Professional training regimen can be excessive

My new boss has an obsession with training. Management training, leadership training, security training, how to deal with your team training, etc. This is all well and good, but it takes time out from actually getting the job done. Plus not everyone sent on the courses has any leadership potential whatsoever. Is it all necessary? PJ, Abu Dhabi

a Coming from a business school and as a solution provider of management and leadership trainings myself, I am going to take a stand on the extensive learning and development, especially if it is targeted at specific needs or requirements. There is a definite value in getting people together away from the office; it helps them gain a fresh perspective, network, build relationships, learn new skills and reflect on their own practices and behaviour.

Research proves that learning and reflecting with colleagues has a higher learning impact than the technical content of the course. I have worked with numerous individuals and teams who have shown measurable growth as a result of development experiences. It is often something they learnt by talking to someone else or by reflecting on their own behaviour rather than to do with a model they learn from a projector in a classroom.

Interestingly, in this challenging economic climate, I often hear people complain about the opposite. Employees are frustrated that their boss and organisation refuses to invest in training and development programmes. So in a way you can consider yourself lucky, but I completely understand that you may feel a little exasperated at being drowned by PowerPoint slides, training manuals and group icebreaker exercises.

It appears your new boss is creating training fatigue by using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to deal with all the challenges your team may face. “Let’s send them away to the trainers and hopefully they will come back polished and shiny”. This obsession, although fuelled by good intentions, could be unnecessary if it actually stops people from getting the job done, as they do not have enough time between training interventions to practise and apply their new behaviours. It may feel as though colleagues are spending more time in the training room than they do in the office.

Your boss may also be diffusing some responsibility away from himself to develop people or provide technical advice, as he may lack the skill and confidence to transfer his own knowledge to his subordinates. Many managers are technically very credible, yet they have never been developed as teachers, trainers or coaches, so it may be he who needs a course or two.

Anyway, it is important you voice your concerns, albeit remaining positive about his orientation towards development and growth. Help him see that it may not be enough to take the school of goldfish out of the fish bowl, clean them up for a few days and return them back to the same tank.

The general culture of the team and how people work together may also need some examining. Your boss may feel comfortable passing these things over to a trainer, but in reality he is the best placed person to help, especially back at the workplace where he can support staff through coaching, mentoring and in-role development. People need time to take in what they have learnt and experiment with it in their day-to-day activities, in an environment that will allow them to do so.

In terms of selecting the right people for the training programmes, this is the responsibility of your manager, to identify and understand the development needs of his people. Remember, it is not just those with leadership potential who require training; it may be technical specialists trying to be better managers or those lacking or struggling in a particular area.

Yet it is your boss who needs to understand not only what training is required for each individual, but also what action needs to happen back at work to maximise the training effect on the business.

Doctor’s prescription:

Training is an important way to develop people. However, your boss should realise that the one-size-fits-all technique does not apply here. He needs to take some personal responsibility to encourage his team to apply the new skills acquired on return to the office. It is not enough to just send people away to learn, as they will always come back to the same environment.

Alex Davda is business psychologist and client director at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School and is based in the Middle East. Email him at for advice on any work issues

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