When it comes to attending workplace training, those who really need to usually don't want to. Perhaps you know the type: "I've been here a long time - what will that class teach me?" Often such words come from a seasoned manager, but it's common for all adults to scoff at training, so perhaps you've said something similar yourself.
I can't say I blame you. Too much training consists of an expert reading from a slide show or waxing eloquently for hours but completely failing to transfer any real knowledge or skills. If you're lucky, those soliloquies offer some humorous anecdotes, but even then, that may be all you get.
How to be (or locate) a quality trainer is a topic for a different column. For now, let me talk to those who scoff at the idea of attending training at all. Consider the following:
Scenario 1: Joe the Manager has been giving his team members annual performance reviews for the past ten years. He's never attended any training on the subject, but neither has he heard any complaints about how he conducts reviews, so he thinks everything must be fine. Hence, Joe says, "Why should I bother attending a webinar on how to conduct good performance reviews?"
Scenario 2: Janet the Executive is busy and says she doesn't have time to attend a condensed version of the management training her managers will receive. Her perspective is that she's an executive now, and when it comes to managing, she's "been there, done that." But those middle managers in her company? "They need the training - send them through it!" she says.
These are just two of the many scoffing scenarios I've seen. Although each person seems to have a point, much stronger reasons exist for why Joe and Janet should attend those trainings.
In Joe's case, if he hasn't brushed up on the latest in best practices, he's probably not as effective as he could be. It's possible he's doing an okay job, but it's also quite possible his subordinates wish their review process was better.
What if Joe spent an hour participating in a Performance Review webinar, or went through an e-learning module on how to give effective reviews? Chances are he'd pick up at least one "golden nugget" of information (and probably more) that would lead him to improve the way he conducts reviews. The result? His employees would become more engaged and therefore more productive. Joe's hour invested in training would come back to him many times over.
Janet also seems to be making a good point, but she's shooting herself in the foot. Sending middle managers through management training means they'll be learning tools and techniques for how to manage people. Chances are these techniques will be different from what Janet and her peers did when they were managers, so imagine the conversation when a manager tries to practice a skill taught in the management training:
Janet: Why did "x" happen?
Manager (afraid, because his first attempt at attempting a new technique failed): I was trying to get the front line employees to own their own efforts.
Janet: I don't know what kind of touchy-feely stuff you're trying to practice, but if you can't get the results we need then maybe you have too much on your plate.
Manager (mentally rejecting everything he just learned in management training): Not a problem, Janet. I'll use a different approach.
Fact: Workers want to feel that their work contributes to bigger picture and they engage more when they own their own efforts. So if Janet skips even a condensed version of the training her managers will be taking, she won't know when a manager is trying to practice what he was taught in class.
And if she criticizes any of that effort, his conclusion is "don't bother doing what was taught – I need my job. And since Janet isn't going to support what's been taught in the training, then it's all a waste of time."
Another fact: Managers who get criticized for trying to apply what they learn won't make further efforts to change.
With all due respect to executives everywhere, if you're going to invest in training managers (and every company should), then the executives need to go through at least a condensed version of the training. All management training needs the execs aware of - and even endorsing - what's being taught. Don't have time? Then any training you provide will fall way short of its potential.
Whether you're a Joe or a Janet, every training has a golden nugget – an insight, a piece of information, a technique – which you can take and use. Sometimes you must look for these nuggets, but they are there. In other words, don't scoff. Don't think you know it all. Instead, be a lifelong learner. Take the nuggets and use them.