By Gerry Murray. 19-07-2020
(Scroll down for a laugh)

“The best way to predict your future is to create it” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Are training courses really a waste of time and money? 

You might be saying to yourself how could he say this! Especially, as one of the services he offers is training people. Is he committing the equivalent of commercial suicide?! 

Not really!

Let me explain…

If you wanted to learn to play the piano you wouldn’t just attend a one-day course and expect to become a really good pianist. Most people take classes. This used to be going to a grumpy old lady or man who hit you on the knuckles with a little stick when you made a mistake! Today, you can take lessons online. So, they can’t reach you any longer with their stick! 

Then you might prepare for a solo performance or get together with some friends, who play other instruments, to learn some songs and rehearse for a show. All the while, you would probably have a teacher that you’d go to for tips, for improving your technique and for upping your game. You may even attend some masterclasses to learn from the best. 

With additional confidence, you might one day start to perform in public. This in itself would present new learning challenges. 

So, I come back to my central argument - training courses per se are a waste of time and money unless they’re part of a learning and development path or a programme similar to that of a musician learning their craft. Yet, so many organisations still treat them as a one-off event and this is a big and costly mistake. 

What’s included in a learning and development path?

If we look at research done by the 70:20:10 Institute they find that learning works best in these approximate proportions:

  • 70 per cent of learning comes from experience, experiment and reflection
  • 20 per cent derives from working with others
  • 10 per cent comes from formal interventions and planned learning solutions

Think of something that you're quite good at and you’ll probably agree with this breakdown. It’s important not to get too hung up on the precise percentages, it’s the proportions that tell a tale. 

Other research postulates that only around 20% of what is learned in a classroom setting is retained after the training and only around 12% of participants actually apply what they learn back on the job. Apart from being a waste of time and money, it’s also a missed opportunity. 

So, a learning path needs to include elements such as the following: 

  • Training courses (Zoom or in-person)
  • Short, online, on-demand learning modules
  • Self-assessment of progress
  • Mentoring from an experienced person
  • Peer-to-peer learning for support and ongoing feedback
  • Coaching to support a person's ongoing development so they can own their own learning path
  • Challenging assignments to stretch them
  • Facilitated workshops to apply learning at an advanced level
  • Certificates of achievement

How do you avoid costly mistakes and get value for money?

From experience, here are some suggestions: 

Proper diagnosis of learning needs. For example, our Harrison Assessment Talent Analytics tools provide clients with scientific and predictive learning and development analytics. Few organisations have proper scientific ways to identify skills gaps. What people say they want is often not what they need. So, asking them or their managers what they need is subject to lots of unconscious biases. Objective data is more useful. 

Align learning and development with business goals and desired outcomes. Talent Analytics Dashboards provide insights into patterns, trends and gaps. These tools are no longer just the purveyance of large organisations. They’re also now more accessible and affordable for smaller organisations.

Teach managers coaching skills. Command and control no longer work. To get the best out of people and to support them in their growth and development, coaching skills make a big difference. They also provide cost-effective leverage as the Line Manager has day-to-day contact with his or her teams and can directly impact their performance on the job.  

Create blended learning tools. I started creating online content in 2015 that could be integrated or blended with other forms of learning contact. Providing e-learning only courses rarely works, unless it’s targeting hard skills and then it needs to be kept constantly up to date as workplace technologies continuously evolve. Despite the COVID-driven rush into the online world, developing impactful blended learning tools takes time, skill and experience. 

Recently, I’ve been teaching people how to build these blended learning solutions.

Now is the time to create your future

As the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt and cashflow is tight, organisations now have the opportunity to rethink and innovate how they develop and grow their people in the future. This is good for employee engagement, commitment, motivation, productivity and performance - all essential ingredients for a post-COVID world. 

Let me know if you’d like to chat about this...



What kind of training do you need to become a garbage collector?
None, you just pick it up as you go along

My company just conducted a one-day motivation training for all the junior employees. It was a roaring success.
All the junior employees are really motivated to find new jobs now.

I was at a job interview today when the manager handed me his laptop and said
"I want you to try to sell this to me."
So I put it under my arm, walked out of the building, and went home.
Eventually, he called me and said "Bring my laptop back here right now!"
I said “€500 and it's yours."

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