Competing with Ghandi – A Business Training Challenge
It’s no secret that the times they are a changing … and changing, and changing. In today’s world we’ve had it beaten into our heads that we must never stop learning. Technology changes so rapidly that what we learned yesterday is likely to be outdated tomorrow.
Countries that we used to outsource our simple blue-collar tasks to are quickly clamoring for more advanced tasks not to mention our white-collar jobs, too. Freelancers and contract organizations located in low-cost real estate areas are capable of providing similar services while undercutting us. We’re competing for sales with everyone from the Grizzly Adams to the descendants of Sun Tzu and Mahatma Ghandi.
Yes - we need to keep our organizations sharp. Well trained employees are a weapon in our competitive battles. But is it really viable. How many times have we all heard a company owner or executive beat the training drum only to have the sound quickly fade into background noise?
So what’s the problem? Why is it such a challenge to keep our workforce honed and ready? Have we just heard the message so often that we just go through the motions until it goes away? Actually, it really boils down to a combination of two things – people and systems. So what else is new!
First, I’ve found that there are three types of people in the workforce. Those that are eager to learn and will seek out new knowledge. Those that accept new learning as part of their job and will participate in the programs presented to them. And those that only want to learn an innovative way to get out of the next training session.
Now for the eager learners – they’ll just go out and get it. There’s so much access to information that nothing will stop them. Hopefully, it’s the right information they’re learning, though. For the other two groups, it’ll be hit and miss until you’ve put together some program or system to formally present, track, and administer training elements and programs.
Now chances are you won’t be able to change your employees’ levels of motivation to keep up with personal training and learning. However, all of us are pretty used to having to follow some kind of system – whether we’re in an airport screening line or applying for more credit. So set up a good system and most of the battle is over (or at least it’s winnable).
The next question – how to set up a good system. That, too, boils down to two things – momentum and technology.
Momentum: I often hear from the top of an organization how important training is. Something happens to inspire a “training” or “education” message and an email goes out. It could be a lost contract, an up and coming competitor, a lawsuit, or maybe the President just attended his daughter’s school’s commencement speech and is all fired up. No matter – at some point the issue will be front of mind, back on the table, and definitely in play.
However, all else being equal, the message will get lots of play throughout the organization for only a short period of time. Then, it’ll be forgotten amidst the need to meet deadlines, process paperwork, and answer email.
Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Now when she said this, it’s likely she wasn’t thinking about Human Resource managers – but who knows – maybe they were in the back of her mind.
The next time the training issue is hot – strike - it’s up to you to seize the day. Be prepared to implement an employee training and tracking software system. Yes, it takes some effort, but the long term rewards will be well worth it.
Technology: Today’s software will allow you to define training requirements by job type, job code, or at an individual level. Employee skills lists can be automatically updated as classes are completed. Required certifications and continuing education requirements can be kept up with. And finally, you’ll have a better trained, more prepared staff – which is really the whole goal in the first place.
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