Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Why don’t employees attend training programs seriously ?

The HR manager announced a program on different people skills like: listening, reading body language, effective communication, business writing, negotiation skills, and many more. These were being conducted on every Saturday for interested participants. The enterprise had a 5-day work week and the rationale behind a weekend investment was to get the interested participants only. The curriculum was good and participation voluntary. There was no charge nor there was post course assessment or for that matter feedback on faculty.

The inaugural class had 15 participants to the surprise of those present; the expectation was that there would be at least 25-30 representing about 10% of the strength. The group was welcomed by the HR Manager for their quest to learn; the group remarked about their self-improvement focus and the journey started for the teacher and the students. The course, expected to run for 20 weekends, needed strong willpower and commitment; by week 4, the list was down to single digits and by the time the course ended, there were only 4.

Most training programs suffer from this phenomena even when the training program is not that long. On the penultimate day the trainees discover urgent work or cite exigencies to escape from the clutches of learning. The end of the program is typically seen by a few participants who were interested in learning, the totally disinterested who had nothing else to do, the HR representative to complete the loop and the trainer who has reached the end of patience and wants to get out lest s/he lose their poise and temper.

The situation is no different for even a full day learning curriculum; everyone arrives charged up for the day off from work, some look forward to enhancing their skills. As the day progresses, phone calls start interrupting the flow, an urgent mail that needs to go, and customer meetings that pop up or something fails that needs their personal attention, enough to disrupt the class. They all have genuine sounding reasons to go back to the same work that many wanted to avoid at the beginning of the day; learning takes a backseat.

Why is learning such a chore ? Are people not interested in their own advancement ? What makes them such shirkers when it comes to adding value to themselves ? Do they believe that they know everything they need for their success as well as movement in the corporate ladder ? If that was the case then everyone would excel in their roles and get promoted with regular periodicity. Learning & Development would be a dead function for most corporates (it is another matter that many play a subservient role with limited latitude to make a difference).

Training are mostly determined during the appraisal cycle based on the discussion between Manager and the staff member; there is a self-determined need based on career aspirations or skills that need to be acquired to fill a gap towards executing their work effectively. Enhancements to existing expertise to move up the ladder to a larger role or a lateral shift to another position also create the need. Soft skills and other seemingly non-essential training are scheduled with published training calendar which are then available for enrollment by everyone.

As an employee I always looked forward to training programs even if they were just to validate existing knowledge. Complementing these with aggressive reading helped me move across industries and roles with ease. As I climbed the ladder, I had the task of managing teams who needed to perform at their optimal best to keep raising the bar and enjoy associated fruits of success. The formula that worked for me mostly was to make the team responsible for their own training, not me, not HR, not the company, only themselves.

They were individually responsible for their career, growth within and outside; most found it contrary to conventional wisdom, after all isn’t the Manager expected to take care of the team ? Should HR be providing them all kinds of training including technical skills ? Isn’t the company responsible for taking care of the employees ? This worked quite well for me; for those who were unable to accept this responsibility, they found themselves floundering in their positions or out of place in the rapidly changing environment and facing forced attrition.

One of my Managers’ had summed it quite well: “We offer employment, we do not guarantee continued employability” !

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