Do you ever wonder whether training is worth all the effort and admin… especially if line managers and staff complain because there is no noticeable difference in behaviour or skills after a costly company training intervention?
As a training consultant I sometimes get the feeling that people hope I will arrive at their company and wave my magic wand, changing people and making everything alright. It makes me think of how I behave myself, when the wet and damp of the Cape Town winter starts to retreat, and spring is in the air… I march off to my local nursery and buy bank-account- crippling volumes of pretty seedlings to try to bring some life back to my bleak garden. I plant with abandon, throwing colourful little shrubs into ill-prepared holes, dump some water onto them, then stand back and wait for them to impress visitors and family with their splendiferous growth. They look great for two weeks, but six weeks later I find myself pulling bedraggled roots and dead stems out of the ground, cursing myself and the plant supplier for inferior products that I invested in.
Over time I have learned that the fault is not in the product, or my poor Western Cape soil. My problem is that I have expected instant results in a process that needs nurturing, daily attention and food. If I had spent more money on fertiliser, and looked in on the plants more than just once a week, I might have seen different results. I may even have plants that last more than one season.
Sometimes, in our quest for instant gratification, we make the same mistake with the people around us. We expect training programmes to yield instant, or at least fast results. We sometimes forget that we are dealing with infinitely complex organisms. We can plant a much needed and welcome seed into prepared soil. We can hope that the seed was the right one to fill that gap, and will bring forth abundant foliage. But we need to constantly nurture the growth and feed it with the right nutrients. We need to make sure the plant receives enough light and water – the right environment and the right people around the trainee to support his or her growth.
You may have some departments in your company that are like a garden or flower bed urgently needing attention. You may pull out the weeds, prepare the soil with new processes and tools. You may bring in some new seedlings and strong shrubs in the form of talented staff and managers. But if you want them to thrive you will need to fertilise and nurture them. The training programmes you put in place are designed to enhance the growth and the life of the organism, just like fertiliser supports the vital functions of sunlight and water. But when you scatter fertiliser it’s remarkable how some plants thrive from it while others, poorly rooted or in the wrong position of the garden to begin with, just die. Don’t blame the plant or manufacturer or the fertilizer… remember that every plant needs its own particular environment and food, and there’s no perfect remedy that will transform a dead patch if you aren’t prepared to look out for and tend to every plant individually (and re-locate those which are in soil that is unsuited to their needs). Some plants will thrive immediately after a bout of fertiliser, some will take a little while, others might take a lot longer, and sadly there will always be a few who won’t show any change at all, and might even die off regardless of what nutrients you give them.
If you ask Copperline to be your staff’s “fertiliser”, this is how we CAN wave our magic wand. (Or : Tips to manage your own training process):
- Find out what the problems are and what outcomes you need to achieve. What do you want your flower bed to look like?
- Ask you a few questions to help us to understand your environment (your soil and the rest of the garden) and learn what sort of factors influence the growth of the people. What systems and process are in place, what are the management practices, what has been done in the past, and what is the company’s/department’s strategy?
- Put in place a solution that we believe will work, both to achieve the results you want, and to integrate it with the bigger environment (design the right fertiliser based on the soil, the plants’ nutritional needs, and the area they’re growing in).
- Put in place a measurement tool so that you can see which people (plants) have benefited from the training (fertiliser) they’ve been given, which ones haven’t and why, and which ones may need more nutrients of a different kind at a later stage. If there are a few isolated people for whom the training doesn’t make a difference, we can help you identify these and work with you to try to find other solutions for them.
- Help your managers (gardeners) by giving them tools to manage, guide and nurture their staff (plants) on an ongoing basis, to ensure that the training (fertiliser) yields results in the long-term.
Cape Town – August 2011
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