Management Training is a Waste of Money*

Between US$60-80 Billion is spent annually in the United States alone (2015 figures, so will be even more now) on Management training.  Yet only 20-30% of the skills learned during training actually result in on-the-job changes (Association for Talent Development – ATD, US).  In the UK, an average of £286 per employee per year is spent on training, with management training estimated to be a quarter of that total spend (CIPD – Chartered Institute of People and Development, 2014).  This equates to £3 Billion spent on Management training in the UK (2014 figures).  There is no reason not to expect this figure to have grown since then.  And yet we continue to see how ineffective US Management training is, and the UK continues to have a huge skills deficit, particularly within line management (International Labour Organisation – ILO, 2012; Leitch, 2006, CIPD, 2023, ATD 2022).  In New Zealand we can expect similar numbers, even though there are no studies to prove this, as our management training is repeating the mistakes of the US and UK.  Why is this?  

Management Training is a waste of money, that’s why.  But let me just qualify that statement ever so slightly – traditional and almost all current Management training in New Zealand is a waste of money!  Now let me present the evidence, and have patience because I will also tell you what Think Differently Group is doing about it.

A well-received and reviewed study at the University of Phoenix, that has been confirmed over numerous surveys and papers that appear in world-leading training organisations (ATD, People Management, CIPD, ILO) shows the following:

  • 26% of learning effectiveness is actually dependant on what happens before training even takes place.  This is the “pre-event” and is critical in providing participants with an effective mindset before starting the training process
  • 24% of learning effectiveness is dependant on the learning event itself – the content of the course
  • And 50% of learning effectiveness is dependant on what happens after the learning event – the follow-up

An ATD study found that 70% of training failures occur because the application environment – what happens after the course, on the job – is not conducive to fostering retention and follow through.  This follows with the traditional, and still common process in many companies that follows a well-trodden pathway – “we needed some training for our managers as they were not achieving, we put them on a course and 4 weeks later we see no change.  It was a waste of money!”

Management training is a waste of money.  The exceptions to this have less to do with content and more to do with what happens before and after training.

Since COVID, and even before COVID times, we have seen an explosion in on-line training courses.  They are seen as good value (cheap!), don’t interfere too much with managers busy workload and can be taken at the managers (or the companies) leisure.  But are these courses effective?

A recent article (Jack Phillips, Chairman of the ROI Institute, November 2023 – ROI Centre for Talent Measurement and Reporting) Phillips discussed the rapid growth of virtual learning and the problems arising from it.  To quote, Studies show that, even before the pandemic, virtual learning often breaks down when measured at the application level (using what was learned) and impact level (the business impact connected to learning).”  He identifies four key reasons for this:

  • Multitasking inhibits learning.  Research shows us that multitasking reduces a participant’s ability to learn, and I’m sure as we have all witnessed in virtual conferences, meetings and on-line sessions, multitasking runs rampant!
  • Manager support is usually missing.  Often a person’s manager doesn’t know when training is taking place, has little involvement in it, and is unlikely to be involved in any follow through either
  • Virtual programmes are designed for learning, not application and impact.  In other words, virtual learning programmes are focused on content rather than effectiveness
  • Technology challenges and connectivity issues can happen to anyone and can have negative consequences for inexperienced users

So Virtual Management Training is a Waste of Money!

So what is Think Differently Group doing about this?  Yes, we are getting into the Management Training space!  To help both our clients and those that currently are not using our services.  And not surprisingly this training is designed to be effective and NOT a waste of money.  Think Differently Group’s “Management for the Real World” (Effective Management Training) details:

  • Designed specifically for new and developing Managers
  • At the Think Differently Offices, in person
  • Delivered over four half-days over a period of four weeks 
  • There will be a maximum of 5 participants – as per the research this will allow for 

significant individual as well as group work

  • The first Effective Management Course is set for March 2024.  It will start on Friday 8th March 2024, at 8am, ending at 12 noon on that first day
  • It will continue on each Friday from the 8th March – Friday 15th March, 22nd and 29th March 2024, at the same times – 8am to 12 noon 
  • Pre-work will commence in the week beginning 19th February 2024 and will include the completion and one-on-one review of an EDISC profile for each participant, as well as the completion of a pre-course SWOT by each participant
  • At the end of each weeks programme there is a “homework” assignment set that will be reviewed at the commencement of the next weeks course.  This assignment will reflect the weeks course work and be relevant to each participants specific role
  • At the completion of the course work an “Intentions Worksheet” is prepared by each attendee which will be followed up and reviewed by Think Differently weekly for another 4 weeks.  This Intentions Worksheet will need to be shared with the participants Manager immediately after the completion of course work, and the follow up will end with an in-person review attended by the participant, their manager, and the Think Differently facilitator
  • Cost: $2,495 + GST per attendee, which includes the cost of an EDISC profile, pre-work review, course work, and 4 weeks of follow up after the course, including the post course review meeting 
  • Note: For current clients of Think Differently, a discount will apply – course cost will be $1,995 +GST per participant 
  • Note: The Effective Management Course will take place in March, even if there are less than 5 attendees

We are excited by this new service.  Initially the course will be delivered by myself, so we can fine tune where necessary in the knowledge that other Think Differently Group people will facilitate the course in future, as well as myself. In other words, I am passionate about this, want to get it off the ground, improve it incrementally, and ensure it plays a significant role in the future of the Think Differently Group.

Happy New Year to you all and lets look forward to a 2024 of opportunity.


Phil Pickford

*Patrick Bosworth, Association of Talent Development, 2015; Rachel Lewis, Associate Professor, Kingston Business School, Kingston University, London

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