Many training providers wow us with their promises to deliver valuable workshops and courses that turn companies around and their websites prominently display photos of happy ‘trained’ employees. As I was scanning through these sites recently, I took note of the essence of a lot of their messages at my gut level and realised I was cringing at the pattern I was seeing: ‘in-and-out’, ‘one-off’ training workshops, lack of personalisation or ongoing support, little accountability for success, and the assumption that they know what’s best for your business more than you do. How this kind of training is supposed to ‘turn companies around’ is yet to be seen.
The Training Trap
By promoting and delivering these one-size-fits-all courses and promising the world, training providers are, sometimes unwittingly, luring business owners and executives into the ‘training trap’. They deliver the same generic workshops to countless companies then walk away until the next time some employees need ‘training’. A lot of these providers don’t see anything wrong with this ‘spray and walk away’ approach and believe that this is what their business is all about; delivering workshops and courses to upskill individuals. And to the untrained eye this can seem plausible.
These employees definitely pick up new skills and get a boost of motivation, but often quickly slip back into their previous behaviours and mind-sets, reinforced by the encompassing culture and customs of their company. The companies paying for the training get to tick the important ‘we-are-providing-professional-development-for-employees’ box while never really participating in the process or seeing or believing in its value. There are no measurements, no follow-ups, and no alignment with company values, culture, or leadership. It’s easy to see how ‘training’ has picked up a bad reputation and is seen as costly ‘fluff’.
Good business owners and executives have the health, wellbeing, and productivity of hundreds of employees to think about every day, as well as the financial sustainability and performance of their business. Because of this, it’s more important now than ever to seek real solutions for your business and not to fall for the tempting convenient quick ‘fixes’ that initially seem to tick the right boxes but are disconnected from you and your business and end up being a waste of valuable time and money.
An Important Change
The good news is there has been a shift. The traditional ‘corporate training’ model is changing and among the junk pebbles of those who still claim to be omnipotent magicians are a few gems who long ago scrapped the now-tainted word ‘training’ and replaced it (in name and essence) with ‘learning and sustainable development’. These sometimes rare but always valuable providers genuinely believe they are your servants. They listen to your challenges and aspirations and offer up-to-date validated knowledge and expertise that can truly make your people and business more successful. They will admit they don’t always have the right answers and they will not pressure you to do everything they tell you. They will serve you and guide you and share accountability.
Real & Measurable Results
These truly progressive facilitators of learning and development strategies understand they are there to make your burden lighter, clarify the picture, simplify your work, give you back your restful sleep, and actually make a measurable difference to business results. They know that to do this, their programmes must be designed with you in a way that is unique to your business, that transforms perceptions and culture across your entire company, and that focuses on real long-term growth and development rather than short one-hit-wonder workshops. They know that, even with all the care and good intentions in the world, one thing they can’t do is know your business as well as you do. In the end the responsibility never leaves your hands. Anyone who comes alongside to help should not and must not take over or dictate what’s best for your company.
Avoid Falling Into The Trap
Before signing up, find out the answer to these 8 questions:
1. Are they totally focused on growing me and my business?
A partner seeks first to understand your business and the human performance dynamics in the company. Then they listen to your vision for the business and assess the alignment of all those in the company with that vision. They measure and assess, engage with key representative individuals across the business, and report their findings in a frank discussion. Be very cautious of those who start offering solutions before asking in depth and listening first. They may be much more interested in growing their own business than yours.
2. Are they capable of collaborating to design unique solutions to my business challenges?
Are they only offering you a list of run-of-the-mill stand-alone training programmes or do they work with you to specifically design a flexible learning journey that addresses your current and future challenges? Find out how they work with you to create something tailored to your industry, company, and people, focusing on achieving your specific and measurable objectives.
3. Do they have good up-to-date science behind what they do and recommend?
Where are they getting their resources and materials from? Are they up-to-date? Are they validated and proven to genuinely drive change and deliver results? Do they have programmes specifically suited to your business? Are they willing to modify or even scrap programmes that are not delivering results? Don’t be afraid to challenge them on this before committing to purchasing their services.
4. Do they stick with you for the long haul without making your business dependent on their training?
Sticking with you shouldn’t mean continuing to train your staff and take your money no matter the outcomes. This is obviously not in your best interests. The aim of any development service should not be to ‘train’ but to equip your people with the skills and tools they need to continue learning and growing long after they have provided their services.
5. Do they genuinely seek at all times (not just the beginning) to understand your whole business enterprise and fit into your big plans?
Discussions with you should be very real, honest and pragmatic. Plans are devised and implemented and the whole team is considered as those plans roll out. No-one is left behind. In this way the L&D specialist serves you, the leadership of the company, all employees, and the business. They are not just seeking a short-term cosmetic change, but a long-term transformation aligned with your vision. They become your partner, offering you the full resources of their team to benefit your business.
6. Do they respect your autonomy as a leader and decision-maker?
A great partner respects every leader in your business without taking over and dictating where you should be going. They know their own silos of strength and the value they can offer while acknowledging the vast terrain – the space between mission and accomplishment in your business – that they know little about unless you tell or show them. They believe ‘one size does not fit all’ and they behave in ways that consistently demonstrate these beliefs and values when handling your business.
7. Do they ensure learning is applied to actual challenges in your business?
In order for the learning to be most valuable to both the participants and the business, it is vital individuals and teams practise using their new knowledge and skills by applying them to their everyday challenges. After the learning event itself, they should be encouraged to continue applying the learning and reporting back to measure its ongoing effectiveness.
8. Are they accountable for results, both pleasing and disappointing?
If they don’t measure the results, then they’re quite simply being negligent. It should always be possible to identify the truly indicative measures of success for every initiative so make sure you ask this question at the very beginning. It is also essential that results are evaluated and acted upon to ensure continuous improvement.
Ross Wilson is an Organisational Performance Consultant and Managing Director of Growing Organisations.
Contact Ross: [email protected] T: 021 152 8400