Why Is Training Undervalued?

Training and development activities can increase the capabilities and abilities of most organizations. Virtually every recent management leaders (eg. Deming, Crosby, Senge), have stressed the importance of learning as a primary tool for organizational success. That said, training as a whole, is not consistently valued by managers or staff. Even when managers support training through what they say, when the time comes to allocate resources for training, it is often the new photocopier that wins out.

Staff can also be ambivalent. We've noticed a shift in the perceptions of employees regarding training. Ten years ago, training was often regarded as a pleasant break from work, a chance to learn a few things and meet others. Now overworked staff are more hesitant to even attend. Being away from the workplace for a day means that somehow a day's work must be made up.

Since we work in the training delivery sector, you might expect us to attribute the undervaluing of training to neanderthal managers, prehistoric like organizations, or burned out employees. In fact, we think the explanation must lie with the profession itself. Perhaps training is undervalued because it often doesn't provide value! If that is so, then the responsibility must lie squarely with training practitioners. We are going to look at some aspects of the training profession so that you can become a more educated training consumer.

The Problems with Training

In our years in the training profession we have made the following observations:

1. Trainers are often more interested in selling a program than helping you and your staff improve performance or organization effectiveness.

2. Trainers generally move into training from other jobs. Few people choose training as a primary career choice. Hence they are unlikely to have undergone rigorous training in psychology, learning, interpersonal relationships, etc. They are less likely

to have formal training in the content they will be teaching.

3. The training profession is dominated by a culture that includes the notion that a trainer does not need to have advanced knowledge about what s/he is teaching.

1. The Selling of Training

Training is a business, but the focus on training as a consumer item is problematic. If deal with training vendors, you have probably met with those that come into your office loaded with brochures, and explain how their programs will help you. They are selling products--much like people who sell cars or televisions. It is incumbent on them to create a need for their product. The larger organizations that sell training are often very good at what they do. They can make a case that their program will help with what ails you or your organization. The thing is, it's all


Effective training isn't a consumer item. It is a service that needs to be linked to, and customized for YOUR workplace. It needs to be based on your business/organizational purpose and objectives, and it needs to address the gaps in your organization that interfere with optimal performance. Many trainers do not act

in accordance with these principles. So, while they be very good at sales, and classroom training, what they do dangles without being anchored to your organization. People may come away having learned some things, but it is unlikely that any discernable differences will occur on the job.

Consumer Tips:

Look for trainers that:

1. Ask many questions about your workplace, staff, and purpose.

2. Customize their seminars based on a needs assessment process.

3. Treat training as a consulting service, not as a car sales type of thing.

Avoid trainers that:

1. Are clearly selling a one-size-fits-all training approach.

2. Claim that their program will solve any or all of your problems.

3. Are more interested in talking than listening.

2. Inadequate Training of Trainers

As a consumer, you can't be an expert on different models of training and learning. You just aren't going to be able to spend the time it takes to learn those things. Unfortunately, many trainers don't take the time to learn about how people learn,

either. Most trainers don't have an academic background in learning, although they may have a smattering of knowledge about adult education principles. But learning encompasses far more. There are multiple ways to help people learn. What this means is their training approach is likely to be inflexible. For example, if you see a trainer do one seminar on one topic, then another, you are likely to find that they look very similar; the learning activities will often be identical.

The lack of expertise in training methods and training content may not affect the ratings a trainer receives at the conclusion of a seminar. Be aware that participant rating are heavily influenced by enjoyment rather than the degree to which people

learned things that they can apply in the workplace. It is possible to create a seminar that is fun, but teaches only minimal concepts and skills.

Consumer Tips

It is hard to be an educated consumer regarding trainers, because the consumer is not usually an expert on training. Our feeling is that you should ask prospective trainers about their background in training, and in the content area they are proposing. Look for people who have an academic background in psychology rather than a certificate in adult education, which is one of the least demanding fields of study at most universities. While an academic degree does not ensure that training will be effective, at least the holder will have been exposed to multiple ways of looking at learning and teaching.

Avoid trainers whose primary qualifications (even certifications) were earned from a company whose products they are selling. It is not uncommon for this certification to be the ONLY one that the trainer will hold.

3. Training Culture

The field of training is one of the few where the dominant culture suggests that trainers need to know only the basics about the subject matter they teach. It is not uncommon to find trainers who have read a book or two, attended a single seminar, and then feel they are competent to teach in that topic area. We wouldn't want a kidney expert perform brain surgery; why would we want a trainer who is not knowledgable in their field. As examples of this kind of thinking, look at the quotes below, from trainers.

"What's wrong with stand-up trainers working in content areas they are not expert in?

"When I first started out on my own [as a trainer], I said yes to almost anything..."

"...we quite frequently agree to undertake [training] projects in which we are not all familiar with the associated "content".

There are multiple problems with this perspective. First, trainers with superficial knowledge tend to teach half-truths and myths without being aware they are doing so. Second, such trainers can rapidly become unbelievable when they cannot respond to questions in seminars that require more advanced knowledge. Third, if a trainer can learn about a topic from a book, so can your staff, or at least to the same superficial level.

Consumer Tips:

1. Look for trainers that specialize in the topic area you are interested in. Nobody can be expert at everything, or even many things.

2. Ask trainers about where they learned about the topic they are teaching. Consider asking for specific references that they have used to build the seminar. Knowledgable, expert trainers will probably be able to give you multiple references, and names of people they have taken ideas from. Less knowledgable people will

tend to give you only one name, or one perspective.

