Achieving Better

The limitations of one-size-fits-all training and development

With the rise of remote work, more organizations have been turning to “one-size-fits- all” training and development programs. While these programs serve an important purpose, there are limitations that significantly minimize return on investment.

In 2016, organizations spent $359 billion globally on training, and a study from that same year found that:

  • 75% of 1,500 managers surveyed from across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company’s Learning & Development (L&D) function.
  • 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs.
  • Only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs.
  • Only 25% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved performance.

In most training and development programs, employees are asked to participate in a workshop or virtual course that relies heavily on passive consumption of new material. This approach may be effective in providing a baseline understanding of effective leadership practices.

Yet, true development requires change, and understanding is a precursor for change, but not enough in and of itself. For example, most of our leadership development program participants know what a good leader should be doing, and they can discuss these concepts with ease. However, these same leaders are the first to admit that in the midst of their day-to-day demands and stresses of the job, they revert back to what feels most comfortable.

Moving employees from thinking and talking about leadership to becoming skillful and effective leaders requires a strategic, customized and research-based approach to designing development solutions.


Effective leadership development efforts “start at the top” and are grounded in the organization’s vision, values and strategic priorities. In an ideal scenario, senior leadership will influence the leadership development program design, embody the desired outcomes and champion and support employee participation and engagement.


Successful leadership development will include customized content so employees develop critical knowledge, skills and mindsets for executing on the strategic priorities. The design should also account for known or potential barriers to learning, including systemic challenges driven by organizational culture, previous development efforts that missed the mark and/or employee frustrations or concerns. This level of customization increases employee engagement since they are learning concepts that support their current and future success within the organization, while also accounting for their feedback and past efforts.


And, last but certainly not least, leadership development must embrace best practices for adult learning: self-directed exploration of content that is immediately useful in tackling day-to-day challenges, peer discussion and accountability, the opportunity to practice new skills and receive feedback in a low stakes setting and targeted coaching through the use of leadership assessments.

These best practices are critical in moving beyond passive learning, as they provide the necessities for true change: increased self-awareness and reflection, identification and coaching around any barriers standing in the way of personal success and the ability to practice and refine the new learning prior to implementing it in a high-stakes situation.

Catapult can help.

Your company is not one-size-fits-all, and our approach isn’t either. Our development plans and programs are for organizations who are committed to the growth and development of their leaders and teams to better create a lasting impact and meaningful results. Click here to learn more.


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