The Management Centre
Call us: +44 (0)20 7978 1516
New dates: Project Management Book Now

Why doesn’t my team learn from training? What can I do about it?

Sending your team members on a training course should be a fantastic opportunity: for them to learn new things, for you to see them doing new things, for you to save some of your precious time, and ultimately to enable your organisation to do more, or do better.

However, training isn’t cheap – it takes your team member away from their job, it often costs money and expenses, and it can therefore be incredibly frustrating if you don’t see a return on this investment. At best, your team member reports having a great time but that’s it. At worst, the time is chalked up as a waste.

Actually, the very best result is that your team member reports having a great time, they are enthused by learning and want to try new things, and then you see a change as a result. To enable this, there needs to be a process of ‘learning transfer.’ This is the process by which training turns into learning which then turns into change. For example, if your team member gains new knowledge that they need, it equips them to make better decisions. This then turns into improved problem solving, new solutions, or improved service. Another example could be a team member in need of new skills to do their job. These new skills allow for a more confident approach, better interactions with others, utilising tools or techniques with more efficiency and / or effectiveness, new ways of working or even enabling learning in others.

In theory, this all sounds pretty powerful. But learning from training is only one way in which we learn in our roles and it can’t work in isolation. There are several steps that you can take as the manager of the learner to ensure the learning transfer happens. By taking the following 10 steps, you can ensure your investment in time and effort, and yes cash, is not wasted.

Before the training – set expectations

1. Set your expectations

A training course being available and looking fun is not a training need. A training need is a skill or knowledge gap that you need filling. It is purposeful, and connects to your wider strategic aims. The first step is to consider what it is that you want your team member to be doing differently, and therefore how training can support that. Training can’t fix a performance issue – it is a growth opportunity not a punishment.

For example, if your colleague is late to every meeting, sending them on a time management course might not cut it. They might know when the meeting starts, and how to get there on time, but still decide not to be on time if they are not motivated to be there.

What are the other factors at play? Is this will or skill? Are there barriers at work causing this? Forcing someone onto a training course rarely leads to changes in behaviour. If however you are sure this is a skill issue, such as making effective priority decisions, then training will be useful.

  • Identify the specific areas where training is required and align them with the team’s goals and objectives.

2. Set their expectations

Communicate the purpose and benefits of the training. Hold a pre-training conversation about the changes you expect to see. Be curious, find out what they are hoping to learn and what they expect to do with that learning.  Explore how the training will help them enhance their skills, improve job performance, and contribute to their professional development. Go further and identify what this may mean for their stakeholders: people they manage, service users, communities your organisation supports, funders etc.

  • Set specific learning goals and success criteria.

During the training – focus

3. Protect the time

Learning takes focus, energy, and effort. Being in a constantly distracted state will create barriers to the learning transfer you are looking for. Attendance at a training course is not the same as being present at a training event – especially if it’s online.

You can help this by ensuring that team members can fully participate without distractions or conflicting priorities. Avoid scheduling training during busy periods or when critical tasks are due. Don’t allow them to cancel last minute – keep those longer term goals in mind. Don’t email, call or message them yourself unless it is seriously urgent.

  • Actively manage workloads and set clear expectations around training to help create the space needed for learning.

4. Keep up the motivation

Many training opportunities take place over several events. Keep holding conversations. Find out what they have enjoyed, what they have found interesting, and how they plan to use these ideas in their work. Encourage your team member to regularly reflect on their progress and the effectiveness of their application of the training as they go along. Help them identify areas where they are seeing positive changes and areas that may require further adjustments.

  • Use reflective practice to build confidence and maintain motivation.

After the training – application

5. Reiterate key learning

Shortly after the training, hold a follow up conversation to reiterate the key concepts, skills, and knowledge covered during the training. Stay curious, ask them what they learned, and what actions they plan to take. Encourage them to actively seek out opportunities to practice and reinforce what they learned. Help them to set success criteria for these actions. What do they think the impact of these actions will be? How will things be better, and for whom? Focus on practical actions and problem-solving.

  • Emphasise the importance of applying what was learned in daily work and highlight the expected benefits and outcomes.

6. Enable immediate application

Encourage your team member to immediately apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in their work. Identify opportunities and build these into their action plan. Assign relevant tasks or projects that allow them to practice and reinforce what they learned.

This might involve volunteering for relevant projects, taking on new challenges, or finding ways to integrate the new knowledge into their regular tasks.

Give feedback: what is going well, what do they need to keep adjusting.

  • Offer support and guidance as needed during this application phase.

7. Encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration

You can really make the most of your training investment, by having your team member showcase their main takeaways to others. This has two benefits: they become accountable for ongoing learning transfer as they make public commitments; and other people learn from the training too as knowledge and insights are shared.

Create space in your team meetings for them to share their experiences, insights, and challenges related to the training.

  • Encourage peer learning where employees can support each other in applying the training outcomes.

After the application – learning

8. Keep improving

Seek feedback from your team member on the changes they are noticing and spot improvements yourself. This is important as motivation can wane over time. Create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable discussing their difficulties. Offer guidance, resources, or additional support to help them overcome these challenges. Learning is hard work. Help them understand that applying training outcomes may require time, effort, and persistence. Encourage a positive attitude towards continuous improvement. Recognise and acknowledge their efforts and achievements in implementing the new skills or knowledge. Encourage them to seek feedback from peers, other managers, or even service users, stakeholders or funders on their application of the training outcomes.

  • Encourage a growth mindset, the willingness to keep on learning and refining approaches.

9. Be a learning role model

Lead by example and show your team members your own learning experiences. Demonstrate the importance of continuous learning and development by actively participating in training yourself. Talk about the challenges you have overcome, the changes you have made, and what has given you a confidence boost. Share stories of training that has inspired you to do things differently or try new approaches. Focus on your learning: not just the training itself, but the full journey from goals, to participation, to application, to improving.

  • By leading by example, you influence your team members to commit to learning.

 10. Encourage more learning

Training may be a one-off moment, but learning isn’t. By having a successful experience you may find your team member gets the training bug and wants to ‘collect them all’. Signing up for more training courses shows a commitment to learning, which is fantastic. You need to ensure that this is still in keeping with goals and ambitions that are relevant to them in their role or their professional development. Identify additional development opportunities that can build upon the initial training. This could include workshops, conferences, or self-directed learning such as webinars, video tutorials or researching. Discuss individual development plans with the team member and make these discussions part of your regular communication routine.

  • Provide support for their ongoing growth and learning.

Learning from training is ultimately the responsibility of the learner. As the manager of a learner, you also have a vested interested in seeing a return from training. Encourage this through a proactive approach, continuous conversations, and feedback.

What’s next?

If you would like your team member to also make the most of their learning, check out our blog on making the most of online learning. Feel free to share this article with your team member, or colleagues in your organisation.

Share Why doesn’t my team learn from training? What can I do about it?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Contact us
Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...