Friday, October 30, 2015

10 examples of how HR gets bored and turns to Ponzi schemes

HR gets bored with itself. It’s no fun doing pay and rations, with occasional lay offs and the restructure. They’re good people but they’re unloved. To keep life interesting, therefore, it’s useful to snatch whatever flying fad passes by and turn it into a Ponzi scheme. This is Charles Ponzi, the master. Take an exaggerated promise, don’t supply any evidence that your investment is in anything real, just promise that if you pass it on, you’ll get a cut. That’s precisely what much of what passes for training has been.
Ponzi 1: Leadership training
Your organisation lacks solid management skills, so you turn to a ‘leadership’ trainer or company to solve the problem. Problem is, the person leading that training has never led anything other than a workshop. What’s more the ‘Leadership’ theories are likely to have been picked up from a few airport paperbacks. You can, of course, earn top dollar, as it will have significant ‘impact’ on your organisation – impact that they never measure. Give them this sort of response…. if the impact is so significant, how do I measure it and can I pay you on results? Watch them lead a merry dance to the hills. I’m fine with solid management training. I’m not fine with the charade of leadership training. For a detailed, academic analysis see Leadership is BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer, from Stanford. It’s a Ponzi scheme based on an overpromise and the opportunity to charge more for something that used to be reasonable. (see more here)
Ponzi 2: McMindfulness
Mindfulness is the latest Ponzi scheme to hit the streets. Madeleine Bunting, ex-Guardian journalist and adviser to Government on said fad, clearly had an irony bypass when she said “there is a lot of anxiety within the mindfulness community.” That made me giggle. “Anyone can pop up and say they’re a mindfulness teacher” she continues, “a product to be bought and sold on the free market”. Hilariously she adds, “We have a wild west at the moment.” Yip. That’s exactly what it is. It was always thus. HR will adopt any old, fraudulent cult, if it allows them to become a trainer and charge fees. (see more here)
Ponzi 3: Learning Styles – no substance all style
Most teachers and trainers believe in them, despite the fact that they don’t exist. They are complete fictions, and there’s so many learning styles theories that it’s hard to pin them down. But pin them down Professor Frank Coffield did. His advice - don’t go near them as they a) don’t exist b) stereotype and distort learning. Perfect fodder, therefore, for HR professionals who want to charge for the training and questionnaires. This particular Ponzi scheme has been around ever since Fleming pumped his idiotic VAK system into schools and Honey and Mumford into L and D. (see more here)
Ponzi 4: NLP – no longer plausible
NLP ‘practitioners’ fleece other naïve HR managers, charging for what amounts to weak hypnotherapy. Founded by Bandler, a bounder involved in drug deals and the murder of a woman, it’s an evidence-free zone of parlour tricks. NLP ‘practitioners’ – those who have paid top dollar to get initiated into the cult’s secrets – then go on to charge top dollar down the line. Classic Ponzi. (see more here)
Ponzi 5: Myers Briggs
Myers-Briggs is perhaps the weirdest example. A mother and daughter, with no formal qualifications or backgrounds in psychology, read some Jung, misinterpret the archetypes and invent a test that has no evidential validity or predictive value. Then tens of thousands of HR and recruitment pros, get some training and sell it on. That, my friends, is what we call a Ponzi scheme. (see more here)
Ponzi 6: Compliance training
Sure companies need to have courses on ethics, health and safety, data protection, equal opportunities and so on. We have to do this stuff because the law demands it, say the pros. No, the law does NOT say that you have to deliver oodles of dull compliance training that has the opposite effect on employees, dulling them to the realities of their responsibilities. The evidence shows that it doesn’t work, the trainers bemoan the fact that it’s a waste of time. Managers complain that it’s pointless and learners loathe it. The perfect Ponzi, where useless stuff is bought, delivered and has no real effect on the organisation. (see more here)
Ponzi 7: Kirkpatrick
You know something’s wrong when Mr Kirkpatrick turns out to be the son of the real Mr Kirkpatrick, who didn’t so much research his evaluation schema, as launch it accidentally. That’s because it became, not so much a theory as a business. It’s a clumsy, old fossil of a theory that’s been around for over 50 years and not only well past its sell by date but actually holding any reasonable, business-focussed evaluation back. (see more here)
Ponzi 8: Emotional intelligence
EIQ does not exist. This is a typical, take a book (daniel Goleman - wh didn;t even invent hte phrase) , turn it into a course, and forget about research fad. Emotional Intellignece has been shown to be a hollow construct that actually takes traditional personality measures and turns it into a sellable book and training courses. Here's the bad news - it's almost worthless, a real Ponzi scheme. (see more here)
Ponzi 9: Maslow's hierarchy
A complete caricature of human nature, based on no research whatever, yet a staple in 'train the trainer' courses and lazy consultancy. Human nature is a not a pretty, coloured pyramid and this old shibboleth should be abandoned forthwith. (see more here)
Ponzi 10: Values
Ask your colleagues what organisational values they remember and watch them squirm. I have values and won't have some HR person telling me what my values should be, as I may leave this organisation, then some other HR bod will shove some stupid acronym or a list of abstract nouns at me and tell me that these are my new 'values'. Complete Ponzi scheme. (see more here)

I understand that this post may anger some people but I’ve witnessed this selling for decades. It’s not harmless, it’s harmful. It pushes the profession into tired old ruts and the loss of respect by other business managers, makes HR and L and D look like flakey fools.


michael webster said...

This is very good, I like the entire list.

But, I am particularly fond of the Myer-Briggs entry.

michael webster said...

I have thought about this some more, in part because of in 12 years as a commercial lawyer I amassed a good deal of knowledge about the workings of business opportunity frauds & ponzi schemes.

Yes, you are right these are frauds.

But, they don't seem like ponzi schemes, they are more like business opportunity frauds..

A ponzi scheme works because of regret: "Hey, everyone else is doing this, I don't want to miss out."

A business opportunity fraud is different. It works like this. The underlying business is bad: think of selling lipstick door to door. But, selling the opportunity to sell the business opportunity works wonders: think of Avon the business.

The train the trainer seems to me the same sort of fraud.

No, the underlying training doesn't work. But, yes training the trainer is a great business to be in: because once trained, the person can re-sell the opportunity.

Does that make sense?