Training Loves Organizational Change

Last week I attended smith & beta workshops in two different cities in North America. Across the country I went. During almost every class, workshop or field trip we see a bit of doubt on the faces of attendees. This isn't doubt as to whether they need to learn the topic or that they are behind in digital capabilities, this is big ol' doubt that their organization won't make the changes necessary to support true digital transformation.

Training alone falls flat if there is not an immediate and ongoing handshake (agreement!) with organizational change. This requires leadership to alter ways of working, systems, processes and behaviors within the marketing department or agency – then (and only then) talent development investment truly pays off. Otherwise we are training employees to leave the company, not stay.

Yet "training" often is a check that box kind of thing. L&D professionals do not always have a seat at the business strategy table. Although many leaders don't understand the true impact that learning does for growth and innovation (and employee retention of course), training is a often just a known answer. Yet almost immediately after training begins, employees start changing how they work. They question how things are currently done, they poke at systems and processes, and apply what they learn to everyday work. They try to make their new knowledge fit in the old organization. This employee behavioral change pushes on all sides of the organization. And then...that change slows.

Employees quickly figure out that their commitment to skillset evolution is directly connected to the organization's ambition for change. Right? If leaders don't do the hard work to change ways of working, then why should the employee try to evolve or commit? Most often they don't. Disbelief sets in, just like I noticed at those workshops I attended last week. Leaders aren't making enough big decisions (with action) needed to keep pace and employees are in on the secret. So employees' doubts remain.

The whole organization is not changing as quickly as the skillsets and capabilities of individuals. And that, my friends, is a recipe for standing still.

What are your thoughts?

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