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Why Do Organizations Often See Training As a Luxury?

The huge majority of organizations view training as overhead, or a luxury, and that's one reason why training is the first thing to go when organizations look to cut costs. If training is so important, though, why is it that companies always look to reduce its costs?

It's hard to generalize, since obviously different companies have different outlooks but here are some factors that operate.

  • For some odd reason training seems to have inherited some of the societal characterizations that used to (and still) affect the training profession. It wasn't long ago that teachers required no qualifications to teach, and were typically underpaid to an astonishing extent. Our society does not tend to value those that help others learn. A sidebar on the teaching profession - in the past, teachers have been primarily female, and the areas where women have chosen careers has tended to be downgraded in terms of importance, sadly.
  • The effects of successful training can be subtle and hard to see so decision-makers aren't necessarily intouch with the benefits that do occur.
  • Interesting Point

    In situations where the training department is adept at speaking the language of decision-makers, makes an attempt to honestly measure impact, and markets properly to executives, you will find that training is much more valued. A single individual (e.g. an excellent director of training) can make positive inroads to protecting the training function and increasing it's perceived and actual value.

    Trainers, themselves, contribute to the perceptions of decision-makers, and unfortunately, many trainers do not convey an image that appeals to decision-makers. That may be because trainers don't always speak the same language as executives, or, quite bluntly, they are not good at their jobs, in which case the "training as luxury" problem is well deserved.
  • A lot of training is, in fact valueless, because it dangles. It's unconnected. That means that people go to training not knowing why they are going, and return to the workplace where there are zero supports or followup for the application of what is learned. Even with an excellent trainer, and excellent design, the value is lost, and it's seen as a lost investment.
  • Most often the contribution of training to achievement of the goals of the organization is never assessed, so it's hard to present hard numbers to justify training expenses.

So, it's not surprising that executives, who are, by definition a distance away from training activities, cannot see obvious benefits (even if they are there), and /or reflect the reality that a lot of training investment is wasted. Is it so surprising that decision-makers don't see training as an essential function necessary for the success of the organization.

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