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CHAPTER 2: The problem with training and development
Section 1: The fallacy of top-down training
The problem with training and development in an organizational setting is that it’s usually conducted in a top-down orientation. While this approach may be in the best interests of the corporation, it isn’t necessarily to your advantage as a potential life-worker.
A corporate training manager usually performs a needs analysis, and based on those findings decides what training should be provided in response to the identified needs. A curriculum is designed (or purchased), the delivery modalities are created, the training is presented and evaluated, and the results are assessed (ideally showing a positive impact on the bottom line of the organization). Although this is the usual procedure, and it is indeed effective in meeting its stated corporate goal in many circumstances, it also has the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing the constraints inherent in a regular job.
The typical training mandate is to train employees on the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to perform their job at acceptable (ideally superior) levels of competence. Assuming that the employees are more or less the right people for their roles, the trainer goes about molding them according to the parameters of their job descriptions. But the locus of power clearly resides with the trainer who directs the training, and the employees are required to follow that lead. In a corporate setting, the trainer is the one responsible for getting everyone to learn what they need to know to do the job.
The astute observer will notice that the ownership of learning rests with the trainer, who is responsible for training, not with the learners, who are responsible for learning. This situation unfortunately begets a hit-and-miss approach even at the best of times. Corporate trainers will put up a convincing argument that their training is effective, and they are right to the extent that they fulfill their stated purpose for providing the training in the first place. But a good trainer who provides good training will generate desired results mostly with “good employees” who learn well. Everyone else who cannot or will not learn according to the parameters set by the trainer will begin to fall by the wayside. The corporation predicates its performance needs, the training is modeled in response to the hierarchical needs (not necessarily) the employees’ needs, and the expectation is that employees will adapt themselves accordingly.
Anyone who has ever tried to teach someone something they did not want to learn will quickly tell you that the real ownership of learning rests with the learners. An excellent trainer is really nothing more than an effective facilitator, a person who takes the time to understand what employees want to learn and why, and then customizes a learning program to suit those preferences. This is the difference between making the trainer’s (or corporation’s) expectations the primary focus of attention versus making the learners’ outcomes the preferred goals.
Many firms claim that people are their strength and despite good intentions, their primary focus remains on measurable results. Only a few companies have understood that the only true asset they have in their midst is the learning potential of their employees (a qualitative value). But embracing this truism carries a heavy cost, in that facilitating an employee’s learning according to the needs of the employee can result in a developmental path that leads away from the company. Only the companies that are flexible enough to evolve with the growth of their employees can retain their greatest assets. Only the companies that facilitate the lifeworks of its people will create an environment in which those same people will continuously want to work.
This is a radical shift in paradigm that takes the locus of power away from the shareholders and puts in squarely in the hands of the stakeholders. An exemplary degree of maturity is required at a board level and throughout an organization to consciously and intentionally produce this paradigm shift. Such maturity is rare, and the fortitude to keep a faithful watch is rarer still, but the abundance of top-level performance that results from facilitating people’s lifeworks can be astounding.
How has the corporate training you’ve received required you to adapt yourself to your employment circumstances?
Given that the corporation predicates its performance needs and that the training is modeled in response to hierarchical needs, how has the expectation that you adapt yourself curtailed your needs (and your innate talents)?
What are the differences between the corporate trainer’s (or corporation’s) training expectations versus your outcomes (the learner’s preferred goals)?
In what ways (if any) has your employer facilitated the lifeworks of its people?
How has your developmental path led you away from your past/current employers?
Copyright © 2017, Joseph Civitella.