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When training is not the right answer

Fresh from her session on assertiveness with Ruby Bayley-Pratt at this years Institute of Fundraising Convention, =mc Director Yvette Gyles offers insight into why training is not always the solution.

Yvette Gyles DirectorWhen we get calls asking us to come in and provide mandatory training for all staff / managers / leaders in order to ‘fix’ them, I go a little cold. As a Learning & Development consultant, I am of course passionate about learning and the power that training and development interventions can have in creating lasting change for people and organisations. And I also understand that forced attendance may result in a great pound-per-heard investment ratio. But knowing everyone has turned up for the day does not guarantee that every participant has learned something or that they will take ownership for ‘fixing’ whatever the problem is – and surely that’s where the RoI really needs to kick in?

That said, the one-size-fits-all-and-all-must-attend training programme seems to remain a popular approach. Take these three headlines from a recent People Management alert (PM Daily, 9 May 2019 – see individual articles via links below):

  1. ‘TUC calls for urgent investment in line management training as research suggests bosses are often bad for morale’. This tells us that managers are often promoted into position for being good at a ‘thing’, and not because they have shown great people management skills. Technical training and expertise is not the same skill set as being a manager. However: to be a great manager, you have to want to be a great manager and not only a technical expert. Otherwise training in management cannot work. Management development starts with an assumption that managers want to be managers.
  2. ‘Workplace learning opportunities got to those who benefit the least’. Training can be a reward and a great day out. It shows an investment in and commitment to your staff. Therefore, the people most likely to take you up on training opportunities will be keen to develop, progress and learn. On the other hand, forcing someone onto a course because they are underperforming or behaving badly (and therefore need to be ‘fixed’) rarely works unless they accept they need to make a change. Training is not punitive or corrective and sending someone on a course to hint at a problem is not enough – they need feedback, preparation and follow up guidance. Making mandatory attendance will only create tension and resentment. It will not be a prize, but a command from management. To get the right people onto a course, they need to know why they need to change, and to be inspired to make that change.
  3. Training, recruitment and culture are all vital tools in getting more from your people’. Training will not fix your problems if you are not willing to talk about your challenges as an organisation. Any training or development intervention needs to have a clear set of drivers and outcomes in mind. This means that if you want to create culture change, you need to go beyond training and look at other initiatives that can work alongside training to create change. Change is both personal and organisational.

Therefore, please don’t ask us to put on enforced training. Instead ask us how to engage your people in learning. This means:

  1. Putting training into practice, encouraging reflection, giving ownership and personal responsibility
  2. Being clear with people through effective feedback about what they can gain from learning and what they need to change
  3. Taking an organisational approach to learning – being fully inclusive; looking at what else is needed to support people in making change

And if you want to see how you can build a programme that will work, read this article on designing your own training programme.

Follow Yvette Gyles on twitter: @yvettegylesmc

What’s next?

To find out how Yvette and the team at =mc can help you explore effective training options suited to your situation, contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to speak to one of our consultants.

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...