If you are going to invest in training and talent development, and there is a lot of that going on, then it should be with people who are worthy of the investment. In sales training alone, about $20-billion per year is spent. That’s more than the budgets of 22 states. And yet:
- At least one quarter of the typical sales force will be replaced each year
- Even the happy ones only stay less than four years on average in some high-paying disciplines
- The explanations never seem to change
Those turnover metrics can apply to any industry, obviously; I picked sales because a great deal of training focuses on that. Leadership development is another area and the same questions linger: have you or has your organization made someone a manager only to learn that the person could not manage? Are organizational teams or departments hothouses of innovation and collaboration, or toxic environments in which simply getting through the day qualifies as an achievement?
Calculate all the training dollars spent on people who did not work out or who took the information from a coaching or training seminar/workshop that you paid for to another employer. Add in one last bit of irony: though the reasons why new hires fail is not a mystery, the outcome is often pre-ordained because organizations do not consider the occupational DNA of the people they hire – what motivates them, in what type of culture will they thrive, are they willing to do the job or will they be searching anew in six months? And then, they hand off those people to trainers and coaches with the implied demand of “make them better.”
Professional development is not magic, it’s work and it generally requires two things of those receiving the training in order to be successful: talent and desire. Even legendary basketball coach John Wooden knew that no one wins without talent, at least not consistently. Putting the wrong person into the wrong job is a fantastic recipe for failure. Every grain of sand cannot be a pearl and if that were possible, then pearls would be worthless. Organizations know who their top people are; they should also know why top performers are who they are and be able to give that information to coaches and trainers to use as a road map for developing the employees who are toeing the line of excellence but need a slight nudge to cross it. We’re in a specialized world; consultants can customize programs to fit a variety of organizational situations, but they cannot engineer a fix if the company itself is not sure what the problem is.
The second variable is desire, which good coaches can tap into and help individuals to channel. Like dialogue, this is only effective if both sides participate. Not to get bogged down in a tyranny of clichés, but there is a reason sayings like “you can lead a horse to water,…” exist. Some people perceive coaching as an indictment of their performance. “Let me help you” is interpreted as “you’re doing it wrong.” “Wax on, wax off” only made sense after Daniel understood how Mr. Miyagi integrated it into the bigger picture.
Accepting coaching shows a willingness to admit that you do not know everything and an openness to trying new things. Not everyone has the internal motor for that and not everyone is comfortable putting his/her ego to the side, which leads back to the original hiring questions: just how well do organizations really know the individuals whom they bring on board? If companies are going to spend money on improving organizational performance, they have a far greater likelihood of recouping that investment when the training they buy is used on talented people who have the desire to improve.