Why most corporate training is useless!
Many large institutions in both the public and private sector have budgets each year for staff development. All around the world and in Nigeria, these amounts going into millions of naira and dollars as the case may be are spent putting employees into classrooms and offering them training in a variety of areas to help them improve their skills in these areas and bolster their overall productivity.
As organisations get larger, training becomes the response to every employee under-performance. When individuals or teams within an organisation are not meeting their goals, the organisations’ leaders and human resources professionals respond quickly by sending them on ‘training’.
The challenge is that most times the employees come back from the training, and many months later the under-performance persists, and before you know it, it is a new year, a new training cycle, a new training budget, and these same employees are back into the classroom again, getting trained while the human resources and organisational leaders are ticking boxes, and scoring high marks themselves for training that is unfortunately, useless.
As a human resources manager within the pension industry a decade ago, I was always approached by employees especially managers looking for one ‘training’ or the other. My answer was always simple – instead of asking for more training, I should be asking – how much learning have you and your team members done with all the training you have received.
Creating a learning organisation, where employees and their managers are focused on self-motivated learning, innovation and change is much more valuable than creating an organization where line and human resources managers are praised for achieving three trainings per year (two local and one international – especially pre-economic recession).
My take is that we do not need a recession to get us to change our approach to workplace learning, and in fact, organisations who have these banal approaches to training and then decide to cut budgets during a recession, even stand a greater risk of continuous failure as a business.
After all, like my mother told me many years ago: ‘the day you stop learning is the day you start dying”. The challenge is therefore the same for organisations – if your only source of learning was these “box-ticking” training interventions that you have now cut because of an economic downturn, then it means that your people and organisation are no longer learning, and now you are on your way to the obvious – dying. So, what are some of these classic mistakes that organisations make with corporate training, and what alternatives are available. Clearly, there are quite a number, but I will focus on just a handful.
Firstly, training is seen as a perk, and the real reason for training is never properly contextualised. So, for many training is still that thing that happens to get you some per-diem or travel allowance, a trip abroad and some time off-work or a certificate to add to your CV. How many people have meaningful conversations with their line managers before and after a training – setting learning goals and ambitions and then reviewing those goals post-training.
Secondly, organisations do not take time to scientifically codify what it actually takes to perform in a particular role, and use this ‘code’ to attract, deploy and develop its employees. Competency frameworks define the demonstrable knowledge skills and behaviours required to succeed in any role. If well articulated and deployed, training could be focused. What you find most times is that people are just lumped together into a training without any assessment of what their specific individual needs are.
In addition, there is very little or no line manager involvement in training. Line managers are just told one week before the training to release their employees and their role ends there. Line managers should be actively involved in working with learning designers to design bespoke interventions which the managers will facilitate themselves. You can never create a culture of learning when external consultants facilitate all your training
Unbelievably, some organisations have commoditised training so much that they either treat it like a contract where they ask every ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ to bid, or they have turned it into a source of corruption and nepotism, and a source of kick-backs for the human resources leaders in the organisation and the other executives.
In addition, you also find that organisations are doing very little in the area of implementing focused mentoring programmes to foster a culture of learning, nor are they using coaching as a means of promoting self-actualisation among employees.
It is either they have mentoring programs that are not well structured to work, or their definition of coaching is limited to getting “life coaches” to give motivational talks to employees once in a quarter and have one-on-ones with senior executives. Coaching, as the language of leadership can and must do more for our organisations.
Finally, the very people who manage these learning programs and the human resources of the organisations are often ill-equipped with the skills for ‘earning a seat at the table’ with the organisation’s leaders and key decision makers. They struggle to cope with organisational strategy, understanding the complexities of the organisation, commercial and business acumen as well as perhaps the most important leadership and people capability – getting people to change.
There is so much that we can and must to do, to ensure that training creates the right impact in our organizations. In the words of the famous Nigerian comedian – the amazing Chigurl (Chioma Omeruah) – ‘Don’t let your training to be a waste.
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