Knowledge-Based Training Hasn’t Worked

Inside-Out Paradigm Shift needed to close the ‘Knowing: Doing’ Gap.

The recent September CIPD research report: ‘Real-life leaders: closing the knowing-doing gap’ concludes that “It is highly unlikely that organisations will abandon leadership and management development activities – even if they are not fully satisfied with the effectiveness of the programme so far”.

A bizarre conclusion and yet probably true. If Einstein was right in defining madness as doing the same thing again and again in the hope of achieving a different result, then it seems that the L&D HR profession is in the grip of institutional groupthink with strong elements of “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts”.

Why persist in investing in an approach with marginal gains when we know that it cannot deliver what is required by both consumers and leaders? If we did this in other parts of a business we would soon be bankrupt. Let’s examine some of the evidence:

Sara Rynes in the Academy of Management Journal (2007) describes the gap between the science (evidence) and practice as so persistent and pervasive that some have despaired if it will ever be narrowed. In other words, evidence based reality in the field loses out against what people choose to believe as a result of inherited but failing models. It’s as though people are trapped in a form of thinking that is acceptable to the profession, but ineffective.

How many learning professionals check to see if the interventions that they have delivered are reflected in an improvement in performance and business productivity? The truth is that not many do and once again, referring to the CIPD report, the research found that only 11% of HR professionals see it as the role of the HR function to evaluate the effectiveness of leadership and management training. That’s nonsense! All people in an organisation, whatever their role, must ensure that what they deliver impacts directly or indirectly on the business bottom line and adds value. Otherwise it is a waste of time, effort and money that could be better employed.

Organisations constantly seek innovative ways of improving and growing the business. They seek new ideas, they adopt lean practices, delayer and outsource yet training persistently assumes that giving people knowledge actually works. The reality is that it rarely does.

Acknowledging the truth

If knowledge training other than in technical fields had worked, we would not have the unacceptable levels of underperformance, disengagement, poor leadership, dysfunctional teams, conflict and sickness that are stubbornly persistent in organisations today.

Conversely, positively driven people with a ‘can do’ attitude are engaged and engaged people perform. Here are some facts and figures:

  •  94% of world’s top companies now put their effort into engagement (Hay)
  •  Top 25% had twice annual income (Kenexa)
  •  Average operating margin close to 3 times higher than those with disengagement (Towers Watkins)

For more facts and figures from Gallup, Harter, CIPD, PWC, BAE Systems and more and to download the full article click here.