Even if you do not participate in the return to classes and books world, you can’t help but be put in the mindset of studies, books and learning. That is one of my explanations as to why every August I experience a spike in requests for my corporate training programs. I figure that the “back to school” message is a subliminal hint for business leaders to be thinking about skill and knowledge gaps in their organizations and address those gaps with management classroom experiences.
Most of the time, I am overjoyed to be getting requests for my training programs for new and old clients. But lately I have been frustrated by leaders who are requesting training to fix problems in their organizations that my programs are not designed to solve. Going back to school, whether it is in the university setting or in the corporate classroom, is a great way to impart new knowledge and to experience new skills. When knowledge and skill gaps are the problem, training is a great solution. But, if managers know how best to lead their staff but choose not to do it, well that is a horse of a different color.
A good colleague of mine was listening to me complain about problems that training will not fix and wisely advised me, “Why not rant about misuses of training in your newsletter?” So read on to hear my soap box about corporate training. I promise I’ll keep the ranting to a minimum.
Enjoy the rest of your summer. Keep cool and plan for your learning and development for the fall.
When Training is NOT the Answer
By Alice Waagen
The seductive part about offering training to your managers is that it has such a feeling of accomplishment. It is an event; it is planned, budgeted, scheduled, offered, and evaluated. It is a nice and tidy event with a beginning, middle and end. Boxes can get checked, goals achieved, plans executed. But what does it actually result in? This is the critical question that needs to be asked first when thinking of training. All training programs need to be outcome-based with clear objectives defined and approved as the first step.
If the outcome of training and learning programs is to fix a problem, then let’s look at some problems I am asked to fix with my training programs that I can guarantee won’t be fixed by sitting people in a classroom. Here are my top five BAD reasons to offer management training. These reasons are bad because training won’t fix the problem and will, in many cases, actually make it worse.
1. Problem: Managers won’t do their jobs. They regularly and systematically refuse to meet with their staff, to coach performance, to provide guidance and support. Sure there may be a skill issue to address here, but in my experience, managers who fundamentally avoid directing their staff see management actions as distracting nuisances and fundamentally do not want to manage. This problem is fixed by providing clear articulation as to what specific duties they need to regularly execute, and holding them accountable for executing those duties. The message must be loud and clear, either act like a manager or step out of the position and we’ll give it to someone else.
2. Problem: Organizational leaders won’t hold managers accountable. This is step two of the problem listed above. When I teach management skills, I sometimes hear, “These are great skills but they will take time away from my own work. I could put in the extra effort but my boss does not care. I will not get rewarded for being a good manager, nor will I get punished if I am a bad manager.” Train all you want, without accountability, behavior will not change.
3. Problem: We are experiencing unusually high turnover of key talent. The guess here is that people are leaving because their managers do not know how to motivate and retain them. Okay, this may be because of poor management skills, but there is a host of other, non-management, organizational issues that could be at play here. Could be your competitor is poaching your staff by offering higher salaries. Could be that staff see few advancement opportunities. Could be location or work hours aren’t flexible. Could be …
4. Problem: We have excess year-end funds that need to be spent. Why argue with a client who has money to spend? Because if the participants do not see any value in their attending training, they will disengage and not learn. That wastes their time and mine.
5. Problem: There is no problem. We planned to offer training and if it is in the corporate annual plan, we must do it. This harkens back to training being an event, a box to check saying that we did it. Like the problem before, if participants do not see a real business reason for spending time away from their desks and crushing workloads, they will disappear after the first break.
I would not be in the profession that I am in for my entire professional career if I did not believe in the value of learning and development. I truly believe that good training programs, based on serious assessment of needs and issues, can be a profound tool to change behavior and teach new skills. But training programs offered for ill-thought out reasons can turn people off to future valuable training. Yes we all need to continuously go “back to school” but let’s focus on learning for all the right reasons: to increase knowledge, skills and workplace proficiency.