training alignment
People in the training industry, whether a classroom facilitator, a learning designer, or a training manager, all share a common purpose – To teach skills that will help people do their jobs better. That, in a nutshell, is what the training profession is about – skill and knowledge transfer. According to a 2017 training industry report published by Training magazine, the total U.S. training expenditure was $90.6 billion dollars. Although this number includes payroll, travel, facilities, etc., companies are spending lots and lots of money on classroom training. Let’s face it, not all training sticks. It doesn’t matter if the training has an awesome learning design or an engaging and experienced facilitator. Without the three elements described below, even the best training programs are doomed for mediocre (at best) results in what we are really striving for – behavioral change.


Nothing pleases us more than a participant who shows up to a class eager to learn. The “Explorers” are the ideal participants. The Explorer knows why they are there, what they hope to learn, and why they need to learn it. Unfortunately, too many participants don’t fit that description. Too many participants are “Prisoners” who come to a classroom because they’ve simply been told by their managers to attend. These Prisoners are far less likely to engage in the learning in a meaningful way. As a result, Prisoners are far less likely to take the lessons taught in the classroom and translate them into meaningful action in the real world.

Step One – Create Explorers by demonstrating alignment to participants BEFORE they come to the classroom. Ensure participants not only know WHAT they are going to learn, but WHY they need to learn it and HOW it will help them be better in their jobs.

Relevant Application

This past Christmas, I received the gift of a new banjo. Since I didn’t know how to play the banjo, I decided to take some lessons. I knew each lesson would have theory, technique, and application. Little did I know, there are a number of different techniques for playing the banjo. You have claw hammer, finger rolls, flicking, etc. Each technique is used for different types of music, and none of these techniques are easy (at least not for me). So, the first question – and the most important question my instructor asked me was, “What type of music do you want to play?” If the instructor didn’t know what type of music I wanted to play, he would have taught me how to play the banjo the way they he thinks it should be played – not the way I want to play it. To engage any learner, the skill and techniques need to have application so there is an opportunity to practice. However, that practice needs to be relevant to the participant. For sales people to see relevance, activities need not only reflect the situations and challenges they face on a daily basis, but also be relevant to the strategic direction of his/her company.

Step Two – Lessons, skill, and application need to be designed so they are realistic, relevant and aligned with the strategy of the participants’ company. Bringing reality into the classroom not only helps participants embrace they are learning, it also ensures the application is actually something that will be helpful later on. When the participants are back in the real world.


We all know that when it comes to learning new skill it’s “use it or lose it”. Whether you are learning a foreign language, how to play musical instrument, or learning a new selling methodology, if you don’t reinforce the skills and behaviors learned in the classroom, those skills and behavioral gains will be lost within a matter of weeks. A study done by Neil Rackham said that 87% of skills gained in classroom are lost within 30 days if those skills are not reinforced. So clearly, if you want to get a positive ROI out of your training investments, you have to consider what you are going to do AFTER the classroom experience to reinforce what’s been taught. Practice is one idea – hence the old saying “Practice makes perfect”. But is that right? Does practice make perfect? What if you are practicing the wrong thing? In reality, only “Perfect practice makes perfect”. If a person practices skills without feedback or coaching of some sort, he/she could be practicing (or perfecting) the wrong thing, thus building bad habits that could be hard to break.

Step Three – Reinforcement activities must coexist with feedback. Coaching and feedback are critical in all reinforcement activities.