (1) That is quite some figure. I confess it is not one of my favourite pastimes. Waking up at 3 am and removing half an onion sized rock from under my ground sheet, nope, not for me. I am no snob, but at 6ft 4 and as clumsy as Harold Lloyd on a sugar rush camping feels me with dread and makes me desperate to retain control of my already poor co-ordination. There are only so many times I can nearly garrotte myself on a guide rope after all.

But I get it, I do. I appreciate how liberating it can be, providing you with options to stay anywhere pretty much. I imagine waking up and zipping down the tent front (not sure of the technical name here) and glancing at the shores of Loch Lochmond or brisk breeze of the Vendee, pure bliss. Then if I get bored, I can move on to another stunning location.

And there is a certain amount of appreciating things more. Take for example the showers. If they are super up to date, pumping out piping hot water, they are superb. It removes all the creases from sleeping and brings me back to life. There is just one problem, you leave the comfort of the shower and have to walk back to the tent, sometimes in freezing and raining weather. All the benefit can be lost.

That disappointing feeling can be the same as training. During the workshop all is good. People are learning and busy absorbing things. But just as the walk back to the tent indicates the moment you leave, all that evaporates. There you are in wrapped in a towel, wearing crocs (ok, just me) and feeling underwhelmed as your trudge back to your canvas delight.

Only 20% of what is learnt in training programs will be applied in practice. (2) That golden opportunity of investment and impact slips away like the warmth of the shower. That is such a waste, but why does it happen?

It starts with asking the question why are you training? The training should be targeted at a business objective. Not only does that focus minds and budgets it means that applying that training will be easier once it has been done. If training is not directed at something the business is trying to achieve, you have to ask the question why train? The risk is it remains a nice to have, something that is a low priority. You would not enter a physical training programme without a goal, the same should apply to training.

This has implications for employee recruitment, retention and engagement. 91% of employees surveyed said they’d be more likely to stay in a role longer if their employer invested in training from the outset. (3). Therefore, it is not sustainable for training to be seen in this light. It has to be integral to the business objectives.

Financially this makes sense. A key performance indicator can be set linking the training with an agreed measure of effectiveness. Both the trainer and the trained can be confident that the training is being applied to an output and not a random effort vaguely linked to something or other. If we employ a consultant to assist in the business, we judge them on a measured output, the same should apply to training.

If the reason for the training has been identified then analogies and lessons can be used through out the training to ensure it is relevant and there is an area of focus. Delegates can link the initiative with something in their job role which supports that business objective. There is context and relevance, making application far simpler.

The key aspect of maximising the benefit of the training is how it is applied post the workshop. By creating application plans and introducing macro training, with 1 to 1’s, delegates can see how it can be applied to their role longer term in the real working environment and through embedding can be encourage to actually incorporate. The client benefits as the skills are applied to the business objective they were aiming to achieve. Former BBC HR Director, Lucy Adams, recently claimed that up to 80% of training is forgotten in just 30 days. (4) If plans for embedding are not included, the effectiveness plummets.

Too often we see a flash of inspiration and action, but we lose the legacy of training. Simply because we are not clear on the need for it and then cannot apply it to a specific problem. That investment can be waisted and we have no measure of success. People need time to embrace and change. Embedding training over a period of time to ensure it is added to job roles is the measure for success. So, we don’t feel like we are walking back from a shower at a camp site and losing the benefit in doing so.

  1. Carry on camping, it’s good for the economy!’’ – Duncan & Toplis, 4 July 2019
  2. Institute for Transfer Effectiveness
  3. The Executive Development Network, 2022
  4. BBC

John Henderson – Co-founder and Director

Sara Penrose Ltd

Develop people’s skills – Optimise business performance

© Sara Penrose Ltd 2022 

Image – Dominik Jirovský