Thursday, March 31

The Canary in the Training Coal Mine

There is the old cliche that train companies should have realized they were in the transportation business and invented and embraced airplanes. This always seemed a bit dim to me. There was just not that much value-add they could have, well, added.

I bring this up because I think a lot about the training business. I don't mean the vendors, but the internal training group. What is the best model for them? For any group, what is their "brand," and what is their core competency? How can they grow that? To the degree that they have investment dollars, where should they be taking risks?

There is a trendiness in which the training industry seems to get sucked up. Every new technology captures our imagination. "Training should be more like TiVo, or cell phones, or web pages, or iPods, or Segways..."

Yet the canary in our coalmine is training people in management skills. Most organizations, if they are honest, are terrible at training at a higher level than entry level. There are a few exceptions, of course, but not many. The implications of this are staggering. One is that the people at the top of an organization don't look at training very fondly. The training group was not a key ingredient in the assent. Training is for someone else, not me. Another implication is that most managers are horribly trained. That impacts stock price and, frankly, our GDP.

I am not saying that we should stick to an early twentieth century notion of training as a teacher boring conscripted students. Quite the opposite. But I am saying that our mission, our reason for being, if it is not enabling higher-level skills is enabling low-level skills. And that seems like a lost opportunity.


Jim Schuyler said...

Clark, perhaps training companies and training departments should realize that they're in the improvement of performance business! (I'm sure you'll agree with this!) It is not training that is important but the outcomes of training! So the question becomes "How do you brand yourself based on learning outcomes?"

This is not a new question - I've heard it raised many times before. But, it's still a very difficult question to answer!

Clark Aldrich said...

Or, we could say that we are in the improving the stock price business!

Or making the world a better place business!

It is all very well for a car company to say, "we are in the getting you there business," but at some point, I want passion around the engine, the construction, etc.

To many, our focus outside of our tradition smells of failure, desperation, and opportunism, rather than competence, growth, and alignment.

Clark Aldrich said...

Not to be too harsh, but to repeat the premise of the post, if we are not helping the managers on up with critical skills, we can talk all day long about performance support and just-in-time this and EPSS that, but we will still be sweeping up after the parade.

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