90% of New Skills are Lost Within a Year

Isn’t that crazy when you consider all the time and effort companies invest in training? The WSJ claims some studies show that a measly 10% of those taught skills are retained. As the majority of recruiters turn toward the model of hiring for attitude and training for skills, it might be time to get better at that last part; it seems to be a big part of the equation.

Eduardo Salas, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Central Florida has studied corporate training for over 20 years. Dr. Salas has identified several reasons why all this training is going on, yet companies have nothing to show for it, except a bill.

Analyze Training Needs

The first issue that Salas considers a big mistake in training, it a lack of basic insights into the real training needs. How can you train a workforce when you don’t who needs what type of training and in which areas? He suggests conducting training needs analysis well before training begins. This will prevent redundant and costly training. It will also ensure that where some employees are behind, their particular training needs are met.

The training needs analysis is a step that Salas recommends doing now. This is considered the springboard for more effective training.

The Follow-Up

Many companies will training “over with” and never assesses whether or not learning actually took place. Salas has found that many companies will collect data on how workers felt about the training, but rarely will they evaluate what the employees learnedin the training. Salas warns us that a positive reaction to training does not equate to learning. In fact, that particular correlation has proven very weak.

You Can’t Rely Solely on Tech

We preach this all the time. Even the best training or learning management system (and ours is pretty great) cannot replace good leadership, and it won’t make up for poor leadership either. Furthermore, the technology will only do as much as you let it. If leadership is interested in simply getting compliance and training over and done with, the follow-up, goals and progress won’t get tracked on their own.

Set Up the Environment

Of course workers aren’t going to retain skills or information that they aren’t going to use. Many times a workers will come back from training, into their normal work environment and find that they can’t implement most of what they’ve just learned. This can be considered part of the training needs analysis step. Make sure that workers can immediately utilize what they learn in training.

Dr. Salas really puts an emphasis on the design of training. He said,

“Design. It's the thing you do before, during and after. How are you going to allow employees to practice? How are you going to provide feedback? What sort of technology are you going to use? While this may seem obvious, very few organizations really pay attention to this.”

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Comment by Keith D. Halperin on February 13, 2014 at 2:28pm

*90% of New Skills are Lost Within a Year

Seems to me like real job security for T&D folks, Sean.


*I vaguely remember hearing that in a training, but I guess I'd forgotten it.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on February 13, 2014 at 7:43pm

That is really a staggering statistic Sean. Wow. I'm not really shocked, but nonetheless that is some figure. Even more so when you consider the money invested in Training as you point out. There must be a way to use on-going training as part of an organization's strategic retention plan. I'm not sure I'm that smart to figure that one out. Thanks for posting. 


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