Your Inconvenience-O-Meter

Will Kenny

Does your organization truly value training? How do you know?

I believe that the value an organization places on any given training can be measured by the inconvenience that organization is willing to impose on trainees, their supervisors and the company itself.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of companies claim their training delivery methods are "more flexible and convenient for employees," when most of the convenience really accrues to the company, rather than to the participants. Employees automatically compare their own sacrifices to the company's. They learn to read the "Inconvenience-O-Meter" very quickly, which tells them:

  • When management really believes training will produce performance enhancements that outweigh the temporary inconvenience to employees, to management and even to customers;
  • When managers and supervisors consider just about everything else to be more important than training;
  • When management shifts most of the inconvenience onto the trainees, with little sacrifice from the company.

If a "best practice" truly has value, then training that spreads that practice is important enough to require an investment. And that investment goes beyond money and materials to time, to small sacrifices. Maybe an employee will miss a meeting or a conference call. Maybe a customer or supplier will have to wait a few hours longer than usual to get a response.

Employee Sacrifices Only, Please

I remember one company I worked with that held fairly regular best practices training. They were proud of their investment in their employees. But it took me a while to see what the employees had figured out long before I came along: every single hour of training they attended was scheduled in the evening or on a weekend. It wasn't hard to figure out why employees arrived in a resistant mood and put the least possible energy into "getting it over with."

The employees knew that if training were truly important, management would be willing to put up with some inconvenience in their normal business operations to get it done. Management never thought about making the same sacrifices they demanded of their employees. It was little wonder that performance never improved.

In many organizations, employees learn to be rather wary of the "convenience of online learning." Perhaps the company replaces a four-hour seminar with a four-hour online course. Do employees get to block out four hours of work time to complete the training? Or do they end up doing the training on their own time?

Maybe there should be a sign on your company’s lunchroom wall: "Don't waste precious company time learning to do your job better!"

Suffer Together, Succeed Together

Fortunately, smart managers and well-run companies know that investing in training and communication is not just about money. The best managers get better work out of their employees in part because they don't let convenience take priority over tangible results.

  • They spend their own time and energy getting employees to appropriate training, telling them why they are going, and setting expectations that participants will be fully present and engaged;
  • They help "clear the decks" as much as possible, arranging for others (themselves if necessary) to cover for people while they are in training;
  • They follow up after training to help employees apply what they have learned.

I like convenience as much as anyone. But I'm willing to trade convenience for results. If your company's training delivers "convenience" and "efficiency," but only to management and training staff, expect to be disappointed in the impact of your training efforts.