Training That People Can Believe In

“I’m just another prisoner in a stupid training program.” That’s how people feel when they are force-fed training that seems neither applicable nor relevant to them.

According to Statista, “Corporate training expenditure in the United States increased by almost 10 billion in 2021. Following a dramatic increase of over 20 billion U.S. dollars from 2016 to 2017, total expenditure on workplace training in the United States dropped from 93.6 billion in 2017 to 82.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 before climbing to 92.3 billion in 2021.”  I wonder how much of that investment was wasted because participants did not see the training as either relevant or applicable to them.

Here’s a TeamStage 2022 blog which revealed the following statistics that should catch your attention:


  1. Ineffective training costs companies $13.5 million per 1000 employees annually.
  2. 94% of employees would stick with an organization longer if it invested in their training.
  3. 74% of workers consider lack of development programs as the reason they’re not unlocking their full potential.
  4. 70% of surveyed workers would be tempted to leave their current workplace for a company that invests in employee development.


Clearly there is a critical need for effective training.  Yet not just any training!  It must be relevant and applicable training that participants can believe in and embrace.  This requires that participants’ negative learning filters are eliminated.


What are Negative Learning Filters?

Those charged with educating students and adult workers know negative learning filters all too well when facing a group of skeptics who each bring their own set of filters to class.  This is what they say (or think):

  • “I don’t need the information because it isn’t relevant or applicable to me.”
  • “I already know this stuff, so it is a waste of my time.”
  • “This is just general content that doesn’t apply to my unique and specific situation.”

Enter Instrumented Learning. Instrumented learning is the name given to learning that incorporates some form of assessment which each class participant has completed prior to training.  The assessment usually measures some aspect of the knowledge, behavior, or acumen of each participant, and it is benchmarked against a norm (such as a mean score or group score). 

The participant supplies the information requested on the assessment based on what he or she knows, prefers, or believes.  Since it is his or her own data, it is both accepted and trusted, laying the foundation for an effective learning experience.


Instrumented Learning Case Study 1: Team Dysfunction

Stacey Watts supervises a department that is characterized by low levels of cooperation, poor communications, and an ‘us versus them’ mentality.  She believes the dysfunction is caused or exacerbated by behavioral conflict.  If Stacey gathered her staff together and told them, “We have a problem – let me tell you what it is and how we are going to fix it,” she would expect that a general session of grievances would follow with finger pointing, blame assignment, and a lack of buy-in to Stacey’s solution.  While most participants would agree with Stacey there is a problem, few believe that they themselves could be contributing to it.  

Stacey decided to use an instrumented learning approach to solving this problem.  She first administered a behavioral assessment (such as DISC or Myers-Briggs) to each participant to better understand the different behavioral styles on her team.  Because each participant took the behavioral assessment using his or her own answers, participants more readily accepted the results as accurate and relevant to themselves.

She followed completion of the assessments by coming together as a group to learn about what each person’s assessment reports said about them.  Engagement was high because people are usually eager to learn about themselves.

Once the concept of behavioral styles was understood on a personal level, participants were exposed to the profiles of their coworkers and could see specific areas in which two people’s behavioral approach was either complementary or in conflict.  As a result, participants were able to see how the many behavioral styles at work in the department contributed to the dysfunction. 

The stage was now set for some “Aha! Moments.”  Here are four key learnings that followed, that participants accepted and agreed upon:

  • People are behaviorally different from one another, so in order to be a better teammate, each person needed to respect those differences.
  • Respect equates to understanding the other person’s behavioral worldview and adjusting one’s own approach in order to work more effectively with each fellow staffer.
  • Prior to training, wrong motives had been assigned to explain how people were acting towards one another. Participants understood the fallacy of this thinking and stopped this divisive practice.
  • As a result of instrumented learning people were more comfortable with the behavioral diversity of fellow staffers and began to appreciate the relative strengths each person contributed to the team.

Stacey’s team had a training session each participant could believe in.


Instrumented Learning Case Study 2: Leveling Up Leadership Skills

Glenn MacDuffie was tasked by corporate with implementing a leadership development program for his team of eight people. After meeting with his team for suggestions of specific topics, he realized that people on the team were at different levels of experience and skill, and that general training would not be specific enough to raise individual competencies.


Glenn decided that the right place to start was to administer a leadership competence assessment (such as the DNA-25 or Leatherman Leadership Questionnaire) to measure his team across a number of essential personal (not technical) leadership and management skills. The assessment would compare individual results to known benchmarks and identify areas of both individual need and group need. 

Once he had the results Glenn sat down with each team member to discuss his or her results.  Glenn and the team member developed a personal learning plan based on his or her needs, role, and specific work objectives.  Group training was chosen to close the knowledge gap in those areas in which the group needed to improve, while individual training and coaching would close individual’s knowledge gaps.

The team was re-assessed in 10 months to measure learning outcomes and competence improvements.  Glenn’s staff all agreed that their assessment and training approach was one in which each participant could believe in.


Bottom Line

Learning is of little value if it is not retained and utilized to effect change. 

Whenever someone is presented with a learning opportunity, a natural response is to engage his or her “learning filters.” Instrumented learning is a way to remove someone’s learning filters so that:

  • Learning engagement is dramatically increased.
  • Participants buy-in is raised for what is being taught.
  • Learning outcomes are improved as participant now confidently apply what they have learned.

Consider how you could affect positive change with your learning opportunities by taking an instrumented learning approach to dealing with people’s natural learning filters.  

About me: For the past 25 years I’ve worked with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. Over the last decade our B2B Sales Essentials™ program has won numerous awards.  I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s highly regarded career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search.  To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982. 


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