Have you noticed how many people talk a good talk but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is they seem a little reticent? A wise man once said: “When all is said and done – more is said than done”. He could have been referring to training.
CEOs around the country have been paying lip service to this notion for years. If you ask any leader what their company’s most valued asset was they would all trot out the familiar response we all know and love, “Our people are our most valued resource!”
If you were to dig a little further and ask what investment they were making in their most valued resource you may find some blustering and fancy footwork. It’s all a lie! If they truly believed that statement then training and development would not be the first casualty at the merest hint of hard times let alone recession. The vast majority of companies when driven to cut costs see training and development as a cost; a direct trim from the bottom line rather than an investment to maximise their profit potential.
Many bosses haven’t got the guts to fight the case for training and development. They don’t see it as a long term investment. They are too busy appeasing, or being bullied by The City into delivering a swift return on investment.
People are a long term investment. They don’t become obsolete in a few months like much capital equipment and “state of the art” software.
The Myths of Training
Myth No. 1
“Managers are born not made”
The sad fact is that Britain still has a high proportion of senior managers who subscribe to the “Jurassic Park” era of management and leadership i.e.
“You don’t need to train managers. They are born, not trained!”
What utter nonsense! Babies are born, not managers! Have you ever seen a natural born manager,leader or salesman? I have never heard of a midwife delivering a new born child with a,
“Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Smith, you have a lovely new manager and she’s 6lbs. 3oz!”
I know it sounds crazy, but unfortunately such thinking is all too prevalent. I was working with a company recently whose previous CEO was exactly like that. As soon as he was appointed the first thing he did was cancel the management training programme. Strangely enough, morale took a dive as did performance, and he was moved on to pastures new.
All leadership and management skills can be learned. If it is a skill, then by definition it is “learnable”. Companies and CEO’s just need to decide what kind of investment they are willing to make in training and developing their future leaders.
One of Britain’s greatest business leaders, Sir John Harvey Jones was unequivocal, “The future of British Industry is in the hands of the managers”.
I agree. Surely we cannot leave their development to chance? Selecting and training managers is critical to the success of every company.
It is interesting to note the differences in how the armed forces select and train their officers and how the average company selects and trains its managers. All the armed forces have special officer training schools with lengthy, in depth and rigorous selection procedures.
They take the leadership of their people extremely seriously. Is that the case in business? I have spoken to and trained so many service managers who became managers simply because they were good engineers! The assumption being that good technical skills lead to good management skills. The truth is, there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between technical skills and man management skills.
Myth No. 2
“If I train my people they will leave or be poached by the competition”.
If you don’t train and invest in your people they will definitely leave! The fact is, the provision of training and development, and a clearly defined career path attracts applicants to any company. While they are with you they will be more productive and motivated because of your investment.
Some bosses, meanwhile, are prepared to invest in training but seem unprepared or unwilling to accept the consequences of that training. For example, you would expect the trainee to return to the workplace with the intention of implementing the knowledge and skills they have been exposed to on the training programme. Seems logical? After all, that’s why they were sent in the first place. Wasn’t it? Apparently not in many cases! How ludicrous to invest in training your staff, then singularly fail to encourage and support them when they return to the workplace! I have had personal experience of many managers going back to their companies, only to be told by their immediate bosses, “forget that rubbish – this is the real world!”
Unfortunately, many companies contain senior managers who are so weak, they feel threatened by people with ideas. People who are prepared to take risks unnerve them. The thought of highly motivated and enthusiastic employees coming back to the workplace wanting to be creative and innovative is anathema to them. What they want is to maintain the status quo.
Unfortunately, they are missing the point. There is no status quo! That was yesterday’s paradigm. Things are either growing, or they are dying. That applies to both companies and people.
If British industry is to get back to where it used to be it must utilise the “Kaizen” concept. Continuously improving, not only our systems and procedures, but equally importantly, our people.
Companies that see themselves, not only as surviving, but also thriving, must seriously commit to training and developing their people on a continuous basis.
The “big players”, the most successful companies, tend to be more enlightened in this area. Until recently I.B.M. insisted upon a minimum of 40hrs. training for all its managers; but as we all know, even the big boys are capable of messing up! However, at least they are still around and still learning and still training.
There is no company capable of surviving and thriving without training and developing its people.
The case for training and development
Everywhere I go, I hear the same complaint from people, “We’re expected to do more, with less!” Think about it, do you ever hear of companies lowering their targets year on year? Even in the wake of downsizing, the City still expects more. When times are hard, with people and resources being squeezed and put under increasing pressure who will perform better:-
a). A highly trained and motivated workforce?
b). A de-motivated and neglected workforce?
With high expectations, increased demands and fewer resources – employees need to be highly trained.
To produce better results () in 2012 than were achieved in 2011, your people are going to have to do things differently. Either, increase their activity levels (in some cases, significantly), or maintain the same level of “activity” but do it “better”. This is where increased knowledge and skill will help.
You cannot maintain the status quo!
“If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you have always got. So if you want something different – then do something different!”
Makes sense doesn’t it? Someone once defined insanity as doing the same thing today as you did yesterday and expecting different results.
Who needs training and development?
Everyone! All bosses want a highly motivated workforce and there is a strong correlation between training and motivation. If you remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you will recall that we all have a deep-seated need for recognition. We all need to feel valued. By investing in a person’s development, and supporting them, you go some way towards fulfilling those needs.
I have worked with companies where managers have been on the verge of leaving because they felt undervalued and neglected. The turning point was their participation in one management training programme after which they decided to stay, because they suddenly felt valued and believed they had a future.
One company I worked with had to undergo radical re-structuring to maintain a competitive edge. (Of course, it was only radical because it had been neglected for so long!), a consequence of this was many people with little or no management experience were suddenly dropped in at the deep end. However, the senior management did at least invest heavily in training to support them and did enough to help build their confidence and self belief.
Without that training and continued support, there would have been heavy casualties and the new structure would have failed completely.
Training is an investment. It is a long term investment. It is not a quick fix. It does not fit in with the continued British addiction to “short termism”, nor does it satisfy the “left brain” driven accountants’ desire to have a definitive, quantifiable return on investment.
We do know that training and development does increase motivation. If that motivation is channelled in the right direction, what value would that bring to the company?