Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is Corporate Training an Oxymoron?

It's been a while since I posted anything, but then that's because I have been a busy little beaver at work. New customer, new training initiative, quick turnaround...the typical elearning initiative fueled by the new buzzwords in elearning, rapid development. And I am a firm believer in keeping my work/life well-balanced, so I really haven't been following the learning blogs that closely either.

Today, was the first time I started to see what I have missed and I followed a link from Brain Based Learning to Talking Story with Say Leadership Training, titled Unplanning Learning: Debunking the Merits of a Traditional Corporate Curriculum. While there is much of what is said here that I agree with as far as how people learn, I think Lisa Haneberg has a great deal of sound arguments, but her proposition falls in the category of tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

I concur whole-heartedly that much of what is presented in traditional corporate training has no real application, or, if does have application there is no opportunity to immediately apply it once the trainee leaves the classroom (or shuts down the computer in the case of elearning.) Yet the concept of discovery learning. She writes:
As trainers, coaches, and managers, the way we approach helping employees learn is more important than anything. We need to understand the significance of creating a learning-ready environment and we should let learning be a personal and customized experience. [Emphasis in original]
My problem with this approach is that it assumes that all people want to learn at all times. Call me cynical, but I have been around long enough to recognize that not everyone wants to learn. Some people think they know everything they need to know. Others are scared to try something new. Finally, others just want to put in their 40 hours and go home and have a beer.

My point is that, while I decry the corporate bean counting which is only interested in measuring butts in seats and think that the answer to every corporate culture problem is training, I think there is a need for formal corporate training. For the people who think they know everything they need to know it is an opportunity to present new concepts to them. For the people who are scared to try something new, it provides an opportunity to try something in the safety of a classroom.

So am I dismissing Lisa's ideas. NO! She's right that more learning occurs in an informal environment than in a formal one. Learning occurs more often when the learner is interested in learning than when they are directed to learn by higher-ups. The key is for corporate leadership to provide the opportunities to its employees to discover new tools, concepts, and skills that can improve themselves. This can be done through formal training experiences. Then the leadership must provide opportunities for the learners to expand on those skills informally. On corporate time. If an employee does not take the opportunity then Darwin's Law will take over and those that do not improve themselves will fall by the wayside.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dennis - nice rebutt.

You make some good points. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water....well, maybe in some cases the baby's got to go...but I do think it would be great to create a learning plan that is not constrained by the automatic sheep dippy type of training mindset.

Thanks for getting into it with me!

Lisa Haneberg