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How to stop wasting money on employee training

3-minute read

Training employees to do their job better is critical to your company’s growth. But a lot of training efforts fall flat because of poor planning, execution and follow-up.

The result is training that’s either poorly delivered or irrelevant to your employees’ day-to-day work or both. “That can cost you both time and money,” says Nigel Robertson, Senior Advisor, Financing Products at BDC.

Here are three do’s and three don’ts to get better training results.


1. Set clear expectations

Before signing employees up for a class or workshop, decide why you’re doing it. “Employees often get sent off to workshops with no clear purpose,” Robertson says. “Training doesn’t work without a plan.”

Set clear, measurable goals for the training that you can achieve within a specific timeframe. For example, you may decide that in two months you want your employee Bob to be able to make a sales presentation and close two out of 10 clients. Bob’s training should then be tailored to meet that goal.

2. Support on-the-job learning

Businesses often make the mistake of relying mostly or exclusively on formal, classroom-style training. This ignores the fact that most learning happens on the job.

Robertson calls it the 10-20-70 rule. He says employees typically learn 10% of what they need to know in a classroom. Another 20% is learned in semi-formal settings, such as mentoring, job shadowing and focused reading.

The greatest part—70%—is learned from experience on the job. “Almost everybody stops thinking about training after the 10% is done,” Robertson says.

You should make sure employees have opportunities for semi-formal training. They should also get opportunities to apply classroom learning on the job. Workers who don’t have a chance to do so quickly forget what they learned.

3. Give managerial support

You can reinforce learning by meeting employees in groups and one-on-one to discuss what has gone well and what hasn’t on the job. You can discuss ways to improve and how more formal training can help.

If employees get formal training, you should have a general idea of what they learned. This way, you can help employees find ways to apply it and keep their new skills fresh. You can also encourage them to share what they’ve learned with other employees.


1. Send everyone

Companies often send the entire team to the same workshops and classes, even when they’re not relevant to everyone’s job. Save money and your employees’ time by making sure to send only those who will benefit.

2. Teach by PowerPoint

Make sure you’re not relying too heavily on presenting information to employees, Robertson says. Research indicates that one direction communication leads to retention of less than 4% of information by trainees after two days. It’s important to reinforce what employees have learned by getting them to apply it in exercises and drill it on the job.

3. Train on Fridays

Avoid doing training on a Friday or before employees go on leave. Training has to be put in practice and reviewed right after it’s learned, Robertson says, or it risks being forgotten.