Why “We’ll send one person to a public course and then they can train the entire department” doesn’t actually improve productivity

Instead of investing in a customized training course on a key software tool for a group of employees, too many managers think the cheap route will work. They send one person on a public course with the instruction that when they get back they will teach the rest of the group what they learned. The thinking goes that the entire group will get the benefit of the training for just the cost of one course registration. This doesn’t work and never has.

Why do managers still do it? Because training is an expense that shows up in the income statement and low productivity doesn’t appear anywhere in financial statements. Managers are so focused on the quarterly financial reports that they miss the big picture of improving output and employee satisfaction through investing in the right training.

Problems with public software training courses

A software training course open to the public is a good option for an individual who is looking to improve their own skills or an organization who only has a few people to train and can’t afford a customized program. Public courses serve a purpose but don’t work when the purpose is to cut costs by sending one person on the course to teach others.

Because each participant on a public course is coming from a different situation and background, public courses need to make some assumptions. First, they assume a certain level of prior skill in the software tool, usually very low. The course material starts with the basics so that no one will feel left behind. This means that some participants may be bored for a while since they come with a higher prior skill level in the software. It also means that the more complex features may get a brief mention or not be covered at all and those may be the ones that will make the biggest impact in your business.

Second, public courses assume certain scenarios and how software features apply in those scenarios. This needs to be generic so that it can be seen to apply to a wide variety of situations that the participants come from. The problem is that these scenarios rarely match the exact scenario your staff faces. It is often difficult to see how the software features might apply to your scenario. A participant leaves confused at just how they are supposed to use what they learned.

Public courses are offered with per participant pricing. The vendor keeps the price low to make it affordable to individuals. The low cost is one of the attractions of the “send one person” approach. The problem is that the vendor can only afford to pay the instructors very little because they still need to make a profit. On a public course you usually don’t get industry experts teaching. Too often the instructor is only slightly more experienced than the participants and relies on reading the instructors manual to teach. This is not much better than online pre-recorded courses.

Unfair expectation of staff member

When a person is sent on a public software training course knowing that they are expected to teach everyone else what they learned when they return, it places an unfair burden on them. This can increase their stress level before they even enter the room for the training. Being stressed before the course does not lead to ideal learning.

As mentioned above, the course will be generic by design. Your staff member has to figure out how to apply the features to the situation back at the office. This is difficult to start with and made even more difficult when they have to think of all the different scenarios at the office. Business professionals don’t have the background or training to absorb material and think of the application in this way. It is unfair to expect them to have those skills. Software experts have those skills and that’s why they can customize a course to your exact needs.

When someone is learning new skills they are focused on absorbing what is taught and practicing it so they can use it later. It is unfair to add on the expectation that they also figure out how to teach it to others at the same time. Your staff member isn’t trained for that and if they are distracted thinking of how to teach the skills they will miss some of what is being taught.

Teaching skills to others is not as simple as just reciting the course manual. It is unfair to expect the staff member to remember everything that was taught and convey that to their colleagues. Expert instructors give examples, context, and can answer questions because they have the experience to do so. A staff member who has just learned the skills in the software should not be expected to do the same.

Learning a software feature and figuring out how to teach it to others is a skill unto itself. Your staff member is a professional in what they do and uses the software to make their job more efficient and effective. They are not skilled in figuring out how to teach newly learned skills and it is unfair to expect them to know how to do this. It takes practice and skill to figure out how to teach a feature so someone else can immediately start using it. My YouTube videos might be 8-10 minutes long but they take hours of preparation and years of practice on teaching software features.

The alternative: invest in customized training from an expert to get a large ROI

If sending one person on a public software training course doesn’t work, what does work if you want your group to become more efficient and effective using the software tools they use every day? Investing in a customized course from an expert will pay off immediately and the ROI will be large.

An expert will customize the course content and examples based on what your staff does. The material will be immediately applicable to their jobs. The expert will present the material in a way that is easy to understand and apply. And the expert will be able to answer the questions people have because they have seen so many similar situations in the past.

This takes a higher-level view of training. It isn’t an expense, it is an investment. One that will pay off in higher productivity and greater employee satisfaction. Your staff will be more efficient and be more effective. They will feel better because they can get more done in less time and know that they have left the old frustrating unproductive ways behind.

Don’t send one person on a public software training course and expect a miracle when they return. Invest in your people through a customized course from an expert.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 3.5 million times and liked over 14,000 times on YouTube.