Training Your Staff is a Waste of $$ Unless You, at the Top, Are Willing to Make a Change First — Damla Zeybel

Point of View
3 min readSep 22, 2020

Have you ever participated in a training for work, gotten all excited to apply your learnings back in the office, only to find it was an impossible feat? Did you come to find you went back to your old ways simply because it was pointless to try and change things? Are you being asked to attend every possible virtual training course as prescribed by your boss or HR while now working from home? Well, welcome to the club!

I recently came across a very good HBR article by Michael Beer, Magnus Finnstrom and Derek Schrader titled Why Leadership Training Fails — and What to Do About It, and did a double take on the statistics relating to training costs. In 2015 alone close to $356 billion of investment was made globally on employee training, with the authors confirming the return on this investment being anything but good. In checking for more recent data, the indicative amounts total nearly $300 billion for 2019. Why are companies putting so much toward change without a solid follow up or through plan?

The article lays out in detail the pitfalls of Management as well as HR’s approach to training. The main faux pas is the idea that individuals are the core of an organization’s problemsand need to be taught better so as to bring about change. HR will come up with the requisite competencies, link it to the strategy, sell it to management, and together they will shell out the money to the most expensive consulting firm.

The authors, very correctly in my opinion, corrects the above notion by stating that “…organizations are systems of interacting elements: Roles, responsibilities, and relationships are defined by organizational structure, processes, leadership styles, people’s professional and cultural backgrounds, and HR policies and practices.”

Furthermore, HR’s role in enabling healthy change and subsequent training is paramount. In most cases, as highlighted: “HR managers and others find it difficult or impossible to confront senior leaders and their teams with an uncomfortable truth: A failure to execute on strategy and change organizational behavior is rooted not in individuals’ deficiencies but, rather, in the policies and practices created by top management. Those are the things to fix before training can succeed in the long term. It’s much easier for HR to point to employees’ (in)competencies as the problem and to training as the clear solution. That’s a message senior leaders are receptive to hearing.”

Employees need management that is able to look at themselves as the potential problem first. Then seek ways to challenge their own behaviors, comfort zones and to articulate (and drive) a clear strategy to their teams. HR needs to be a strong voice for employees, and not an executor of management tasks. In my opinion, staff members who want to or are asked to take training, should feel empowered to question and understand how an investment in their development (and time) is going to be explicitly supported and applied by those who remain untrained at the top. The article also provides sound steps in talent development, including diagnosing the organization’s needs, challenging organizational design & processes, setting the right metrics and accompanying that with a healthy and effective training plan where needed.

Read the full article here.



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