Tonight I'm planning to ask a group of my students: When is training appropriate? When is it justified?
I am planning to share with them the following interactive presentation (see below): A fictional case study of a desperate business owner and a couple of well-intentioned (but sometimes clueless) consultants. Can you help me complete it? Can you make it better? I'd love to have your input to improve this presentation!
In the case above, Mr. Cheese, a business owner, asks two consultants to help him solve a problem: One of his employees is suing his company. The consultants first suggest technical training, then a compensation and benefits survey, and finally conduct a Needs Analysis to analyze the situation better (needless to say, neither technical training nor a compensation and benefits survey solved the problem).
Simple stuff - we all know it by heart, right? Yikes, we're talking "Performance Improvement 101." Only offer training as a solution when the problem can be solved by training.
I wish it were that simple.
When I look back in my career, I must confess that I was often in the shoes of the "New Consultants on the Block." Someone asked me for training, what I did for a living was training, therefore I wrote a proposal for training. The client, on the other hand, was too hassled or too hurried or too concerned about his/her own job and position in the organization to dig too deeply. The results? I helped contribute to what I'll call "The Training Department's Hamster Syndrome." I worked hard and my clients worked hard and the training "seemed" to work beautifully - except that it was the wrong solution for a problem that had not been properly identified.
Here are some additional "syndromes" that often plague training departments:
A request for training comes from a very important person who thinks he/she has the solution. Questioning the higher up would take time and political capital - so we end up by taking care of the request as quickly and efficiently as we can.
The training department is rewarded when and only when it produces "training widgets." Rewards depend on the beauty, excitement, and "buzz" generated by the widgets. Non-widget generation is punished by lack of recognition at best, and painful layoffs at worst.
Ah, the beautiful leadership development curriculum, gorgeously packaged by a graphic design guru. Just look at the offerings... wouldn't you want to participate in these programs? After all we are covering all the leadership competencies we found through an extensive literature search (uh-oh...) and we are doing it with a fantastic catalog of unforgettable classes! The training consultants are top notch too! Will you come?
Don't get me wrong - I have a lot of respect for training consultants (I am one too!), needs analysis specialists, and evaluators. I understand the need for outsourcing some of the learning functions. Developing a curriculum from scratch takes a lot of time, and we can't do it all. My problem is with asking the same consultant to run a needs analysis to identify training needs, design a training program to meet those needs, and evaluate the effectiveness of the training he/she led. Sounds absurd? It is absurd. And by the way - the absurdity does not lie on whether the consultant is external or internal. Instead, the problem is to ask the same group to perform all three tasks. There's that pesky little word called "bias," you see, that might, err.., impact the results a wee bit.
I would love my readers to suggest other Syndromes. What have you seen in the workplace that represents a "worst" practice? How can I help my students avoid any of these Syndromes as they advance in their HRD careers?
As an "add on" to my posting from yesterday: I have been trying to create (with the help of my good friend and fellow Linked:HR member Jim Foord) an excel spreadsheet to simulate the calculation of a training ROI. In the case simulated below, the HR manager of a small company is asked to put together a training program for 30 people (assume that the program will not be repeated). I made some assumptions for the costs of the program and the possible increase in sales. Could you give me some feedback and suggest changes in this spreadsheet? What haven't I included? What have I included wrong?
As you play with the spreadsheet (and correct it) you may want to keep a copy for your own use!