Training is a Journey, Not a Destination


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“All want to be learned, but no one is willing to pay the price" Juvenal “My joy in learning is partly that it enables me to teach" Seneca

When I was thinking about this article, one of the things that got me wondering was why we put ourselves through training, through learning. I was over 30 when I learned to drive first and I remember praying that the driving instructor would not turn up, that he would forget me, that I wouldn’t have to go through that awful vulnerable vacuum of being a learner…I couldn’t believe that I would ever get to the stage when I could actually hold the steering wheel with one hand and change the gears with the other. It seemed incomprehensible to me at the time. However I got over all that, passed my test first time and now actually can enjoy driving…This cycle is typical of the whole learning/training journey. Now my next step could be considering becoming a rally driver something that would have been impossible to me when I took my first lesson…that’s the power of training/learning.

Is training important?

Training is not important. And I say this as a trainer with well over 10 years’ experience. What is important is that learners see how what they have learned can be integrated and implemented into their current experience. They may need to be convinced that the initial feelings of vulnerability are worth the buzz of mastery that comes later, that they can implement these new skills and feel good later on.

Learners can be enthused and passionate if they recognise that the vulnerability of those first few steps will be eventually replaced by the joy of mastery. In order to speed up this whole cycle, It is essential that systems are put in place to ensure that learning is retained, implemented and practised. I would not have learned to drive with lessons alone. I had to practise, overcome my terror of all those “other eejits" on the road and endure feeling really stupid and ill at ease in the beginning.

While there are some people who learn with ease and enthusiasm for knowledge, many more are sent to training because their boss thinks it’s a “good idea". I often ask learners why they are there. The answers can vary from:

  • "I really want to be able to do XYZ" to shrugged shoulders. "
  • "It’s a day off work";
  • “My boss sent me"; or
  • “We are supposed to do this stuff at work. "

And yet, in survey after survey, employees mention training as being the perk that makes them feel appreciated, valued and give more to their job. So how do we get around this gap?

Follow-Up is Essential

It is estimated that people only retain 20% of what they have learned if they just undergo regular instruction. This percentage can rise to 80% if accompanied by follow-up (American Institution of Personnel and Development). So how could you ensure that the money you have invested in your employees’ training is well-utilised? Here are some ideas:

  • Commit to times/places where people have to show they have implement what they have learned.
  • Ask people to teach others what they have learned. That’s an incredibly powerful way to retain learning – particularly for the teacher!
  • Use technology to set up e-mail groups and forums where people can swap ideas, ask questions, get solutions
  • Ask people to set up triads to implement what they have learned. Set ground rules for this so that you don’t have one person dominating…a sure group killer.
  • Implement a system of follow-on coaching…either individual or group to ensure learners get over the inevitable work backlog backlash. This means learners can then get over the difficulties that they may have in implementing new skills. It makes such a difference if people know they have someone they trust to turn to.
  • It is also key that people see how their training relates to the big picture to the organisation’s overall mission.

Enjoying the Journey-Going in the Right Direction

Signposts are a key part of knowing if we are on the right track. So, how do we measure the effectiveness of learning? Happy sheets? A problem not being mentioned any more? What are the signposts we are going to use to know when we are on track; but more importantly, off track. Customer surveys? Metrics? One of the key parts to knowing what is working is measuring it. A key part of getting the most out of training is identifying what problem it is supposed to solve and then checking regularly what the status is on those problems.

Lots of Ways to Get There

According to the ASTD’s 2004 Annual Review of Trends in Workplace Learning and Performance , it was noted that the best organisations used a wide variety of both formal and informal strategies to deliver learning.

“The BEST organizations also provide a broad range of internal and external learning opportunities for employees, going beyond traditional formal learning activities to begin formalizing the informal, for example, legitimizing and providing structures for knowledge sharing and coaching. " If your organization has identified learning gaps, it may be time to become creative and innovative in exploring the power of informal networks, contacts, technology, coaching along with the usual instructor led training to retain and solidify learning.

Anne Walsh is a life coach based in Co. Galway. You receive a free 10 part e-course called “Personal Freedom" when you sign up to her free monthly newsletter: Bring your best self to light at You can also find many useful time management and stress tools at She can also be contacted at . Comments and opinions always welcome-really!


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