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Thursday, 31 October 2013

When is Training Bad Training?

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I had a conversation yesterday with a colleague and somehow we got on the subject of “most useless program we ever created.” At first glance, maybe not so productive to lament about how we wasted our time, but understanding what we thought was so wrong about our efforts turned into a positive discussion on what seems to be wrong with learning & development in general.

For me, my most useless course was on “time management.” Even the title is a misnomer. You can’t manage TIME – only your actions within any selected time period. The notion that some course can magically teach you to be more organized, prepared, or not procrastinate isn’t a course on TIME anything; it’s more a lesson that you missed at age 7. And why should it fall to your employer to spend their time and resources on teaching anyone the skills that should be considered as basic and a prerequisite for entrance into their organization?

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So the issue for me, as it relates to our industry, is should we spend our time, money and efforts on training programs that adults should not need in the first place? We all face this dilemma. Our organization puts out an annual or bi-annual employee engagement survey and all of a sudden this is taken for a learning & development “needs assessment.” Time Management, Customer Service and a host of other soft skill requests always seem to the top the list. Taken the aforementioned courses as just two examples, should we really have to spend any effort teaching people how to be organized or worse, how to be nice to people? 


I suggest we put a line in the sand and get our business leaders to agree to what is required for entrance and what we will train to. PERIOD. Let’s stop using L&D to remediate the failures of our Talent Acquisition brethren to hire people with the base skills required for the company. This means that we need to first understand who we are as an organization, articulate our values and more importantly, identify the behaviors that support those values to help guide or selection decisions.


Fortunately the emergence of integrated talent systems are now at a point where we can use the tools to help identify, select, onboard, manage and develop to a consistent set of expectations. Pre-hire assessment models allow us to identify candidates that are most closely aligned with our top talent. Applicant Tracking Systems allow us to collect candidate data and populate our systems with such information as relocation preferences (for succession planning), certifications, education, skills and with social networking functionality, even internal referral information.


Let’s focus training and development initiatives that are truly aligned with the company, business and department goals. Let’s face it – when someone asks for time management classes what they are really saying is “I’m too busy.” No class will change their processes, eliminate redundancy in their routine or lighten their daily load. For me it’s a cry for help that screams Organizational Development issue. Let’s stop chasing our tail when we’re creating the problem to begin with. 


As a CEO once told me, “just because they ask for a training program doesn’t mean we have to give it to them.” 


So – what’s the most useless training program YOU ever created?

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