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Is workplace training a waste of time?

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You would think that something of a silly question.  After all, the professional training market is worth many billions of dollars, and a huge amount of time and energy is spent aiming to improve our employees capabilities.  Yet, despite this huge amount of investment, there are still far too many employees who are poor at their job.

Various studies have set out to explore just why so much of the training offered to professionals is ineffective, but one of the most plausible suggests that managers simply don’t believe that their team can improve.  They’re akin to the football coach who believes the only way to succeed is to buy in the best talent ready made, and that there is no point trying to improve the players already at his disposal.  Players are either good, or they’re not.  Very black and white.

The study suggests that managers of this ilk tend to offer precious little coaching to their team, and that when their employees do manage to show improvement, it often goes completely un-noticed by their boss, who blunder on with their pre-existing impression of that person.

What’s more, the study suggests that these kind of managers are not just dismissive of the potential to improve via training, but this also manifests itself in an un-willingness to seek feedback from their employees, especially if it might be critical in some way.

It all fits a common narrative.  There’s no point training someone if they can’t improve, and there’s no point seeking feedback if you can’t improve.

Training and development enjoys much more success in an environment where managers actively believe their staff can improve.  Of course, talent is great, but in this kind of environment it is merely the start, and of greater interest is how the employee can improve from here.  Such an environment sees a regular and constant investment in improvement, amongst staff at all levels.

Maybe therefore, if your employees aren’t developing and improving, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you really believe they can improve.

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