Why Your Training May Be a Waste of Time

Image credit: iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

Everyone trains to maintain their skills and acquire new ones.   

They might have been sent off to an external provider to gain qualifications or certifications or took time out from the working day to join their colleagues on-site for a training session.

It might have been a pleasant way to pass the time. But the reality is that the time spent training is likely to have been a complete waste of time. 

We are learning useless skills

It might have seemed like a good idea to get everybody skilled in a specific program or process. But as time moves on and as the day-to-day work continues, many of those skills which the workforce has acquired will sadly prove useless.

It is a waste of time and money while hurting both the organization and the careers of employees. 

Everyone has been told that training is good, and virtue is often measured in the organizational budget dedicated to training. But this can be simply a box-ticking exercise similar to compliance, but which gets no positive result.

Workplaces are changing, as is the nature of work. New tools and new situations to deploy them are coming at us all the time. But it seems that the traditional methods of predicting skill are no longer as relevant as they were.

The upshot of that is that organizations and HR leaders are too often wasting their own time invested in irrelevant learning that will never actually be used.

According to Gartner, which analyzes the jobs market through its Gartner TalentNeuron engine, the number of skills required for a single job increases by 10% each year, but over 30% of the skills we needed three years ago will soon be irrelevant.

It is mainly the case with digital skills, where Gartner says too many people are playing catch up.

“Skills development must be relevant, fast, and effective,” says Sari Wilde, managing vice president of Gartner.

“That requires HR to ensure employees not only learn the right new skills – for their personal development and the benefit of the organization — but also apply those skills. You can try and respond to or predict what you think are future needs, but HR is often wasting time and effort on irrelevant learning that won’t ever be used to further the business or the career of the employee.”

Understanding what’s wrong

That’s not to say that training is misguided, but often the issue is that the wrong skill is being acquired. 

According to Gartner’s analysis of the IT, finance, and sales role in the U.S., in 2017, those roles required an average of 12.6 core skills. The projected comparison for 2021 is 18.5 skills, but 10.1 of these skills will be new since 2017.

As a result, 60% of chief executives are pressuring HR to make sure the workforce has the future skills, and 69% of the workforce want development opportunities for the future.

The problem is that skills training then becomes reactive, and that is when the irrelevant skills are imparted. Employees only learn 54% of the new skills they need under this approach.

Gartner advocates what it calls a “dynamic skills strategy,” which is predictive and is “focused on structuring HR and the organization — people, systems and strategies — to respond dynamically to changing skills needs.”

“When HR uses the dynamic skills strategy, employees apply 75% of new skills learned,” Gartner says.

A dynamic approach also enables HR to sense the shifting of skills in real-time, develop skills at the time of need, and would allow employees to make their own appropriate skilling decisions and an environment of transparency. 

It needs HR to anticipate change, not predict it, and be prepared to adapt. It also requires embracing non-traditional learning techniques, including e-learning, and two-way transparency between the organization and employees.

The results, says Gartner, are clear. It also boosts employee performance by 24% and a 34% improvement in discretionary effort when employees go above and beyond.

These are results worth having because they create that virtuous cycle of engagement, retention, and productivity.

But it is an approach that comes from commitment and not necessarily from the classroom. 

Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages