Wednesday, 9 May 2012


There are a number of aspects about training that do not seem to add up.

My personal view from many years of experience is that most training does not work. It does not work despite the fact that most training organisations can claim that their specific program will produce results. To be honest in some instances it does but only for the short term. Usually it is a waste of money. Let us look at the reasons why and we begin at the senior leadership of an organisation.

The Leader feels that there is something wrong within the workforce and determines that the staff need some kind of training -let us say it is in the area of improving customer relations and personal efficiency. The Leader then instructs the HR Manager to investigate and recommend a suitable program. The HR Manager then researches to find a suitable program at usually the best price and may even do some elements of confirming testimonials of the training provider and then makes the recommendation to the Leader.

At this stage we could have already developed the first problem which would be potentially a communication problem between the Leader and the HR Manager. HR people are usually not renowned for appropriate decision making. In fact in most organisations the HR Manager is not in a decisive or creative role however in this instance they have made a recommendation based on a level of judgement that may never have been truly tested. Usually they are not leaders, they may be good performers but only within a very restrictive capacity. However the decision is finally made by the Leader and so the training program begins.

The training provider is excellent and produces compelling reasons and methodology to improve customer relations and the personal efficiency of the staff. Results and outcomes of the training are very good and all staff receive a Certificate of Attendance. All is well. The trainer has done a good job, the HR Manager has fulfilled their obligation and we can assume that the Leader has received value for the investment.

However this is often not the case. Superficially all is well but the results are only very short term. Why is this?

The answer lies within the psychology of the individual staff member. People are driven by their habits-both good and bad. Essentially we have all spent many years developing routine ways of dealing with all kinds of situations. As an example take work place change. When confronted with change most people react in a very negative way. Fear of change sets in quickly. We do not like to have our habits and routines threatened.

So we can attend the most brilliant of training programs but the impact on our personal psychology will be limited. The reason why it is limited goes right back to the Leader instructing the HR Manager. People may recognise the need for skills and attitude improvement but this is important and discussion should begin with the Leader and directly to all the staff including the HR Manager.  By placing a HR Manager in the middle only results in a loss of trust by the staff in the Leadership. Considerations may even go to the level of lack of trust by the staff in the HR Manager and the way the reason for the training is communicated.

If it is so important then all communication should be from and with the Leader of the Organisation. If the Leader truly wants to engage all the Staff then they need to be seen as taking this proactive step of encouragement. Once the function has been moved down the line to the HR Manager the level of importance has also been moved down the line in the psychology of everyone involved.

Let us look at the two ends of the spectrum regarding the impact on staff. Assume that I am very effective in what I do and I have truly wonderful customer relationships and I receive the email or the instruction from the HR Manager telling me that I have to attend training to improve what I thought were my perfect skills. My initial reaction is going to be one of disbelief which may then turn into anger to think that I am being treated this way. Should I attend the Program you can be very sure that I will not be supportive and will not really listen - my skeptical attitude will ensure that money has been wasted on me. The other end of the spectrum happens if I know that I am not that good in my job-I feel embarrassed about my mistakes and my nervousness in dealing with our customers. I am always stressed about this and feel quite low in my self esteem. Then I am told that I have to attend this Program. My initial reaction is one of fear-I know that this Program is all about me because I have failed  and now they want me to become totally embarrassed in front of all my work colleagues. What am I to do? My first thought is that on that day I will be sick and unable to attend. Even if I do relent and attend the Program I will be so nervous, so anxious and so stressed that I will remember nothing. It will be the worst days of my life.

This is how it could very well be for many people in such a situation.
The real issue is not to just provide methodology as to how one can improve customer relationships and personal efficiency. There are many text books and videos on this subject and they all represent the "outside-in " approach. The trainer presents and the audience listen and may even be encouraged to participate. The training can last from 1 hour to 3 days but it will be useless unless the mind of the individual attendee is changed in a profound way. This change of mind could take place in the first hour but usually this does not happen-the staff members turn up, appear to be listening and even appear to be participating but in truth they are not. They are sleeping and they do not wish to change their behaviours and habits.

Unless the mind of person is ready to be opened to change then they will consciously and subconsciously fail to accept anything that is being offered. The same rationale applies to a habitual smoker-they know they should not do it-they know it is unhealthy-they know that it may kill them-but still they smoke.

If we want to truly get people to do something different then no amount of conventional "training" will work. It only works when their mind is ready and this only comes when they recognise and understand themselves better. This is where it begins.

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