Why sending workers to training courses is problematic

by John Hilton16 Nov 2015
There are some long term trends in L&D that look set to continue into the future, according to David Boud, Emeritus Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney.

One such trend is sending employees out of the workplace to do a course and expecting that to have much of an effect. He told L&D Professional that despite the limitations of these initiatives being known for decades, many organisations continue to do it.

“You do that to develop individuals, you don’t do that to develop learning at work or work groups,” he said.

The main problem is that people learn in the context of application, explained Boud.

“If we want to have an impact on the nature of work itself as distinct from an individual then where you do it and how you do it is very important.”

 “People learn when they can see why they are learning, the reasons for learning and what they can do with it,” he said.

“The fewer the opportunities to do something with it, the more problematic it is to learn.”

Boud compares this to the trends and challenges in higher education to make learning more realistic and relevant.

“They do that because students perk up and say: ‘Oh, I could imagine doing something like that when I’m out employed’ and it gets their attention,” said Boud.

“It’s the same at any course at any level, anywhere. But if you can see what you are going to do with it you say 'well, I better pay attention to this because I could imagine it going somewhere'.”

“Whereas if you see it just as learning for the sake of learning or if you’re thinking one day, maybe, perhaps under some certain circumstances I might sometimes use this then it’s not very compelling.”
However, Boud emphasised that it is not as if there are no occasions where it’s appropriate to go off and do a course somewhere.

“For example, you may be tasked with starting up something completely new and you can’t learn that within your work environment because your work environment doesn’t do that kind of stuff right now,” he said.

“In that case you have got to go off somewhere else and learn that and then you’ve got to bring other people along with you to do that.”