Published on 2012/02/07
Much has been written about getting stakeholder “buy-in” for workplace training and I think the problem is not at the top but in the trenches. There just isn’t a feeling in the trenches that there is time to do any of this.

In other words, while development is seen by managers as a nice to have, it is not a need-to-have and the learning industry has been very hard-pressed to prove that is not the case. I think the current unemployment situation is exacerbating this problem at the manager level because many in senior leadership (whom managers emulate) simply want to hire people who immediately know how to do a job and do only that job very well. They are in the business to make X, not develop people. So, with a large amount of available talent, many people do not get developed. There is of course senior leadership with good vision on developing talent out there. Whether that group is growing or shrinking, I believe depends on their specific business situation and whether their company is growing or shrinking.

Bottom line; development is often situational, not a fabric of the business.

This is why IT professionals have been a bit immune to the latest downturn. They purged their ranks back in the early 2000s so that when technology got more complex and business-critical again, they actually grew their skills. This is because it was cheaper for companies to develop them and add on than it was to go out and find people who could do the job AND were also good employees. They could add to their skills and increase their productivity, thereby increasing their income and job security and ability to add to the company’s bottom line or reduce the cost line. In other words, it was an economic no-brainer.

Which brings me to the problem I see with the learning industry in general. Everything is too complex economically. Our arguments for development are too complex. Our case studies are too complex. Our tools are too complex. Right now there seems to be a war going on between informal and formal learning and it does not seem to want to resolve.

On the one hand, I believe there is a dearth of development and coaching capabilities at the front line manager level which makes life miserable for many employees and no doubt keeps them from moving forward and feeling fulfilled. On the other hand, there is too much hierarchy and calcification to experiment and try things (even without measurement) at the front line manager level. We seek to control when we should be seeking to influence front line management.

Patrick Lencioni wrote a book called “Death by Meeting.” I believe there is a companion piece ready to be written called “Death by Training” with a follow up called “Death by HR Tools.” Nobody wants to use these things. They just ruin the workflow and get mediocre compliance at best. What we want are things that allow people to soar and get results for themselves and for their teams. This has to be a collaboration and it has to be done in a way where there is some magic and wonder, not 50 complex learning theories on why it works or won’t work. Think about explaining IT to senior management, do they want to know how you secured their cloud or do they just want a secure cloud customers can buy from?

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