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focus_Reducing Scrap Learning

Reducing Scrap Learning

By Mary Myers

Scrap learning has become the new buzz word in the learning community. Understanding scrap learning and how it impacts business is key to having a smart conversation in your organization.

What does scrap learning mean in your organization? To have a real-world example, let’s look at the 2015 MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus scare that hit the world. This was a deadly virus that traveled around the globe with lethal impact. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) took a leadership role and provided us with ongoing updates.

What they failed to do was make sure the training that was provided to accounts did not become scrap learning. If you review the news, the CDC sent a DVD video to all U.S.-based hospital emergency rooms and thought that if the ER or hospital staff watched the video, that they would be trained and somehow behavior would change and new ways of doing business would happen. We all know training isn’t that easy. Not only do different learners absorb training in different ways, but some people have to unlearn old habits in order to build new and better ones. Since results can vary between learners, training has the responsibility to “meet people where they live.” To use another idiom, we sometimes have to lead the horse to water, and make sure it’s drinking.

What was learned specifically from the CDC training at a hospital in Texas is that the video was watched but nothing changed as far as protocols. There was no hands-on or job-related training taking place and no one knew what their specific role and responsibility was if a patient with MERS-like symptoms appeared in the emergency room. While there was valuable information in the video, a good training plan needs much more than just exposure to knowledge.

This is just one example, however it’s an important story that has applications to all of our organizations. We have all gone through mission-critical training challenges, in the form of change management, new diversity training, systems training or other types of skill training. If this training is not embedded into clear work expectations and reinforced by every member of the team, then it would be ludicrous to expect any change to occur. Learning becomes scrap, in other words. So does the sometimes massive investment into the training.

There is evidence that shows learning or knowledge acquired is significantly lost after just 30 days, if no supportive or add-on training occurs. One has to wonder why organizations continue to do event training just to check a box and then blame the training when nothing happens or changes. Everything important we do in life – relationships, religion, parenting – requires a steady stream of communication, support and growth. Education is no different.

If we truly want to change behavior and make training stick, then we must create methods to refine and reinforce the training provided to build memory muscle and impact change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share your ideas on how you avoid scrap learning, what special attention you give to important training or even some of your hard-learned lessons. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, we may have come to this place on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.


Mary Myers is president of LTEN and director of training for Bayer HealthCare. Email Mary at

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