L & D Practices

10 L&D Worst Practices Everyone Must Know

Best practices have a common popularity among business people.  This is a great way to incite quality work but, it’s also easy to see how Learning and Development (L&D) may have trouble identifying what those best practices consist of. Therefore, in good StyleLearn fashion, here are some great worst practices with the hope enabling anyone (learning professional or not) to recognize poorly design training strategies.

Worst Practices

1. Don’t Analyze Business Needs

Worst practice number one gets to the root of every failed training program out there: No one knows why training is needed.  In another article, I simplified this analysis for those that are not instructional designers.  I refer to it as Knowledge, Context and Application.

Training is about transfer of knowledge and skills; if you don’t determine first what knowledge is required and the skills needed, how can you effectively addressed them?

2. Avoid Learning Objectives

Not using learning objectives reiterates that your training does not have a succinct purpose.  It also could show that the training content is out of sequence and not aligned with primary business objectives for the knowledge and skills needed.

3. Design Training for People to Understand

Poorly written learning objectives are worst than avoiding them.  A clear sign of a training author with little knowledge of adult learning theories is the abundant use of the verb “Understand” for learning objectives.  Understanding is part of the learning process.  However, understanding does little for workplace learning effectiveness as it’s hard to measure.  Your company is not successful in its industry because it simply understands its customers.  It’s more likely that its success derives from knowing what to do, when to do it and achieving expected outcomes.

4. Use Training as Information Delivery

Go back to number one on this list and read how training is defined.  Everyone needs information but, information is not needed as a training exercise.  Instead, provide people with training on how to find information resources.

5. Based Everything in Learning Styles

Horrible practices of cognitive overload led to someone marketing learning styles.  The notion is that training should be designed according to an audience’s preference of format.  This is primarily concerned with Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic abilities. For example; those who are visual learners need to see illustrations of content for better knowledge transfer.  However, a PowerPoint presentation with 50 plus slides full of text on accounting principles is sure to make anyone wish for another way to learn the content.  It’s equally hard to learn how to drive a car without actually driving one or a simulation of the same.

6. Use Training as Performance Correction

Training may equip someone with the knowledge and skills to do a job.  However, training does not guarantee high performance.  If people demonstrate they know what’s needed and how to do it; then, lack of performance has to do with something else beside training i.e. environment, personal issue, process, etc.  Organizations that use training as performance correction cycle learners through the same failed learning experience over and over hoping for a different outcome.

7. Ask for Training Acknowledgments

If the law requires it; then, sure, go ahead.  However, acknowledgments from employees confirming they completed training take away the element of accountability as adults.  This is usually a Human Resources (HR) tactic to substantiate termination decisions.  Most Learning Management Systems (LMSs) track participation and completions already.  You want learners on your side, not against you.

8. Have SMEs Develop Training

A Subject Matter Expert or SME is a term used rather loosely in business.  A true SME is an authority in the particular field they work in.  In most cases, SMEs are actually high performing workers in their occupation.  Although their knowledge is of great value to the organization, SMEs are usually not cognizant of instructional design and learning theories.  Therefore, they would tend to design training as if it was meant for themselves and this often leaves the needs of many learners out. They would often think “I learned it this way so, why can’t you?”.

9. Rush Training Development

Would you like to see a Broadway musical put together in one day?  This is the same impression rushed training may leave on learners.  However, this is often a sign of deficient project management skills from business leaders as L&D is often the last to find out training is needed.

10. Make Instructor Led Training Your Primary Method

Instructor Led Training or ILT is antiquated and if poorly designed, very expensive.  This is also more relevant if its delivery is lecture based.  ILT should be about 20% to 30% of the training delivered in an organization.  Its main disadvantages are that it’s limited by time and space.  It happens once and at a certain place; after that, there’s not much opportunity to relive the same learning experience.   Also, its effectiveness for knowledge transfer is highly dependent on the abilities of each trainer delivering it.

Wrap Up

Well, as you’ve seen here most people seem to focus on best practices but, not many really know what those are.  This post has share the 10 Worst L&D practices so you can spot them and always avoid them.  If you do this, you are sure to make a big difference in your training design and strategic results.


Posted in Instructional Models, L&D, Training and Development and tagged , , .

Alexander Salas

eLearning, technology, gamification, workplace learning, instructional design and creativity are my enduring passions in life. I breathe when I create. Leave a comment, let’s connect on LinkedIn and share experiences. The rest of the time I manage an LMS, eLearning communities and speak at learning conferences #humblebrag


  1. Great piece of advice. I think that pointing out the best and worst practices is a helpful exercise to diagnose the current status of our own organization on L&D matters. Thanks!

  2. Spot on, for most of these I agree and offer a tweak to number 6. Training can and should guarantee high performance, when training is the appropriate solution. Sadly, as you might intend here, it too often falls short, or is even not the correct intervention.

    • Hi Miki,

      I somewhat agree with your notion. If we agree that training is about the transfer of knowledge and skills; then we can’t assume that would lead to high performance. Performance support strategies and systems are needed to truly achieve this. A group of police officers can be trained at the same academy but, their performance would vary according to many factors i.e. leadership, environment, etc. Thank you for joining the discussion everyone!

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