Debunking 4 Training Myths

The “sugar doughnut” pseudo-training of today only results in two things: brief spikes in performance and crashes shortly thereafter.

By Brian Roberts

Somewhere in between the high-fives, line dancing, and fire walking, we tend to lose sight of why we have training in the first place: to empower employees by providing them with the tools to produce long-lasting, measurable results in the workplace.

The “sugar doughnut” pseudo-training of today only results in two things: brief spikes in performance and crashes shortly thereafter. The content (if any) is diluted with affirmations that have no practical application or basis in reality. Is it any surprise companies are starting to view training as an expense versus an investment? So let’s confront a few of the pugnacious little myths that always seem to scurry their way into training programs.

Myth #1: A “motivational speaker” is a trainer.

If your intent is to strictly entertain your staff, then by all means, hire a motivational speaker. While they can provide a brief boost in performance and mood, that’s where the buck stops. A dynamic trainer, speaker, or consultant who can help you meet your objectives, get the behavior change you seek, and demonstrate a substantial ROI is what really counts. If you’re really looking for entertainment, just wire transfer me your entire training budget and in return I will set up a TV in your break room—chances are, it will last longer.

Myth #2: You can’t measure the ROI of training programs.

Most people who partner with consultants and trainers are under the impression that there are “too many variables” when it comes to measuring ROI, but this is just not the case. In fact, measuring the ROI of training (especially sales training) is easier than you think. Simply focus on the key areas you seek to improve through training and watch for variations in comparison to past performance. If you see a pattern of growth over time in that particular area, there is good chance training was just what you needed.

Myth #3: You can train anyone and everyone.

Technically, you can try and train just about anybody to do anything. But can you train them to successfully implement their newly learned skills and behaviors? Not quite. Although you can train employees on how to sell better or speak better, you can’t train them to acquire inherent qualities such as drive, motivation, personality, optimism, and confidence—just a few of the qualities that separate the great leaders and top performers from the average performers. Solution?

Hire only the best and provide top-tier, high-quality training, and you will have an unstoppable organization. However, keep in mind that even if you give lackluster candidates the best training in the world, you’ll still end up with nothing. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but you can’t teach a bad dog much of anything without getting your arm chewed off. The type of people makes all the difference. The training is secondary.

Myth #4: I can just skip the “extras.”

If I told you I can assist in increasing revenues by facilitating the behavior change you seek through a four-hour training session, we agreed, and then I recommended a follow-up session with your leadership team to help reinforce the behaviors, would you consider that an extra? Sure, you could call it an extra, but a valuable one that is worth your consideration.

Now what if we came to agreement on something else and I suddenly recommended you buy some instructional books of mine for your team? Both are extras, but you considered one more so than the other. Why? The value is clearly in the first option, not the second. Extras and other options always should be evaluated on a situational basis, but chances are, if you see it as just an “extra” more so than an investment, it isn’t worth your time. However, if you get the slightest inclination it is an investment, then include it.

Ultimately, with companies expanding and becoming more global, classroom training is becomes less practical. Research indicates that a combination of e-learning, classroom instruction, and one-on-one training makes for the best results for larger organizations.

Training is a valuable tool that every business can benefit from. You can help attract all-star employees, reduce turnover, improve camaraderie (so you can stop being a referee and focus on more important things), grow profits, improve communication (because business is about people), and so much more. The best part is that if you bring in the right trainer, you can reap all of these benefits and make your job a little bit easier while still getting a 10:1 return. How can you possibly say no to that?

Known for his pragmatic and passionate style, Brian Roberts is an author, speaker, and high profile trainer who helps organizations and people improve their performance. To contact him, e-mail or visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.