Why Traditional Training Methods SUCK

Why Traditional Training Methods SUCK     

Traditional training methods can be a broad term. To narrow down what falls under this category we will only include training methods:


·         Classroom

·         Hands On (Learning on the Actual Equipment)

·         Job Shadowing

·         Mentoring or the “Buddy System”


Before we get into why these training methods suck and why your organization should consider moving towards a more modern online delivery method let’s first look at all the additional parties typically involved in the training process. Usually, any new hire has the following people directly invested or involved in this process:


·         Human Resources Manager or Training Specialist

·         Operations or Plant Manager/Supervisor

·         Coworkers (fellow operators)

·         Health and Safety Director/Coordinator


All of these individuals have to invest a substantial amount of time and effort any time new employees are brought into the organization. Every company’s processes will differ but for comparative purposes let’s explore this as Corrugated Cardboard Packaging Company based off of one of my clients.


Classroom Training

This is one of the most popular methods of delivering training to groups of new hires being brought into an organization. It is very commonly used for compliance based training programs such as health and safety, occupational hazards, WHMIS and any other corporate specific compliance training required. This method of training has on average one of the lowest level of engagement overall which translates to very poor learning outcomes. It also requires the highest time invested from the company, because of information delivery inefficiencies you need to cover more material to get the same basic understanding from all staff and on average only about half of staff in classroom training is ever actually involved in their learning.

I’ve observed my clients investing in for example 3 full days of classroom training programs to cover all the corporate and compliance information necessary to start work. The typical parties involved in classroom training are HR/Training, Health and Safety and very often someone from Operations or Plant Management. These are all leaders who must now give up one to 2 full days each every month or quarter to deliver training courses to new hires and at least once annually for renewal training. We can safely assume that organizational leaders are on average losing a combined total of between 15 – 40 days annually just delivering the same information. This is very inefficient especially considering the learning outcomes from classroom training don’t justify this investment.


Hands on Training

Hands on is very common for new operators as many feel the only way to effectively learn technical skills is by doing. We now know that without proper context and awareness prior to administering hands on training it can take employees much longer to master the necessary skills. Hands on training can be very stressful and unfamiliar to new operators not experienced with the equipment and process. This can greatly impede their ability to think critically and really absorb the information being delivered. It also doesn’t allow them to review the information at their own discretion to better foster learning. When delivering hands on training Operations/Plant managers have to invest a great deal of time very frequently in training their staff directly. This also puts a strain on production efficiencies as operations are either bottle necked or completely shut down due to equipment’s usage in training instead of production. Some organizations are fortunate enough to have mock physical equipment or simulators but these require a massive amount of physical space and typically range anywhere from the tens of thousands to as much as million to produce. They also still require a heavy investment of time from the Operations/Plant management.


Job Shadowing

A lot of “old school” organizations love job shadowing because it’s easy and doesn’t require very much investment from leaders of the organization in delivery or creation. This is a very cost effective training method to develop because it is putting the responsibility of training outcomes and content on the new hire and the operator they are shadowing. Obviously this leads to very poor consistency in information being delivered, as the new hires success is entirely dependent on who they are shadowing. So this is a recipe for disaster when efficiency is key to organizational success. Operators train new hires based on their own personal style of working not necessarily ensuring employees know the best current SOPs but instead how the operator prefers to do their job.

Beyond creating less efficient operators out of your new hires, you will also have 2 people doing one job quite frequently, talk about operational inefficiency for today and tomorrow!



I personally dislike this training style very much as it provides very limited support to new hires and instead just gives them other employees as resources when necessary. There is always going to be a certain level of self-learning involved for any new hire. The goal is to provide support and tools that will foster learning for the employee and allow for the greatest outcomes. With mentorship training it is essentially providing an employee very limited support, almost no tools and a very vague framework for how they will become successful in their position. Employees are the most likely to experience fear of uncertainty, anxiety and worry about judgement from requesting support when they have to directly ask for help from coworkers to learn their job.

As much as this training method requires the lowest investment from other parties in a new hires development it is also the least effective. This training method of essentially trial by fire ensures retention rates will be very poor amongst new hires and the cost of acquiring new talent will become exceedingly high as demand for staff is rarely met. Solutions with the lowest internal investment often yield the poorest results and Mentoring or the buddy system for training is no different.


How can my company’s training not SUCK?

The simplest thing to do is think about what is the best way your employees learn, I should mention this is very hard to figure out. Since this can be broad and difficult to define it’s important to utilize different delivery methods to provide the highest likelihood of success for any and all new hires. Even blending the four training methods outlined in this blog are far better than solely relying on one method. We all learn different so it’s best to take an approach that will resonate with more than one type of learner.


How can my company’s training be AWESOME?

Quite simple, invest in more modern proven training methods that:

·         Provide employees framework and have actionable goals.

·         Require less frequent investment of time from leaders and coworkers.

·         Are scalable and instantly deliverable.

·         Offer blended delivery methods of content (videos, narration, text, quizzes, etc.)

·         Outlines learning curriculum.

·         Allow for self-driven learning.

·         Provide instant feedback.

·         Are very easily accessible.

·         Reflect your organization and operational processes.

·         ARE CONSISTENT!!!


Written by:
Donny McGrath, Development Solutions Strategist


Why Traditional Training Methods SUCK
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