Friday, October 12, 2007
Complaince killing training
Attended an small but excellent think-tank meeting on the future of learning in Government. It was sobering to hear how training departments are now so swamped by compliance training that little else is being done. We're so busy obsessing about the potential of employees to sexually harass, racially abuse, be biased on gender, discriminate on disability and negative on age, that they've little time to learn anything else.
How did it come to this? The training is not evaluated, and when large academic studies are done, they show no, or counterproductive, effects (Dobbins, Harvard). Yet, HR departments are compliant in this conspiracy. They willingly deliver bucket-loads of this stuff. Why? because it's easy. The driver is NOT learning or people development, it's 'fear'. It's a crude attempt to reduce risk by delivering crude courses, measured only by bums on seats, that do nothing more than protect organisations against their employees.
It's boring, people don't like it and it doesn't work. How bad can it get before we stop this madness?
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I might be mistaken about this, but I think corporations run the risk of legislative repercussions of they don't comply with all this compliance training.
Sad but true Karyn. But is this really what HR departments should be doing - playing some stupid game around potential legal actions? All we're doing is wasting our time paying into a useless insurance policy that protects organisations from their employees. It turns trainers and HR professionals into unthinking fools toeing some imaginary line. It's like immunising people with placebos.
In fact I'm not tat sure that the really senior managers in organisations take this risk that seriously. I suspect it's organisations like the CIPD and others who like to make money on the courses and training departments who deliver this stuff without much reflection. I bet most of these training initiatives originate in HR and not at Board level.
The training is not prescribed by law. So why don't we just say 'NO, we're not taking this any more'.
Perhaps because it means one brave person has to do it first and no-one wants to be seen to be that politically incorrect?
Don't get me wrong - I agree that there seems to be more than a little box-ticking and butt covering going on. But let's consider a situation that (to me) seems related.
I live in Milton Keynes (don't knock it!), where the grid system, coupled with a totally separate pedestrian/cyclist system makes it possible to drive across town at 60 or 70mph quite legally. Or should I say, it used to. In an increasing number of areas, limits of 40 are being imposed.
In one situation, quite near my home, a drunk pedestrian strayed out into the road, and was hit and killed by a car doing close to 70. I seem to remember that he was a young man, and there is no denying the enormity of the tragedy for his family. As the mother of two teenagers, I can only guess at their gut-wrenching grief.
They campaigned for a reduction in the speed limit.
Can you imagine a politician who would stand up and say: the pedestrian (a) should have been on the walkway and (b) should have known better than to step out into a road without making sure that it is safe? That would be seen as callous and uncaring. So instead, the speed limits get lowered to protect pedestrians who shouldn't be there, reducing the grieving family's pain not a jot and certainly not returning their son to them.
Is this situation a million miles from that? It seems to me that we're addressing the wrong end of the problem.
The fact that corporations don't question the need for compliance training also encourages poor quality and downright cynicism that can only hurt the elearning industry.
Example: California requires most employers to provide 2 hours of anti-harassment training. I recently saw an online course that claims to meet this requirement. It guarantees the learner will get 2 hours of "training" by timing them as they go through the course. If the learner goes too quickly, the course stops and the learner is told to wait while the timer runs down. The timer actually appears on the screen.
The learner is given an optional link to "supplemental" info, such as statistics on harassment, but I guarantee they're surfing the web.
Oh the humanity!!
These standards come about because industry is frequently not participating effectively when regulation is introduced.
Case in point the Australian Financial Services Reform which is touted as world's best practice by the regulator (Not sure which world they are referring to)
When regulations are implemented and everyone realises what an unworkable mess has been handed down, they run around looking for a proscribed standard they can easily measure so they can prove to their board they are meeting the requirements.
Sooooo we get 20 - 40 hours of continuing education required each year depending on the industry.
Easily measured, easily reported on, we might even break it up into delivery mode - structured or unstructured training, anyone, in centre or distance education, it's best if the spreadsheet has more than 1 column - it shows our delivery has depth.
Regulator is happy because they see lots of activity 'proving' the regulation is working but also leaving them scope to nail an individual if there is a problem.
Company is happy because
a.) they have a minimum standard
b.) they have something they can measure
c.) they can hang an individual out to dry because hey we gave them training and they still stuffed it (never mind our remuneration system encourages bad behaviour)
Legal/Compliance is happy for much the same reasons. Measurements are, well 'measurable'. :-)
Training is relatively happy because now they won't get automatically axed when the next round of cost cutting goes through
(Hell they might even get that LMS they've always wanted)
As a bonus if the quality isn't too good that's fine because no-one expects people to enjoy compliance training.
Training Vendors happy?
Sure because the measurement was based on activity and not outcomes, so if you still have a problem that's not my issue
I delivered the hours/credits you required.
Finally a true story (not that the rest hasn't been)
I recently sat in a meeting where a number of members of a 'financial services professional organisation' (spot the oxymoron)' were rating courses purporting to address 'ethical standards'
The value of the course was determined by dividing the number of credits provided by the cost.
Doesn't matter as long as I get my credits
Thanks for playing ;-)
The problem isn't so much that the purpose of the training is to meet regulatory requirements, it's that it's seen as the only purpose. Within only this reactive framework and that big stick, no wonder there is no perceived need for creativity or heart in the design. I speak from over a decade of experience in trying to convince HR execs (and production companies) to adopt a more generous posture. Usually I failed and ended up building the kind of dross that pays the bills and little else. I've changed careers.
I've seen plenty of bad examples here in the UK. The Ageism stuff is particularly repulsive and dull. They make outlandish claims about how age doesn't matter as there's no dimunition of ability - I'm 50 believe me there is.
The main problem is the sheer banality of the content.
And it's not just that the content is bad, the whole vendor vibe is downright slimebally. http://learnandteachonline.com/node/494
I used to work for a large financial services company; there, compliance training took the largest part of the budget and was the greatest priority for most parts of the organisation.
This made absolute sense - without it, they'd have lost the licence to work.
But it lead to some dull, predictable training.
I agree with a couple of the comments about losing licences. However, the legislation does not REQUIRE most of this training, neither does it prescrive that it has to be long and dull.
My appeal is for shorter, sharper solutions to these issues, not 'training courses'. Use the Dobbins report to tell your senior managers that this stuff doesn't work and free us resources to do other more useful things. Or are we just grateful for any old request for courses that comes along?
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