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Tackling wasted training efforts with “Lean Learning”

Post by
Max Korpinen
Tackling wasted training efforts with “Lean Learning”

With the constant changes we see in technology, jobs and economy, training is obviously crucial for the success of any company. If you’re not leveraging the best tech and jumping on the new trends, you’ll be left behind. However, are we really getting the benefits out of our L&D investments?

Companies spend huge amounts of money on training

We do spend a lot of money on learning and development (L&D). That’s good, right? Just in the US alone, companies spent 170 billion dollars on training last year (2019). With this sum, you could take all the people of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark out to a fancy lunch every day for a year. The L&D spend is quite impressive globally as well: about 370 billion USD - about the same amount as Hong Kong’s GDP - is spent on training every year around the world.

L&D initiatives are notoriously unsuccessful

You can’t not be impressed looking at those numbers. What a great age to be working in HR! Well… Next, let’s think about the following statistics:

  • 75% of managers are dissatisfied with their companies’ learning and development functions
  • According to some estimates, only about 30% of youth training programs are successful
  • 70% of employees report not having mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs according to Gartner
  • Only about 12% of employees apply the skills learned in their companies’ L&D programs

That’s right. 370 000 000 000 USD spent on... What, exactly? Mostly waste.

Can we do better with “Lean Learning”?

Talbit has been looking at the problems in the L&D industry from many angles, and one concept that has been successfully improving training effectiveness is Lean. Here are some ideas on how to maximise training value while minimizing waste.

How to learn? By doing: Bryan Caplin in his book “The Case Against Education” points out that most learning happens for the wrong reasons - we educate ourselves mainly in order to show that we can stick to something, not in order to learn tangible skills that will help us in our jobs. This is a huge waste of time and resources. 

Best type of education for most people would simply be to work, and learn whenever they come across things they don’t know about.

When to learn? “Just in time”: We should be encouraged to take on new responsibilities, and when we run into problems, then we should learn about those problems.

Transfer of learning from classroom to practice is very unreliable, partly because when we learn something without any practical or immediate use-cases, we never use the newly acquired skills. And then we forget. When we put our learnings to use immediately, then it sticks!

What to learn? Ask management for direction: In order to encourage employees take on new responsibilities and learn by doing, somebody needs to actively communicate about the big-picture strategy and direction of the company.

When everyone is conscious about where the company is headed, the encouragement to learn by doing is much more effective

Did it work? Close the feedback loop: In order to help everyone’s individual progress, we should openly and actively communicate what has gone well and where we should improve. By fostering open communication about the results of your team’s work goals, everyone in the team knows what to keep on doing and what to improve on.


We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic, so feel free to leave us a comment, or get in touch if you’d like to chat more about modern talent development.