Corporate Training - Why Training Programmes in Companies Fail
Recently I spent two days at a convention meant for HR professionals. It was very nice being there, meeting colleagues and friends, but two things became apparent to me.
HR professionals follow fads like all buyers and typically like to buy training from larger 'established' training providers who advertise the most flashily.
The effectiveness justification for most of all HR interventions such as training in a modern workplace can be compared to the claims of some forms of alternative medicine.
Companies all over the world spend billions of dollars every year for training their staff. These training programmes encompass all kinds of training from a 4-hour 'How to use Excel more efficiently' in-house and hands-on session to a yearlong diversity management initiative. Globalization, advances in communication technology and resulting socio-political changes have transformed the nature of the modern workplace. Globalization is a broad sweep across economies, societies and technology that is knitting the world closer together in increasing number of complex interdependent networks and affecting capital markets, development and utilisation of technology, the exchange of information and how we work. Managing these complexities have become very difficult in rapidly changing times and require changes in behaviour, skills and most significantly mindsets.
When it comes to justifying learning and then training, the management's task is to make people want to learn things, by highlighting the 'WHY' - why learning is important, why it is exciting and satisfying. Why people should sacrifice their time, efforts and attention should be very clear at the workplace. If this WHY part has been addressed expertly, the training itself is much easier and more effective, as people will definitely find the courses, books, videos, on-line materials they would need for learning what needs to be learnt. During the years I have been involved in training, I have noticed that there are seven mutually inclusive reasons why training fails in the modern workplace despite the best of intentions.
Not determining if training is the best method to achieve the desired changes.
Learning objectives and outcomes of training not identified and specified clearly.
Team or trainees not actively involved in the development of the learning programme.
Senior management is not committed to the WHY and continued support of learning.
The design of the content and delivery is too complicated and requires overall behaviour changes too rapidly.
Fails to take into account culturally conditioned learning styles.
No follow-up strategies in place to support continuity of changes required.
Not determining if training is the best method
Training may not always be the best method for achieving learning at the workplace. Employees might perceive this as a top-down way of knowledge management and not exhibit much initiative. It would be worthwhile investigating if quality circles, regular work-group discussions, mentor programmes or any other method than management organised training be other ways of ensuring the same desired results?
Not identifying and specifying objectives clearly
Sometimes companies do not communicate very clearly what they want from a development programme before choosing a specific training course. What makes training really effective is identifying clear learning outcomes or objectives that are linked to the organizational goals from the beginning. If the organization goals change, then the learning outcomes need to be periodically checked for alignment.
Not involving trainees in development of training
If management decides that there is a specific problem in a department and a trainer from outside comes and puts the solution on a Powerpoint slide and shows it to a bunch of people for a few minutes and adds his own words of wisdom to it, does it facilitate real learning? If employees are not involved in the design of learning and training, there is a risk of not accessing employee motivation. This motivation is after all the wellspring of learning. If there is no motivation, there is not much learning. There is the old saying "You can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink".
Lack of senior management commitment
One of the crucial success factors of training being aligned to corporate strategic objectives is entirely dependent on the active support of top management. Corporate strategic objectives change from time to time and only top management are aware of these. In most companies if employees detect a lack of support and direct involvement from top management, they designate such training programmes as passing fads of minor importance.
Too complicated and demanding changes too rapidly
Almost all training aims at behaviour modification. It is too na´ve to assume that human behaviour changes after hearing a couple of words during a Powerpoint presentation. Employees also get tired of fancy management theories, which are in vogue for some time only to be replaced by yet another model. Just as you have come to grips with Porter's five forces, you have to start with Six-Sigma or the Seven forces. This rather often results in top management and corporate HR becoming isolated in ivory towers while on the shop floor business goes on in spite of these 'interventions'.
Fails to take into account learning styles People have individual learning styles, which are culturally conditioned. Finns and Japanese sit quietly at lectures and take notes while Brits or Italians like to debate. When a corporation decides on a global HR policy and adopts uniform training practices they ignore these ways of learning people are used to. Having to undergo training in a unfamiliar manner may not always be very effective.
Lack of follow-up strategies
As people who have been married for long or who have children know all too well, learning takes quite a lot of time and much patience with constant reinforcement in the form of praise and prizes. If a training programme is carried out as a single intervention and the management rests content from the feedback of the so-called 'happy sheet' or instant feedback on first impressions people fill in directly after the training, the management is in for many surprises. Almost all training interventions require behaviour changes to take place on the job at the point of execution of job functions. So there must be measurement and continued support for the change in behaviour at the same locations in the same work context. This evaluation of learning on a longer term at the job interface is very difficult and expensive to make so most companies avoid this. There are also other difficulties associated with such evaluation, but ensuring means of support for learning to take place in the context of the workplace by means of self-analysis and reflection is not very expensive and increases the effectiveness of learning many fold.
Any training, which considers the above factors, is bound to be more effective than training that doesn't.