Nov 22, 2007

Who are you subjecting to training?

Prasad raises a very pertinent point in his post "Training the Victim":

The real problem in these contexts might not be related to the capability level of the individual employees at all. Often, the problem is mainly at the structure, process, policy or leadership level. However, it is relatively difficult/inconvenient for the organization/unit head to address the issues/make changes at these levels. So there is a temptation to jump to the conclusion that it is an employee capability issue and to attempt a training solution. Since the real issue remains unaddressed (despite the 'training solution'), there can't much improvement in the situation. I am not saying that there won't be issues at the individual capability level. Of course this possibility should also be explored and if there is evidence for the existence of such a need, an appropriate learning solution could be attempted. My point is just that a proper diagnosis needs to be carried out before a solution is attempted (instead of jumping into the most convenient solution) and that when it comes to taking the responsibility for the deterioration in the performance of the unit in such situations, sometimes, the individual employees are 'more sinned against than sinned'.

The sad part is that the inability to view a system holistically is a rare skill. Often such "training managers" who are called want to contribute but themselves lack capability to diagnose. In such a case the saying "To someone with a hammer, all the problems look like nails" holds true.

When I attended Peter Block's program on "Internal Consulting Skills" the ability to question and to equate with the business leader and manager is a key skill for all support staff. However few HR and Training managers can actually do so. In fact, one of the exercises the program had was for participants to start their statements with "I want..." when talking to a business leader. One of my friends, the Recruitment Manager for a unit said, "How can I possibly say 'I want'? My clients would detest me!"

Internal HR units I think start becoming very servile rather than stay service oriented. In fact my suggestion for HR people is to start being a lot more assertive, question every data given and come to your own conclusions. When I was a person delivering internal service I often wondered what Tom Peters meant when he said that HR folks have to change to Professional Services Firms internally. Now I know.

You'd think that when someone runs a monopoly on a service they would become haughty and when someone is operating in a competitive market they become servile. However my experience with internal HR groups ("the monopoly") and as an external consultant ("competitive market") has been quite the opposite !