Need to Keep Your Training Alive? Start with the Why

One of the first things our partners hear from clients after launching a new program with TotalSDI is, “That was awesome!” Then comes the big question … “So how do we keep the message alive?”

Ah, yes, sustainability … or, as I like to call it, the 800-pound gorilla.

Unfortunately, research suggests that most training doesn’t create a lasting impact. Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff, an internationally recognized expert in training effectiveness and author of eight books in the field, estimates that less than 50 percent of training and development initiatives result in sustained behavior change that aligns with organizational performance improvement goals.

Fortunately, TotalSDI provides a suite of tools that are designed to create sustainable training that tips the scales of Brinkerhoff’s research in favor of success for your clients.


First, TotalSDI assessments are easy to take and the results are intuitively accurate for the people who take them. In other words, they buy in because the results align with what they know about themselves and the world around them. Second, the personalized assessment reports are easy to understand and provide a simple, common language that teams can use for weeks, months, and years.

As a consultant or coach, however, you need to do your part to keep your message alive. There are several ways to do that, but one that’s often overlooked takes place before you ever launch your program or initiative with your client: Start with the Why.

Here are three tips on how to start with the why when using TotalSDI.

Align on the Strategy. Your program must support the organization’s strategy. In other words, how will your training teach new skills that are needed and how will success be measured? Once there is clarity around what needs to improve, you and your stakeholders can better determine how to make those improvements.

Share the word. Don’t limit this clear sense of purpose to a few organizational executives. Everyone who might be touched by the training needs to understand the reasons behind it and how the training will affect the way teams work together going forward. For example, the SDI provides a common language for talking about relationships, more effective ways of providing feedback and preventing conflict, and a path to choosing strengths that make people more effective in a variety of situations–all of which should be integrated into the culture of the organization.

This process often begins at the top with a written or video endorsement by an executive sponsor. In some cases, a division head or vice president will graciously offer to kick-off each event with some brief remarks.

Meet in Advance. A classroom introduction, however, shouldn’t be the first time learners hear that company executives care about the training. Managers or supervisors should meet with direct reports who will attend the training to explain why it’s important for the organization, team, and individual. The focus should be on specifics: How particular aspects of the training can address specific issues they are facing with a tie back to the bigger picture of organizational performance. In other words, managers should connect the dots for people.

If this sounds like a lot of extra work for managers who are already swimming in extra work, it’s not. These pre-training conversations can be a brief as 20-minutes and incorporated into regular coaching sessions or weekly one-on-one meetings. My next blog will provide a brief outline of what these meetings should cover, and we can provide additional guidance or provide in-person or webinar-based training for large-scale implementations.

Bottom Line: People should never arrive at training without a clear understanding of why they’re there, what they should focus on, and how much their immediate supervisor cares.

Next week: How to lead a pre-training conversation.

mike-headshotDr. Mike Patterson is a principal at PSP in Carlsbad, Calif. and an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology.

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