Training firms themselves are probably the most savage critics of training when it is done poorly. There are cases in which the curriculum is flimsy, faddish or brief. Trainers, too, can be disasters—unskilled, inflexible or simply incompetent.
These few can ruin the prospects for the many. Choosing the right firm is one aspect of the process. Flakes should be easy to spot, as also poor-quality delivery. However, the large-scale waste usually is not found in either the selection process or delivery; generally, it is to be found in the management processes of the firm undergoing the training.
Far more rampant than it should be is the “box ticking” process of 1) training was requested, 2) trainers were selected and 3) training was delivered. But the waste is not just in terms of monetary outlay for training; it is also the collective time cost for all involved. And how about the box marked 4) the training opportunity was maximised? Was it even there to be ticked?
Japan has some interesting challenges that involve how training is perceived and received. Many employees consider being sent off for training as a slight on their ability, an assault on their professionalism, and even an affront to their dignity. But why?
In Japan, the formal training process is not the norm; on-the-job training is the standard method of skill improvement. This works well when the role model is worth emulating but, in many cases, this form of improvement merely leads to a continuation of past mistakes, errors, archaic mentalities and outdated technologies.
The linkage between professional management and training is particularly weak in Japan. The usual pre-training brief goes like this:
“Suzuki-san report for training in two weeks’ time. HR has the details”.
After training, there is no debriefing.
The following alternate boss-to-subordinate pre-training brief is a rarity:
“Suzuki-san, you have been doing a great job. You are a future leader in our company and, as your boss, I want to make sure you realise your full potential. To advance, we need to help get you to the next level. I have arranged that, in a fortnight’s time, you will participate in a specially selected training programme, which will add to your current skill base.
“For your future success, there are three goals for you to work towards with this training:
- Further mastering concise, clear communication skills
- Developing even more effective people skills, especially how to build “rich” internal networks
- Improving confidence to step out of your comfort zone and to take on more initiative, even when there is a risk that the initiative may fail. This is critical to enhancing the innovation process for the future of the company.
“After the training, we will get together again and review the progress made during the training, and the follow-up steps to make sure the training sticks and sets a new default position with your skill set. We will also explore what the focus should be for your subsequent training. What questions do you have for me about the training?”
Trust me, a room full of dismal faces is not a trainer’s preferred start to the day. This is the reality we often face, however, and I always reflect what a tremendous waste of resources, time and money it is for the client. We are professionals, so we know how to turn around people’s attitudes, but it is far from the ideal approach.
So, how is it where you work? Are your on-the-job trained “expert” managers sending the troops off to training with a spring in their step or, instead—because they think they are being punished—with a big scowl on their faces?
Simply calculate the amount of training completed over the past five years, including the cost of personnel being in training, and terrify yourself when you consider the next five years.
Stop wasting money on training; get your managers organised and set up for success rather than failure with your training efforts.