Management Consultant Says Corporate Trainers Confuse Quantity and Quality


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Propose a training program to the typical human resources executive and you’ll hear two questions in two seconds.

“How much is the training program?” is their first query, and the second is: “How many people can we train for that money?”

So, if you’re marketing customer service training or sales training, as I do, you are put into a position of trying to sound “reasonable, ” instead of promoting the higher and more appropriate value of effectiveness.

Specifically, most H. R. people want to know what the “cost per head” of training is, instead of what those heads will leave with after it has been done. If you say, “Cram as many people as you like in each session, ” some of them will be thrilled at the suggestion, because that makes them seem like prudent buyers who have brought down the cost of training.

But almost everyone acknowledges that classroom and training group “size” are inversely correlated with the quality of the learning process. As you stuff more folks into rooms, less is stuffed into each individual’s mind.

(Simply ask that same H. R. buyer whether she wants her children to be in larger or smaller classes in school!)

There are a number of reasons smaller groups are more achieving. We feel we matter more in small groups, that our contributions and questions will be more welcomed, and that we’re receiving better instruction. Also, there’s actually more time to invite, frame, and respond to questions when there are fewer people asking them.

Trainers can track facial expressions and body language to determine whom they are reaching and whom they are leaving in the dust, and make quick and suitable adjustments.

But the real key to training is effectiveness. Typically, we’re asking people to perform tasks in new ways, to accept and embrace change, and to accurately listen to and ingest the material appropriate for doing so.

In a small group, we can make sure everyone “gets it, ” before putting them back on the phones or letting them tool around in the field. There is time for rehearsing and drilling, for grappling with the new procedures, and for asking the all important questions, “Why must we do it this new way?” and “Can I escape responsibility for not doing it?” which are tacit queries every learner brings to sessions.

In big groups, people feel anonymous, capable of evading commitment, but in more intimate settings, their potentially destructive attitudes and misgivings are more likely to be apparent and to be disclosed, and that’s the time at which they should be capably addressed.

I limit the number of participants in my onsite corporate sessions to 5-7 people, generally, depending on the topic and the level of folks being trained. It appears more costly, at first glance, but then, when evaluations and ultimate job performance improvements are considered, the true value of this approach comes to light.

Trainers and H. R. professionals should bite the bullet and acknowledge that the same educational dynamics apply, whether it is your child, your colleague, or yourself that is sitting in that learning room.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of & The Goodman Organization is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service, and the audio program, “The Law of Large Numbers: How To Make Success Inevitable, " published by Nightingale-Conant. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph. D. from USC's Annenberg School, a Loyola lawyer, and an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at:

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