Seven Deadly Sins of Training


Concepts are built using shorthand labels rather than the full use of language. Concepts are built without clear linkage. The “So what?” test of concepts is failed. Trainees leave with different interpretations of concepts when there should be one interpretation. Insufficient case studies, role plays or practice sessions/projects are used to place concepts into context.

Trainees using the concepts in their day-to-day activities make errors in interpretation and application of concepts without realising it.


Training needs are assumed and not analysed. Instructional designers start at “learning outcomes” rather than business outcomes. Instructional designers start with “intended audience” rather than “who needs training, where and when do they work, how are they managed and what are they measured on?”

Trainers, instructional designers and subject matter experts do not work collaboratively to determine what impact the training should have at Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation:

  1. Did the trainees like the training?
  2. Did the trainees remember the training?
  3. Did the trainees change their behaviour?
  4. Did the business outcomes change?

Trainers and business unit managers do not measure the impact the training did have at Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation.

The return on investment of training is unknown. However, it is guaranteed to be low.


Trainers train in their own preferred style. They ignore the preferred style of the trainees. Training is more about the trainer’s delivery than the trainee’s learning. Silver bullet training programmes are the norm. For example, complex, physically demanding outdoor “team-building” activities are used when the issue which needs to be addressed is communication rather than trust.

Games are used for all training events or ignored because they do not suit the trainer. Online training is used almost exclusively when other mediums are more suitable, or online training is ignored in favour of face-to-face training.

Trainees do not learn what is needed as efficiently and effectively as possible. Organisations achieve a low return on investment.


Training is aimed at the first level of Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation only. Training is fun. The training event is memorable but the content is not. Concepts are taught, but how to use them in the trainee’s context is not. Training is “off-the-shelf” and applied the same way with the same material to all attendees.

The same training process is used no matter what the audience. “Icebreakers” are used habitually when everyone knows each other. “Icebreakers” are used with senior managers who have little time to spare for training and need to get to the heart of the matter they are learning.

Trainees may remember what they are taught, but cannot use it in the workplace. Return on investment is extremely low.


The training material used attempts to teach more than three concepts in 90 minutes. The concept of limits to the capacity of short term memory to retain and process chunks of information is ignored. Training is not delivered in chunks that can be internalised by average trainees.

Graphics, written words and sounds are used at the same time to explain and emphasise a concept.

Trainees do not remember what they are taught.


Trainers remain aloof from their audience. They do little or no research on their audience. Consequently, they use terms which do not gel with their audience. They describe situations which do not happen in the audience’s day-to-day life to provide context for a concept.

Trainers dress inappropriately for their audience and the training being conducted. For example, wearing a suit and tie to train truck drivers on safety, or wearing shorts and a polo shirt to train business people on performance management techniques would both result in doubts about the trainer’s knowledge of their topic.

Trainers do not warm to their audience. The audience does not warm to the trainer. Rapport is absent. Trust is, therefore, absent.

Trainees do not learn as they do not believe what they are hearing and seeing.


Theory clashes with practice during the training. For example, a training session on optimising workflow has a haphazard approach to registration, distribution of training materials, seating and allocation of people to syndicate sessions.

Theories espoused during the training suggest opposite causes and effect.

Words said in response to questions run counter to information provided in the formal material.

Concepts developed in training run counter to organisational policy. Concepts developed in training run counter to organisational culture.

Trainees do not learn as they do not see the concepts as being relevant to their day-to-day working life.

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