You have work. And then you have training. And sometimes work, presented in the right context, can be training. No matter how training is approached, there’s no doubt that training leaders and employees is fundamental to organizational success. Nonetheless, training is too often neglected.
Almost any successful leader will tell you that excellent training for leaders and employees is vital to organizational success. Nonetheless, excellent training—even good training—is too often neglected, for a number of reasons. Excellent training is difficult: difficult to plan, difficult to orchestrate, difficult to schedule. Additionally, really, really good training is expensive. It takes time, and it takes money. Time spent training is often time away from work, time away from production.
One of the first and most important programs Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald launched at the beleaguered department after detailed analysis of VA’s challenges was an ambitious, multi-faceted training initiative that focused on leaders, on employees, and the fusion between leaders and employees. With nearly 370,000 employees spread across the United States, just the notion of designing and employing an effective training program is staggering.
However, in the view of the leadership, VA could not change to perform better unless employees and leaders alike were trained on organization fundamentals. According to the Department’s Cabinet Exit Memorandum to the White House in January, in just about two years, over 110,000 (nearly a third) of the department’s workforce had benefited from just one of three of the department’s new organizational-wide training programs, Leaders Developing Leaders (LDL).
One of the most unfortunate reasons operations began to fail at the US Central Command’s Intelligence Directorate—most unfortunate because it’s so preventable—was a failure of effective training. And there were plenty of red flags popping up that, if taken seriously, may have averted the problems.
According the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General’s (DoD IG’s) exhaustive investigation and comprehensive report, CCJ2 leadership failed to heed glaring signs of employee training and development neglect. “The CCJ2 results from the DIA Workforce Engagement Survey taken in May 2014,” the report says, “reflected decreasing scores in various areas, such as strategic management, effective leadership-senior leaders, training and development, performance-based rewards and advancement, effective leadership-supervisor, effective leadership-empowerment, and work life balance.”
In fact, training and development satisfaction rating percentages plummeted at both the CCJ2 and the Defense Intelligence Agency from which CCJ2 drew human resources in just one year. In the end, in probably very large part because of training failures or failures to effectively train people, 30 formal complainants and others among 120 who witnessed the CCJ2 decisions and changes were convinced that their world was being pulled down around them by malicious, unethical leadership.
Some see training as a distraction from what has to be done right now. But time and again we learn: fail to train your people on the organizational values, processes, techniques, standards, priorities, and more, and organizational failure is just a matter of time.