Instructor-Led Training Won’t Die, Here’s Why


Instructor-Led Training is not exactly “in” these days.

  • One recent study states the top 6 things workers believe are essential for Learning have nothing to do with Instructor-led Training and range from “Sharing knowledge with my team”, to “Web research for resources” to “External news feeds and blogs”. Way down the list at # 7 was “Company Training / e-learning”.
  • The “70-20-10 Theory of Learning” is alive and well in the Training industry where the belief  (this too is based on surveys) is that real corporate learning comes from 70% on the job experience, 20% from social encounters ( learning from co-workers or boss) and 10% from formal corporate (mostly instructor led) training.

I think the workers in the first study believe what they say about essentials for learning.  I know there are legions of L&D professionals who believe in the 70-20-10 Theory.

All would be wrong however.

Here’s what we’re all forgetting:   Corporate Instructor – Led (live or virtual) Training is more often than not, at the beginning of an essential foundational learning period (like onboarding or new hire training) or when something completely new or transformational is occurring (new products, new systems) and as such, this type of training falls in the realm of Primacy Theory.

Captain Sully Sullenberger knows this.   When his plane went down in the Hudson 7 years ago he talked at a conference about Primacy and not just the retrieval and leveraging of his skills learned in his earliest training days while flying- but spoke of his veteran crew of flight attendants screaming “Brace, brace, heads down, stay down! Brace, brace, heads down, stay down.”   This was not, he explained, what they were recently and for the last 5 years been trained to say in an emergency like this.   Rather the crew shouted out what they learned 20 years ago when they first were trained in emergency procedures.  Primacy Learning sticks.

Primacy Learning is a learning period that both psychologically and neurologically creates almost life long, unshakable connections to content delivered in this period.   It does so because it is in this period where learners make their first mental maps around new transformative ideas and literally in parts of the brain, hard wires these.    Core concepts in this type of training stick hard thus giving Instructor-Led Training a big leg up on real value vs.  being reason number #7 in the worker survey and the “10%” in learning theory of 70-20-10.

It’s not there aren’t other effective and sometimes cooler ways to learn than instructor led training – there are.  It’s not that people don’t perceptually think they learn 90% more about the job from experience and talking with others- they may in fact believe that.   The reality however, is that the Instructor-Led Training, especially when delivered in the primacy stages of learning, is the stuff that lies below your iceberg; you may not think that’s how you learned what do to at work because you don’t see it or consciously remember the instructor led training every day, but it is foundation upon which much of the other things you learn sit upon.

Never underestimate the investment you should make in Instructor-Led Training.  It’s critical.   It needs to be glorious.  It needs to be inspirational and correct.   Instructor Led Corporate Training today shouldn’t look like it did 10 years ago (obviously brain science has taught us much) but it will never die and we’ll hardly do anything more important.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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7 Killer Training Tactics You’ve Never Even Thought Of


Asking more of your corporate learners than ever before?  Are they challenged with having to remember more, perform better and deliver faster than ever?

No problem.

I’ve been training at some level all my working life.  But more importantly, I have been stealing shamelessly from amazing learning professionals for the last 20 years, many of whom I get to work with every day.

Time to Train it forward.

  1. Hide the product and show it to nobody. Product training? Keep it hidden.  Wrap in a blanket, hide it until the 27th slide and never give it a name until you absolutely must.   Instead focus 70% of your product training on what this product does and not what it is.   What problems this product solves or what opportunities it creates is what you obsessively train about!
  2. Quit asking people to participate in training. Instead, call on specific people to participate.  No volunteers unless you’ve already called on at least two people to answer questions or offer insight.  The small tension of not knowing when you might be called on (and potentially embarrassing yourself) is enough to force learners to focus harder (especially in virtual training) and thus retain and retrieve knowledge better.
  3. Training should be harder than you think. Adding a little more stress to training (live, virtual or self-directed) and the more likely it sticks.  Are learners nervous about the training?  Anxious?  Worried about a tough test at the end?     Remember to disregard all the adult learning theory blather from the 80’s you think is the gold standard and latch onto all the recent credible research about the brain and how people truly learn. 
  4. Video Should Be Part of Every Training. I still believe the skill of a training facilitator is the most important factor in any successful facilitated training.    And that’s why video is a win-win.   Every training should have a video element.  When it’s short (less than 3 minutes please) it’s therefor retrievable and repeatable and of course it’s imagery on steroids.  When done well, video can tackle aspects of learning that leave the facilitator able to focus on the application of learning and not obsessed with the X’s and O’s.
  5. Skip the positive feedback in role plays: Make it clear in advance of any role play (live or virtual) that we are all going to focus on what you can do better, not what you did well – we know what you did well, that’s fairly easy to see – so focusing equally on the good or “sandwiching” or “starting with the positive” is drivel and a waste of time.  We’re here to learn and drive performance, make more money or get promoted – let’s get to it!
  6. Every training should have a Game(s) element however small. There are so few humans who don’t take a little joy, a little pride out of winning something – and that adds focus.  Example: The learner or team with the most chips for great answers gets to leave a half hour early and skip the Wrap- Up ( heck they won- they probably don’t need the wrap up) or perhaps the winners take only the 5 question quiz ( again—they paid attention more and probably don’t need the 20 question quiz).  Here’s a fantastic book by Karl Kapp
  7. Flashcards Flashcards Flashcards: One recent neuroscience study proved we did get it right back in the day when the use of flashcards in corporate learning improved retrieval of information at a clip twice as effective as just studying the material.  Flashcard use actually leaves memory traces in the brain more resistant to forgetting.    Here’s a simple flashcard maker site I’ve used.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.