If you had a squeaky door that was driving you nuts, would you decide to wait until it had stopped squeaking before you oiled it? Of course not! Yet that is precisely the attitude all too often adopted when it comes to managing people.
Too many organisations have evolved a culture where training is perceived as a reward for good performance: where training is the next best thing to a holiday, giving the ‘lucky’ recipient a chance for time out of the office, away from the routine of everyday activities and responsibilities.
Now clearly that is not the intention, and most managers would be appalled to think that such a culture prevailed in their operation. Yet, I am sure that a little honest consideration of the subject would elicit an admission that this was at least partly true of training in many organisations.
What makes me so sure? Well, I see this as a consequence of a more serious problem highlighted recently by an objection to treating people as assets. A manager who was happy to concede the 'theoretical merits' of the proposition felt that it would create too much pressure to train his people, who would then up and leave. His argument, fundamentally, was, “Why should I invest in training someone, who will immediately leave and go somewhere else – most likely my competitor?”
I wish I had been quick-witted enough at the time to riposte with the question, “What if you did not provide the training and the person stayed?” Yet the point about treating people as assets is actually irrelevant here. The fact is his viewpoint encapsulates the attitude to training and people development prevalent in most organisations today and proves the analogy: investment in training is a reluctant investment, almost a last resort and, in such an environment something best given to ‘loyal’ (read ‘unambitious’) employees.
If the concern is truly about wasting training on people who are likely to move on as a result of increased marketability as a result thereof, then it is incumbent on management to ensure that the training is in the context of personal performance where the totality of its provision includes providing an environment in which it can be properly applied and in which the recipient has no inclination to move. It therefore seems to me that treating people as assets is the ideal way in which to both:
a) Break down such reactionary attitudes;
b) Create an environment where people and their abilities are better managed.
Such attitudes and their prevalence, however, sometimes make me wonder if I am a voice in the wilderness. Surely I am not alone in thinking such attitudes are clear evidence that it is management itself that is the brake preventing superior organisational performance and that the treatment of people as assets offers the means to change?