Talking Point: Why is HR still looking for training silver bullets?
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A regular problem we face is having to wait for a course to become available in the subject required. It can often feel quite insulting to be sent on a training course to do a job you've actually already been doing for 3 months. Then we often have to ensure that we have sufficient numbers to make the course viable. If a course requires 10 people, but we only have 5 who need the training now, do we make them wait, do we send 5 extra to make up the numbers, or do we pay for a 10-person course, but only send 5, and risk that some of the exercises will fall flat due to insufficient numbers?
Measuring the success of training can be difficult to nigh-on impossible. If a programmer goes on a course to learn about macros, and comes back being able to use macros well and efficiently, that's great - job done. If she comes back and still can't use macros, then is she at fault for not learning, or was the course not taught correctly for her ability range? Was the trainer bad, or (sometimes worse), really good? I've been on at least one course where the trainer was clearly brilliant. Unfortunately, that meant they just thrashed ahead, whizzed through examples and expected students to keep up. Not everybody did. You can be an expert in your field, and yet lack the skills to pass that knowledge on to others.
Worse are the soft skills. I went on a course entitled 'Handling Difficult Situations', which featured lots of excellent ideas and advice, tips and techniques. The exercises and role-plays were imaginative and original. I learned a huge amount. That was 6 months ago. If my manager asks me what I've done differently as a result of being on that course, the answer will be 'Nothing.' Not because I didn't learn anything but because I work in a team of motivated and engaged people where difficult situations don't arise all that often. If/when they do, I'll feel a lot more confident about dealing with them. Was the training a waste? Certainly not. Will my manager think so? Almost certainly.
Not all success can be measured in the next 5 minutes, and some just can't be measured at all.
Thanks for your good comment, which shows up the realities of providing learning, training and development in the workplace today.
Trying to make sure that courses are fully utilised, and getting them put on at the right time, always means that it is normally the wrong time for someone to do a course.
As a generalisation, my view is that until we invest in the line manager's skills and responsibilities to help their direct reports learn more on the job, then we are going to struggle with ROI for learning interventions.