Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Corporate Training, What's wrong with it?

This is a posting inspired by an ongoing discussion in one of the Linkedin discussion threads.

Every organization today is spending millions of dollars on an annual basis to train its staff on a variety of skills. Companies have come a long way in the field of HR and specially training. There is a lot of science and technicalities behind the subject. How comfortable are the senior management and HR with regard to the effectiveness of training or the money spent on training?

One of the contemporary and strong arguments with regard to training is that it should be linked to KPIs and competency based performance appraisals. While this is well and true, as the age old saying goes there are multiple stakeholders in this process and lapses by any of them could lead to failure in realizing the intended requirements of training people.

Main actors include the trainee, the supervisor, affected parties through manifestation(peers, direct reports and direct contacts), organization (as the funding authority) and of course the trainer.

Bad or a wrong trainer is a no-brainer and we don't need to talk about it.

Most structured companies follow a process where individual training requirements are identified as part of an annual appraisal process and/or based on ad-hoc specific skills requirements. During the course of the year the candidate is nominated to relevant training programs, either external or internal that come up. Should the numbers be large for a similar program, the company might organize a special program for the organization.

Generally companies have a variety of methods to institutionalize and measure individual training. These include on the job assignments to test new skills learned, to simple examinations.

Thus with all this what is wrong with the approach ?

The basic requirement of training is to develop a person's competence for a required job. Now here's the interesting part. Competence refers to requisite knowledge, skills and attitude.
Note attitude. While it is relatively easier to impart both knowledge and skills through a training program, it is difficult to transform the attitude of a person. This is where many training programs go wrong. If you expect the trainer to take a 100% ownership of transforming the trainees attitude, well you are just wrong! It's not going happen. Period.

So how do we overcome this issue?

Here's what has worked for me.

As a boss or a supervisor you need to take responsibility with regard to the training of your direct report. You need to tell the individual with specific examples (remember it has to be specific examples from his own behaviour /work which he can relate to) as to why you feel you are sending him for training. Now this should be done in a very constructive, sincere and candid way. You also need to tell him/her as to how bridging this gap would help him/her personally both at work life and may be in personal life as well. (What is in it for me???) .He needs to have total trust in you and what you say. Once you show him the gap, you need to explain to him as to why it is important to bridge this gap. (This is important for all but more important for soft skill gaps). Also give confidence to the person that you believe in, that he could make vast improvements after this training. (Work on the attitude of the person both towards the training and the subsequent application of the new knowledge and skills)

If it is a training which takes more than one day, make sure you keep a tab of their progress. Take genuine interest in finding out how he/she is faring in this regard. Should there be difficulties offer help in whatever the way you can.

Once training is over receive feedback as to what the participant thought about training, specific learning points etc.

But most importantly ensure you give the individual an assignment(in case he needs to apply this learning in regular work assignments, not required) to demonstrate his upgraded competence. You've got to take time to give feedback as to what you personally think about the progress he has made with specific examples again.

Now as a boss if you are responsible for larger divisions how do you make this happen. Well, you need to do this to your immediate reports and get your immediate reports to follow the same path. Some may argue as Department Heads, CEOs there is more work to be done. Or that this this something for the HR Departments to sort out. I'm afraid time taken to develop people is some of the most productive uses of your own times as been demonstrated by companies such as GE.

Some other companies do use methodologies such as bonding people when they are sent on expensive training and getting them to train others on the skills that they learn. These methods are more effective for highly specific techincal skills training one has to undergo.

So what do you think? What are the methods that have been succcessful that you follow? Share your thoughts as a comment.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I do agree with the point the basic motto of any corporate training programs is to develop a person's requisite knowledge, skills and attitude for a required job.Along with this there should be sessions for personal growth of an employee.