Training Courses - A Waste of Money? By Kenneth O'Brien

Comment: On the surface of it this article seems a bit simplistic, but it touches on a central issue related to the waste of time and money that is allocated to training and staff development. In short, if training is disconnected from everything, and there are not clear expectations and support to use what is learned back on the job, the liklihood of success is pretty low.

Training in its broadest sense is the provision of information to allow someone to carry out an old task better or to learn to perform a new task. Yet training is often seen as an extra cost and therefore affecting the bottom line. When the business environment is difficult it can be one of the first costs to be cut.

There is no denying that it does cost time and money to train people but it can cost far more when people are untrained. Much more time can be wasted showing people tasks that could have been learnt through some form of instruction.

I can understand this resistance to providing training in terms of cost. Even in larger companies the risk that people will jump ship after specialised training is always there. What’s more once people leave education they can often become resistant to learning, beyond basic tasks required of them in their work environment. Often it becomes the responsibility of the employers to determine how and when employees get training. A multinational I worked with used to sit down with its employees every year and ask them about their training needs for the following year. More often than not it was a list of “approved courses”.

This in part is where the problem lies. Employees can often see no benefit beyond a day out because they are not expected to. As a result it can be easy to fill a one day course, when it’s a day out and you get paid for it. The employer fulfils their obligation and the employee gets training. Unfortunately this can also mean people attending courses unsuited to them, which will never benefit them or their organisation. A large organisation, I know of, had telephonists signing up to financial spreadsheet courses simply because they were free.

The problem is not with an organisation selecting the wrong training courses, but with the fact that training ends up as one of those things talked about once a year. Either that or it’s an emailed list of courses for people to sign up to. In my own case, over time the company recognised this and became more proactive in trying to identify more appropriate training.

This is the nub of the problem, appropriate training. It is essential that they do what they are supposed to do. It is also important to determine whether a course is even the right choice. After all there are a number of other ways people can learn. Some of these do not include the need for a formal training course.

Yet what organisations can sometimes overlook is the potential within. It is fair to say that it is not as easy to quantify the expertise of an employee as against a professional trainer. It does not however mean that the expertise is necessarily less valuable. There are likely to be people who already have knowledge and have already been trained. So why not use them?

In the next article I’ll look at ways that businesses can use to provide training programmes that allows them to use the expertise within the organisation.

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