Welcome to the Learning Transfer Guru Blog

Learning transfer--or the lack thereof--is the #1 problem in training today. This is the official blog of Dr. Ed Holton, international expert on training transfer. Join us to explore and discuss how to fix this critical problem.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Trillion Dollar Training Problem

First, welcome to my new blog. I finally decided to try out the wide world of blogging to see what this is all about.  I am excited about sharing my ideas and thoughts about the wonderful profession of training and particularly transfer of training.

We all have heard a lot lately about the "trillion dollar" problem of bailing out the banks and automakers to restore the economy.  What if I told you that we have a TRILLION DOLLAR TRAINING PROBLEM.  That's right, trillion with a "T."

The problem is transfer of training--that is, that only 15-30% of training transfers into actual use on the job to improve performance.  Here's how I see it.  Last year organizations spent $134 BILLION dollars on training in the U.S (according to ASTD).  That means that somewhere around $100 billion of it was wasted!!! And that is only the direct cost of training--not the salaries of the people who sat in the classroom.  That alone is a huge number that ought to get us alarmed.

But wait--it gets worse.  Research also tells us that an 8:1 return on investment is pretty typical for good training.  That means that the $100 billion we wasted would have returned about $800 billion in performance improvement if we had done the right things to make training transfer happen. 

Throw in some money for all the wasted wages and salaries of the trainees and we have a 


That's right.....each YEAR we waste as much money as the U.S. government is spending to bail out the banks, AIG and the automakers.....EACH YEAR I said.  

Imagine what the cost is worldwide.....the cost must be staggering.

I am fed up with accepting this in our profession. It is way past time that we got better.  No other profession could get away with telling their CEO they are wasting 70-85% of the money they spend...why should we.  

I for one am committed to doing something about it.  Stay tuned to this blog and my other feeds and let's join together to fix this problem in our profession.


  1. Dear Dr.Holton,

    I really appreciate your figures and facts. Yes its an our part to give ROI on every cent Business World spent on our Profession. In my experience as HR Professional also i'm very keen to give Training Impact Report to Management. But still i feel we have to come up some amount of Quantitative Measurements. It remainder me one of my boss use to say every thing can be calculated in mathematics in the world except love.

    I strongly appreciate and support your point of view on creating more meaningful and measurement oriented training.

    I hope your blog give great inputs towards this

    Shiva Tadi

  2. So true, Dr. Holton, so much money wasted. As a contract trainer, I work with my clients to try and measure the transfer of learning, but many are resistant to even the most passive steps. Many see training as a perk or feel good thing and we can no longer afford the giant waste of time and money when very little is taken back and applied on the job.

  3. The key here must lie in the position of training in the corporate culture. Training can only work if the culture allows it. Culture is what management does (rather than what it says). This is why the role of the manager is so crucial in the transfer of training. To me this is a key element in any work to improve the transfer of training to the workplace.

  4. Hi Ed: I definitely get your point but I don't get your math.

    If 15% transfers into actual use on the job then 85% is wasted. 85% of $134 Billion means $113.9 Billion is wasted! At a RIO of 8:1 then $911.2 Billion is wasted. Yes it is still a trillion+ dollar problem. I think it is easier to support and more credible to use actual numbers and then generalize from there. Jumm not sure if I should get the book.