Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

People management in professional services - getting the horse to the training water

In a comment on my post People management in professional services - a training primer 2 , Dave Lee commented:

"The WIIFM (What's in it for me?) has been well entrenched in the US business environment for quite some time now. Employees will often do just about anything to avoid company sponsored training because a perceived lack of value to the individual. I'm a bit surprised that it seems to be, from your post, a new trait amongst Australians."

I did not actually mean to suggest that this was new in Australia, anybody who has tried to get people to actually come to training will know that it has been round for a while, but rather that it had become more pronounced. This links to Dave's second point:

"The solution to employee apathy isn't found in making the training more specific to the individual desires of employees. Rather will be found in demonstrating to employees that the targeted increase in knowledge, skills and/or abilities is vital to the company's strategic goals and thus requisite of their position.

Having an understanding of the relevance of one's work (positive) and potential termination or being overlooked for a promotion (negative) are strong motivators."

While I agree with Dave that the combined carrot/stick approach is important, I think that it is in just this area that change has occurred.

While certain firms have always had an up and out policy, in the past the young professional joining the firm expected to be with that firm for some time, perhaps a whole career. This expectation increased the incentive to participate in firm training (and other firm activities as well) because it was seen as of importance to long term career aspirations within the firm.

Now that people have a shorter term employment focus, less weight is placed on contribution to career within the firm, more on contribution to career after the firm. This shift needs to be taken into account.

In this context, I find it interesting that many of the up and outer firms appear to place more weight on training than other firms and that that training, more precisely the way that the training is sold, places greater weight on life after the firm.

For those that are interested, I have consolidated the training primer material into a single document (here) to make it easier to download and read.

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