Soft Skills Training – An investment with ROI or a Robbery ?

I recently read an article by Rajeev Peshwaria in Forbes titled  ” The Great Training Robbery: Why the $60 Billion Investment In Leadership Development Is Not Working” .

The timing was right – we had just completed a bunch of training for our team and while everyone enjoyed the sessions the verdict on what its efficacy would be over the long run was debatable.

Clearly Corporate HR managers see dwindling value from Training investment. When I joined my first job in the early 90’s Induction Training was a 30 day residential affair. Today most companies say learn on the job after a 1/2 day induction. You can’t blame the HR folks – there is a linkage to this with attrition – and the CFO questions the ROI on the investment. In the 90’s of a batch of 30 inductees every year you probably lost 1 at the end of the year, today you may lose the whole batch in 6 months . So why be a Training academy is the question.  If you look at it from this aspect yes investment in Training does feel like a Training Robbery.


Lets look at the millions spent on Training mid and Sr management. People entrenched in the company in the mid 30’s or early 40’s. Most come with strong mindsets and getting them out of their mould itself is a big job. Many more come thinking this is my 6 monthly off day to get a break that HR has officially planned. There are hundreds of companies  evangelising content around Communication, Creative Thinking, Presentation Skills, Emotional Intelligence, Outbound Workshops on Team Building …….. and many many more. Most of these companies do a  good job. The content is brilliant, the Trainers do a great job and if you see the feedback form at the end of the session it almost always a WOW – but the Q is how long does this effect retain, is it practised, is there a change in habit – you need all this to show that the impact and ROI has happened.

Learning Pyramid

The standard learning pyramid says that training stickiness improves when the participant not just listens , but practises what he learns in real life. But the Q is how do you make that happen ?

In the last 6 months we have conducted two different set of programs by the same company and faculty (BlueChakra Talent –, Faculty – Papiya Sarkar). The first program was for our team of Trainers – a motley group of  highly stressed out trainers who needed direction , advanced skills and tools to energise themselves.  The second program was for the sales team  on Communication tools to be effective in Negotiation & Objection handling. The content was customised and prepared after months of close discussions with Business and after talking to all the stakeholders. The delivery in both cases were by the same faculty and their facilitation skills were excellent – however one program was a HIT and is now on a journey that has changed the lives of the Trainers. On the second program for the sales team the verdict is still not out – but my feeling is that the halo effect will slowly diminish in a few months and all will be forgotten.



There are 3 Things that made the 1st program for the Trainers successful

1. There was a NEED. The content was customised to that NEED. The team size was small and the approach was consultative and warm. It felt homely and comfortable to ask Q, clarify, reach out both during the program and after.

2. There was CONTINUITY. The first session had mixed feedback. Participant feedback ranged from this may not work  –  to I know it all. There was a sense of concern – on why this program, are we not good enough. But once we started doing this on a  quarterly basis the rhythm set in and people started seeing the value.

3. The COACH helped a lot and the lead Trainer was always there. The amazing content and tools would have gone down the drain if the coach from the company (Mentor Trainer) had not worked with each individual in the  3 months post the session to inculcate all the learnings. His patience and commitment made all the difference in making the learnings practicable and relevant. Once the participants practised and saw the improvements – it stuck, gave them the confidence to to do it more often till it became a HABIT.

The second program lacked a COACH. the sales managers were busy with their job and just worried about the targets. They could not spend time with the 25 + reportees they had on a  regular basis. HR was not involved – and even if involved could not have made an impact as this is a job of the line mangers to inculcate the learnings.


In summary – I don’t agree with the article in FORBES which says that Training is a Robbery. But if the organisation and the manager do not invest in making the Training Investment a Habit – then yes it will definitely be a investment down the drain. So to deliver value lets Train our managers to be good Coaches – because there are so many skills to be learnt and improved if we want our teams to succeed and grow and be relevant in the fast changing economy.


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