Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Are Sleepaway Training Classes Outdated? More Choices Please.

 Corporate training programs sounds great in theory. Go away for a full week. Immerse yourself in self-improvement away from life’s everyday distractions. Bond with new contacts, hit the gym, enjoy long meals. The reality is usually an overpacked schedule of lectures and exercises with homework and group projects, so the downtime was hard to come by- not to mention catching up on day job work as needed. There are pluses, but by no means essential for all learning.

After I had a kid, these courses became much less appealing. Regular life doesn’t stop. When you add up other business trips and work obligations, more time away from home is tough. Tough to miss more time from the kid(s) than you already do, and tough to maintain a smoothly-running household before, during and after travel. If one is fortunate to have an available spouse or extended family to cover childcare, super; if not, a training trip means challenging logistics and high costs.

We work via remote teams in times zones across the globe effectively. Face time is great, but so is harnessing the skills and results of diverse teams. The old corporate one-size-fits-all programs might still be a good fit for some. Better for many could be combination programs, or choices about how to participate. For example, some distance learning with some in-person classes, organized around location hubs that already have a critical mass of people who can go home after a full day.

I rejected a training course opportunity in my own city because the program required sleeping at a local hotel for 2 weeks straight. I called and explained that daycare closed at 6:30, so I could attend all day including the weekend, take my child home, then dial in to group exercise homework after she was asleep. They declined to make an exception. This signaled to me that the company was not aligned with a modern workforce- their historic demographic has been men with stay at home wives.

Without more choices and alternate approaches, quality leaders miss out on training and professional development. That stinks for leaders with personal obligations. It stinks for the organizations relying on their performance. Let’s encourage programs to frame trainings around the needs of the participants, and highlight courses that do strike a good balance between intensity and respecting real life.

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