The Effectiveness of Negotiation Training

Hal Movius
Negotiation Journal
October 2008

In the last twenty-five years negotiation has become widely recognized both as a topic of serious research and as an essential, frequently used set of skills. Organizations currently spend tens of billions of dollars annually on training, and mounting evidence suggests that training in interpersonal and problem-solving domains typically has a significantly positive effect. But little systematic research has been conducted concerning the actual effectiveness of negotiation training. This article reviews the available evidence regarding the effectiveness of negotiation training using four levels of outcome measurement. While far less prevalent than one would wish, existing evidence suggests that negotiation training can have positive effects. In this article, I review the specific effects of different teaching methods, and recommend additional research.

Introduction

In the last twenty-five years negotiation has become widely recognized both as a topic of serious research and as an essential, frequently used set of skills (Lax and Sebenius 1986; Susskind and Cruikshank 1987; Fisher,Ury, and Patton 1991; Wall and Blum 1991; Bazerman and Neale 1992; Thompson 2001). Given that organizations in the United States alone spent an estimated $129 billion on learning and development in 2006 (Rivera and Paradise 2006), it seems possible that organizations globally have spent billions of dollars on negotiation training over the last decade. Presumably such investment is designed to help trainees to become better negotiators and thus to improve the outcomes, processes, and relationships associated with their negotiations.

Despite the growth of the field and the investment in negotiation training by organizations, and despite mounting evidence that training in interpersonal and problem-solving domains typically has a significant and positive effect (Arthur et al. 2003), little systematic research has been carried out concerning the effectiveness of negotiation training. In 1995, Morton Deutsch summarized the state of knowledge about negotiation training effectiveness in this way:

There is an appalling lack of research on the various aspects of training in this field.We haven’t begun to collect the type of data
that answers such questions as who benefits and how, and through what type of training, for how long, by what trainers, and in what circumstances (quoted in Coleman and Lim 2001: 364).

In the thirteen years since this rather harsh assessment, somewhat more has been learned, if not as much as one might hope. The purpose of this article is to review what is currently known about the effectiveness of negotiation training. It is divided into three parts. The first section reviews what has been meant by negotiation training, in pedagogical terms. More specifically it discusses both what has been taught and how it has been taught. In this section, I also review the kinds of outcomes that organizations and researchers have sought to measure and outline the challenges associated with each type of measurement. In the second section, I review the available research on the effects of negotiation training, including intervening variables. In the final section, I present conclusions and remaining questions, and recommend further research and measurement, at both the individual and organizational levels.

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