Training, for all that ails you

“Canadian companies aren’t spending enough on training,” said the announcer on the radio this morning. My first thought was that we would never hear the news that we weren’t spending enough on bandages in our healthcare system. Once again, the mass media and the so-called experts get it wrong. It makes you wonder if there’s a training industry lobby out there.

According to the Conference Board of Canada:

“Canadian organizations are under increasing pressure, due to a tight labour market and competitive demands, to renew and upgrade workers’ skills. Building workers skills through training, learning and development is one way for organizations to compete. Yet, TLD spending in Canada is stagnant,” said Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning.

Read in its entirety, this makes sense, as TLD is only one way to improve performance. There are many other ways and usually training is the most expensive method. I’ve noticed that many large organisations have a tendency to slap on the training bandaid once any problem has been labelled a human performance issue. It seems that the media and research institutes reinforce this behaviour. However, training that is not directly related to developing specific skills and knowledge wastes time, bores workers and costs money.

This is not the first, nor the second, but the third time that I have heard our national broadcaster report the unfounded notion that training can solve unrelated performance problems. This is the same as prescribing medication without a diagnosis. Of course I don’t really blame the CBC, because it is getting this misinformation from our training and learning “experts”. The snake oil salesmen have jumped on the Conference Board report and are demanding that companies spend more on training. That would be a costly mistake.

I also noticed from the Conference Board’s report that informal learning is actually being mentioned:

Informal learning, which is not well tracked or monitored, may be occurring more frequently. Respondents said 42 per cent of all learning occurs informally.

I get the sinking feeling that informal learning will soon be commoditized by the TLD industry and sold like training currently is – as a solution looking for a problem.

To read the complete report you would have to spend $975 to find out what many of us already know. Training is a means (one of several, not limited to learning & development), while performance is the real goal.

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