Employee training is a hot topic and with the size of the learning and development market at a whopping $164.2 billion, it is big business too.
There are entire fields dedicated to employee training, and specialities within training — training in public speaking, management, hiring, and of course, training in training.
And it only makes sense. Most things can be learned by doing, but that means making some messy mistakes along the way and no one wants it to look like they, or their organization, is failing. So instead, we train.
But is training really all it's cracked up to be?
Many HR experts think of training as a workplace-wonder-drug that can solve every problem. And with talent gurus like Josh Bersin confirming that high performance companies spend more on training than their competitors do, there certainly appears to be a solid business case for it.
But experts like Erin Kelley, a VP of professional development and training at Annuitas, point out that if you're struggling with the BIG stuff — think: leadership, management and hiring — training won’t save you.
Genuine capacity problems, poor leadership or a chronic lack of performance coaching are just some of the foundational problems that can never be cured by a two-day seminar. Here are some of the deeper organizational issues that the training band-aid just won't fix.
Best-selling author on employee engagement, Kevin Kruse uses AMC as a good example of how no amount of training can ever compensate for a bad hire. The movie theatre chain saw an immediate decrease in employee turnover and increase in engagement (not to mention, concession sales!) when they finally shifted focus from training disengaged employees to hiring new employees for personality traits that matched the sales and customer service skills they needed.
For the 85% of employees who feel stressed and overwhelmed at work, they definitely won’t be eager to hear about HR's shiny new training program. For these employees, you're better off taking a realistic assessment of their current responsibilities to help them get back to the parts of the job that light them up and drive their best performance.
If, in the process, you discover a new area they want to break into, then it's time to consider some training in that area. The key is to let them tell you how they want to grow and what they want to learn, not the other way around.
Likewise, employees suffering under poor leadership definitely won’t look forward to additional training from supervisors. And distant leaders won’t know how to train for the right scenarios, either.
If you suspect the problems you're facing stem from any of these deeper issues, the key is to lean in and get closer. Meet with your employees one-on-one to find the source of the problem.
Only then can you begin to identify the real solution, whether that's training, a lateral move, or something else entirely.
On the other hand, if your business is running well, your staff can handle the workload, and the fundamentals are in place, then any gaps will probably be skills gaps. If that's the case, training can indeed be the quick fix you're looking for.
But it's still only half of the equation.
Training for sustainable performance means much more than bringing in the latest conflict resolution pro for an afternoon lunch and learn. It means consistent coaching, actively closing the gap between C-suites and frontliners and leading your employees on the issues that are important to them, and the business at large.
While it may be true that developing knowledge and skill can require some giant leaps, most of it comes from the small steps we take day in and day out. If you've already got the right people in place, don’t ask them take one massive lunge forward, then forget to help them walk the rest of the way.