Part 1: Why business skills training often fails
Companies are spending vast amounts of money on soft skills or business skills training and improvement initiatives annually, but industry research provides limited evidence that these investments are attaining sustainable results for the most part.
More often than not, business skills training is put on the backburner and used only if there is surplus training budget or a knee-jerk reaction to company performance. How often has the sales director used “lack of new sales methods training” as an excuse for poor performance? With revenue growth being the most critical aspect to a company’s survival, it is critical to identify why companies are not attaining a higher ROI on training.
We know from the Future of Jobs report, by the WEF that the top 10 skills requirements all fall into the business skills area. These represent a fundamental attribute to doing business, which in today’s knowledge based economy is demanding on everyone involved.
What are the barriers to sustainable results for business skills training?
Analysis paralysis – the training “event”
Because organisations often rely on performance management and time-on-the -job measures, exposure to training is often forced into an intensive classroom experience, where the goal is to infuse as much “learning” as possible into a limited time frame. As a result, many training initiatives are intensive short term events that try to cover every possible aspect of the subject methodology. This is essentially the same as trying to learn all of the skills and nuances of a sport such as cricket or soccer in a few days. A student would attempt to apply a few basic ideas related to each of the batting, bowling or passing, but without repeated coaching, practice, and reinforcement the learner would never attain mastery.
It is virtually impossible for working professionals to learn, retain, and apply more than a small percentage of what is typically offered in intensive, multi-day training events – unless there is a systematic reinforcement approach across an extended period of time. This is exacerbated in the soft skills or business skills arena, as traditionally this was a difficult area to assess ROI.
The discombobulated Senior Manager
Business skills management and coaching is often cited as an imperative when new training is introduced to any organisation. While there is a degree of truth to this perspective, in the high pressure environment of “your performance evaluation is due,” most managers simply don’t have time to address the overall coaching and mentoring needs of their direct reports. Many of the prescribed management and coaching methods don’t scale in the real world. As a result, even when management is philosophically committed to a new management process and methodology, the ability to follow through with adequate coaching and mentoring is often unattainable.