Knowledge-Based Training Hasn’t Worked

Inside-Out Paradigm Shift needed to close the ‘Knowing: Doing’ Gap.

The recent September CIPD research report: ‘Real-life leaders: closing the knowing-doing gap’ concludes that “It is highly unlikely that organisations will abandon leadership and management development activities – even if they are not fully satisfied with the effectiveness of the programme so far”.

A bizarre conclusion and yet probably true. If Einstein was right in defining madness as doing the same thing again and again in the hope of achieving a different result, then it seems that the L&D HR profession is in the grip of institutional groupthink with strong elements of “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts”.

Why persist in investing in an approach with marginal gains when we know that it cannot deliver what is required by both consumers and leaders? If we did this in other parts of a business we would soon be bankrupt. Let’s examine some of the evidence:

Sara Rynes in the Academy of Management Journal (2007) describes the gap between the science (evidence) and practice as so persistent and pervasive that some have despaired if it will ever be narrowed. In other words, evidence based reality in the field loses out against what people choose to believe as a result of inherited but failing models. It’s as though people are trapped in a form of thinking that is acceptable to the profession, but ineffective.

How many learning professionals check to see if the interventions that they have delivered are reflected in an improvement in performance and business productivity? The truth is that not many do and once again, referring to the CIPD report, the research found that only 11% of HR professionals see it as the role of the HR function to evaluate the effectiveness of leadership and management training. That’s nonsense! All people in an organisation, whatever their role, must ensure that what they deliver impacts directly or indirectly on the business bottom line and adds value. Otherwise it is a waste of time, effort and money that could be better employed.

Organisations constantly seek innovative ways of improving and growing the business. They seek new ideas, they adopt lean practices, delayer and outsource yet training persistently assumes that giving people knowledge actually works. The reality is that it rarely does.

Acknowledging the truth

If knowledge training other than in technical fields had worked, we would not have the unacceptable levels of underperformance, disengagement, poor leadership, dysfunctional teams, conflict and sickness that are stubbornly persistent in organisations today.

Conversely, positively driven people with a ‘can do’ attitude are engaged and engaged people perform. Here are some facts and figures:

  •  94% of world’s top companies now put their effort into engagement (Hay)
  •  Top 25% had twice annual income (Kenexa)
  •  Average operating margin close to 3 times higher than those with disengagement (Towers Watkins)

For more facts and figures from Gallup, Harter, CIPD, PWC, BAE Systems and more and to download the full article click here.

No budget for training in today’s climate – really?

You’re in great company if you answer YES to the following question.

Have your employees been on a time management course and still can’t manage time effectively?

The fact is that more than 70% of training failure comes after the training is completed, according to comprehensive ASTD study in 2006 ( . The major factors were that employees didn’t get a chance to apply what they learned soon enough, and there was no effective culture of follow-up and coaching.

You may be surprised but there’s actually nothing new here. Research by George Alliger and Elizabeth Janak (1989) found that the correlation between training and change in the workplace to be poor. More recently the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2007 state it is “….no better than random chance”.

People return to work after the training and soon fall back into their old mindset and habits. The training even though of great quality, invariably results as a waste of time, effort and money.

Kirkpatrick 1959 is recognised as the measurement of training  and in an article “A fresh look after 50 Years” by Kirkpatrick Partners they say “the end is the beginning” ie start with the performance level 4, and work backwards through attitude and behaviour change level 3.

The problem is businesses are putting most of their time into designing, developing and delivering training (Level 1 and Level 2) and it’s no surprise then they only get a fraction of the benefit. They spend hardly any time on the follow-up activities that translate into positive behaviour change and impact on the business (Level 3 and Level 4) .  Some companies turn to psychometric tests which start to address the issue but then mostly end up saying ‘We’ve done the tests, given the feedback, now what?’

It’s not surprising it has evolved this way – it’s cheaper.  The more we look at interventions this way, and the easier and cheaper it becomes from the explosion in Elearning, the more short cuts we’ll take and fall into the same trap. But without an improvement, it’s also a false economy – the short cut doesn’t work.

There is hope as advances in neuroscience and psychology support the unique Mind Fit process. There’s now a simple, proven and cost effective way to shift attitudes, behaviours and mindsets. Importantly for any business is that the change is sustainable and starts immediately following the intervention.

So, what’s the point of developing people in today’s climate? First, the climate doesn’t matter. People are your best asset and with a positive behavioural change they will improve your business.

Growth, in the current unpredictable state of the economy, will only come from your existing resources.


To learn more and how you get into a Mind Fit state take the simplest first step and read the book  Mind Fit For Success , by Graham Williams