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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Instant Training Syndrome

It's true, it's happening and it's sad. Training is going the way of instant noodles, shampoos in sachet and boullion cubes. As companies reduce their training cost and increase productive hours many of them sacrifice training quality for convenience and cost. And in their desire to gain appreciation from their effort to train their employees they choose form over substance. Let me substantiate my claim.

Some Training Are Like Instant Noodles
You open the cup, pour hot water and voila! Instant Training! In some company's lack of interest on what goes into the program, they buy training based solely on promise, not unlike looking at a noodle cup label. We look at the brand, look at the promise of flavor and claim of nutritional value and then we buy it. Most don't even read the fine prints.
That's what happens when you send people to a public seminar without going into the details of what goes in to the program and not knowing who facilitator is and how that person will handle the training. I believe it's an inherent customers' right to ask for details. When I was training manager. I painstakingly put the trainers to the task by asking them to explain how the program will go and how it will be beneficial to the participants. I also ask for participants' feedback to find out if I should send another group to that public seminar. I'm not saying that public seminars are bad. I hold public seminars as well and believe that they serve a particular purpose. This is why I appreciate it when clients ask me details about the programs we offer. They keep us on our toes and help us improve our design to meet their objectives.

Some Training are Like Shampoos in Sachet
Some training decision makers choose SHORTLIVED gains over short and long term gains. I've been asked to run 2 hours of teambuilding activities when what they really need is a long term teambuilding solution. There are also instances when managers choose the cheaper training proposal over an obviously better one for cost consideration or because the other training is shorter thereby requiring less time away from work.

I believe that training program needs to be thoroughly planned and every training event is designed to ensure the most performance impact. While cost concerns are a reality training managers have to deal with, they must not compromise quality for cost, otherwise they'll be spending money for nothing.

Some Training Are Like Boullion Cubes
To some managers, form matters more than substance. In their desire to up the fun ante, they forget the real purpose of training which is learning or change of behavior. On some occasions, a manager will approach and say, we want to have a team building workshop. We prefer ropes course or paintball wargames or amazing race type of teambuilding or an adventure activity. While I believe in the effectiveness of these program when facilitated properly in addressing a particular need, they don't come before the objectives. Know what I mean? If these activities are done simply because they are fun and they are available without looking at how these activities will lead to a particular learning objective or a team action plan, they lose their meaning. They become mere parlor games and the facilitator a mere game master.

I personally believe that both substance and form are important to the success of any training endeavor. They should however, come in that order - substance before form. The taste should not be artificial, they should be a natural result of good ingredients cooked right. In training terms that means, Identifying the training need, setting the objectives and then putting together activities that will meet these objectives. If an activity is not really necessary or does not serve the objective, don't do it under the guise of training no matter how fun.

Managers who are in charge of human resource development need to prevent themselves from being swept by the world's propensity for what seem like instant solutions when in fact they really are not. Most of the instant solutions I mentioned here are synonimous to artificial, meaning not real solutions. Training is too important an investment to be wasted on artificial solutions.


  1. Through my experiences in organizing wide events and activities ranging from workshops and team building activities to exclusive leadership, managements and business trainings, I could not agree more to every idea you have pin pointed. It's true that most corporate sectors focus on reducing costs and maximizing convenience rather than putting emphasis to the quality and lasting experience and long-term gained knowledge.

    Companies couldn't possibly deny Efficiency is a quotient of the product of quality and quantity over cost and convenience. Your logic postulates my notion regarding management. Costs that should have been spent wisely to attain profitable results ends up to be wasted therefore causing minimal or no gain at all.

    I believe that your ideas were presented in a very creative manner yet it doesn't loose its edge on what is being pointed out.

    Thanks, I recommend you to also learn from us.

  2. Anonymous2:46 PM

    Hello, my name is Ace and i;m a budding Hr practitioner with great interest in OD. I find your blog to be a very good read for HR in the Philippine context.

    I'd like to inquire how much is too much teambuilding? I work for a back office company run by foreigners and they question the effectivity of team-buildings 4x a year for small teams like those in BPOs which our line managers would like to implement.

    I hope you can enlighten or share your experience with team building norms in most companies here. Thank you!


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