3. Ask trainers if there is any kind of training they will not deliver. This is a bit of a trick question. If they indicate that they can do training in almost anything, thank them and find someone who realizes their own limitations.


If you are hesitant about investing in training, you should know that your concerns are probably well founded. The training field is full of well-meaning but ill-equipped trainers, even in prestigious firms. Unfortunately, less competent trainers give

the field a bad name, but rest assured there is a lot of good training carried out by skilled professionals. The trick is to identify them, and their strengths.

From India, Pune

Change & Organisation Development Consultant
Thanks - that was a very useful treatise.

Might I add the following?

IMHO (in my humble opinion) training is undervalued for 2 main reasons:

1 - a perception by the customer/client that it is not easy to accurately predict the benefits of the training and how likely these will be realised.

2 - a perception that typical trainers do not undeerstand the business enough and are probably not expert enough in a particular subject.

Indsujeet makes a useful point - training is a low cost function to get in to, and it is not regulated. There are many many people in training who are simply not competent in many of the areas they sell their services in. Few people have made it a career choice from an early time.

I have found (and I am biased here) that ex military persons who have been involved in training in the military are some of the most competent. Why? Because the military (I am an ex British RAF training officer) gives extensive training in being a trainer, and selects people to train in a subject they are expert in - so people with an engineering background, such as myself, are trained to do training in engineering subjects (which is what happened to me initially). As any officer in the UK forces will have had at the evry least 6 months of full time, intenseive leadership training, and acted as such for several years afterwards, it is also reasonable for them to be deployed to do leadership development. I had almost a year of training (much full time) to be a training officer, plus 2 years part time doing an MSc at Bristol in management development. Very few outside of the military have had the benefit of such investment.

An interesting topic!

From United Kingdom,

Principal HR Consultant (OHS&W)
I think it is undervalued because the connections between training and business needs is often not articulated well.
The connection between employees who feel their potential is being well developed and business outcomes is also not well understood.
When dollars are tight, training is the easy sacrifice!
Many of the organisations with which I have been involved treat training and development in a bulimic fashion, binge for a while, then nothing, chuck in a restructure to relieve the monotony then binge again on training.
Many of my colleagues feel that the training offered organisationally is more like propoganda than real learning.
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From Australia, Ballarat
hello sir,
in relatin to ur post abt trainning i would like to know at this fast pased techi world what are all the measures that can be taken to get the employeee attend the trainning session..expecting urr reply soonn
with regards and prayers

From India, New Delhi
hello sirr,
This is in context of ur reply towards the trainning and development.sir what are some ways that the organization can attract their employees to wards trainning and this being again taking into account the application too after the trainning......hope u reply me

From India, New Delhi
Rajesh Balasubramanian

Head - Operations & Delivery
Learning and development does require the employee's heart and mind. Taking them through traininig process will not yrield results and moreover they may start loosing interest as well.
What makes you write a comment as" How to attract people for learning" ? You may want to conduct an assessment and survey of your existing programs - methodolgy,content,delivery,relevance etc and obtain the feedback from the employees. This might help you in designing the new T&D strategy
Rather than taking them through sessions only on technology take them on behaviour understanding and skills as well. An outward Bound Learning methodology will be a perfect bet in this line
During the games and exercises the employee learns himself - the theory we otherwise try to impart to him through class room training. This is more evident in OBL programs
Adding to Martinn - even i advocate that the Ex-Military officials are good and perhaps that why they are succeding in this arena :)

From India, Bangalore
dear rajesh
I was fine to read ur mail ,but the problemis that i dont get numbers for trainning to atleast check whether my methodology is right or wrong and we have arranged lot of non technical trainning also .and remember and these employees are not undergraduates they are all well educated techies even then end of the month i am running for the number of trainning hours to show my boss...if there was no mandatory for the number of hours i am sure that no one would turn up...i am not complainning all there are some wonderfull persons who understand the meaning of "learning " and attend the sesssions , which by the feedback given by them are very good but i am worried about the 30% who dont attend the session what willl i do to atleast come and attend the sessiona if i can succeced in that then i am sure i can make them com backk...........any ideas (last option will be drag them from their seat and put them in trainning sessions ahh)_

From India, New Delhi

Change & Organisation Development Consultant
If I understand what is being said here (I am in constant awe of those members who do not have English as their first language, yet take the time and effort to put their contributions to the forum in what is my first language - very humbling - in my recent short and first trip to India I managed to learn just a little Hindi - not enough for much of a conversation, but I digress...!)

Sachu is experiencing what so many of us have and continue to experience - poor attendance rates.

I have experienced this as both a training manager, general manager, and trainee.

The answer as to WHAT to do is quite straightforward.

The answer as to HOW to do it is less so - such is life!!


The training must be seen to be valued by the senior management - that usually means that senior management are attending their own training, and this is not hidden. Further, they should also discourage other managers from calling people back from training, or cancelling their attendance at the last minute.

The training itself must also be seen to add value not just to the organisation, but also to the individual - perhaps as fun, career enhancement for the future, or a route to more pay and/or easier job.

This also implies that the training is relevant, timely, accurate, credible, complete and stimulating. And delivered by competent trainers who know the subject.

Further, it needs to be promoted well to the staff and the line managers, to help them decide how it fits in with their priorities in achieving objectives. This also means that the training must clearly fit in with the what the organisation is trying to achieve, and help make it easier for people to do their jobs.


This is more difficult and likely to vary from organisation to organisation!

Best wishes


From United Kingdom,
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