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Stomping Out Scrap Resonates High on L&D Radar

By Kieran King

As part of SkillSoft’s series on “scrap learning,” last week I hosted a webinar on what scrap learning is, and shared practical ideas on how to drive it down.  Almost 500 registered to attend the webinar, Maximizing the ROI of Learning:  Five Techniques to Reduce “Scrap Learning,” representing talent professionals from firms all over the world. The response to the webinar was a clear indicator that increasing efficiency with L&D investments is top of mind, yet for the majority of attendees the term scrap learning was new.

Scrap learning is defined as learning that occurs but it is not successfully applied to the workplace.  The breakdown often happens in what is referred to as the learning transfer period.

Learning professionals can take action to ensure learning gets applied successfully, maximizing their return on investment. In our experience, there are five key ways to reduce scrap learning:

1. Embed learning into the workflow

2. Ensure quality content

3. Reinforce learning

4. Align learning

5. Enlist greater manager support


The attendees in the webinar were asked to weigh in on which technique they thought would have the biggest impact on reducing scrap learning in their organizations.  The last one, enlisting greater manager support, was selected as the most impactful technique by a wide margin.

In the webinar, I shared a definition and benchmark regarding scrap learning from KnowledgeAdvisors, the world’s largest learning analytics company.  KnowledgeAdvisors correlates any learning not applied to the job within a 6 week period as scrap learning.  KnowledgeAdvisors current average scrap learning benchmark is 65%.

I used this benchmark to give an example of the implications scrap learning has for budgets. An organization with a $1M training budget and a 65% scrap learning rate has $650,000 in unrealized training potential.  In a $10M training budget, that could mean as much as $6.5M scrap learning.  So, a modest reduction of 10% in scrap learning would mean a $100k impact for the $1M budget and a $1M impact to the $10M budget.  These kinds of figures demand action on our industry’s part, yet our field has done relatively little to consciously measure and reduce scrap.   SkillSoft is actively looking to collaborate with our clients to share these practices and stomp out scrap and increase ROI.

SkillSoft’s scrap learning rate is only 14% – significantly less than the industry average.  That means that 86% of our learning is applied to the job within a 6-week period.  SkillSoft’s commitment to content excellence, along with how easy it is to access our material, contributes to this low rate of scrap.  KnowledgeAdvisors also found that SkillSoft’s application rate was 11.6% better than other technology-based learning firms within their benchmarking database.

For details on the five key ways to reduce scrap learning, please take a look at SkillSoft’s Guide to Reducing Scrap Learning. You can download the guide here.  A recording of the webinar and the slides for Maximizing the ROI of Learning:  Five Techniques to Reduce “Scrap Learning” can be accessed here.

What are your thoughts on scrap learning? Are you concerned how scrap learning is affecting your training programs and ROI? Join the conversation!

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