Developing Staff - An Investment or a Waste of Money?


Human Resource Development is concerned with planned approaches to changing the performance of stakeholders to achieve organization goals.  There is an instant return to the organization for the resources invested in development.  Much development does not produce this return to a company and is a waste of scarce resources for many reasons.


1. The Approach Used

Many organizations utilize five approaches with the misinformed belief that this will make a difference to on-the-job performance.  Often it is a waste of resources.

  • THE SMORGASBORD APPROACH – many courses are offered with little opportunity for in-depth knowledge, understanding or proper selection of participants.
  • THE BANDWAGON APPROACH – the latest and greatest idea is chosen which may not address the real issues.
  • THE CRISIS APPROACH – when there is a crisis, development is the solution.  This is merely fire fighting.
  • THE EXCURSION APPROACH – this approach rests on the assumption that a correlation exists between the distance travelled by the presenter or the participant and the benefits received.  Some overseas gurus are a disaster.
  • THE BAND-AID APPROACH – send them to a development activity and this will fix them up.  It is the panacea to fix any problem.


2. The Culture of the Company

Some companies are a disaster to walk into because of their prevailing culture which may show itself in many ways:

  • Some incompetent managers and supervisors who are paper shufflers.
  • Apathy and alienation of some staff.
  • Backbiting and conflict with some staff.
  • Poor, chaotic communication.
  • Next to no incentives.
  • Lack of vision and mission.
  • Incomplete and fragmented planning and budgeting systems.
  • Lack of systematic approaches to Human Resource Management.
  • Inappropriate and poorly selected staff.
  • General lack of purpose.
  • Lack of productivity.
  • Lack of customer service.
  • Lack of leadership.
  • Poor financial control systems.
  • Low staff morale.

No wonder Michael Gerber in “The E-Myth Revisited” stated that 80% of all businesses fail in five years and of the rest only 4% are successful within another five years.  When development is implemented in organizations with this kind of culture, it is doomed to failure.  Application of ideas on-the-job requires an open, supportive climate with commitment, feedback and coaching – and this could not happen in an organization culture described above.  The reverse would occur. Staff would have no incentive or reinforcement to apply the concepts of skills on the job and thus there would be an enormous waste of resources.  A prerequisite for this to occur would be to change the culture through an appropriate change process.


3. Poor Resources and Delivery of Development Program

In some companies some staff get into presenting development activities by default.  They are good operators and then are “promoted” into trainers because someone had to do it.  They often lack the necessary conceptual framework, skills and credibility to be successful.  Yet these are the very people to whom the success of the company’s development is entrusted.

This approach is doomed to failure for another reason apart from the quality of the development program offered.  There is little or no follow-up on the job because the wrong people are presenting the development activity.  The change in many organizations, both public and private, is to abolish Human Resource departments and to transfer development and other responsibilities back to line managers and supervisors where it rightfully belongs.  A new breed of supervisors and managers is emerging – one that takes the roles of developer as well as quality manager, safety manager, human resource manager and customer service manager seriously and sees these responsibilities as part of their central job functions.  When these people are empowered to do the development and given that responsibility, then the organization will be transformed through relevant, timely, cost effective on-the-job training.  What is needed though is a process to equip and empower managers and to provide them with excellent development materials.


4. Equipping the Developers

Equipping managers and supervisors as developers involves imparting skills in one-to-one coaching, one-to-group coaching and facilitation skills.  The major skills in one-to-one coaching involve learning how to break a task down into its key stages and key points with necessary performance standards.  Next, the various stages of how to present one-to-one are covered.  From this, an on-going process of task analysis and job instruction can be undertaken and specific job instruction manuals produced.

One-to-group coaching is a process of learning how to facilitate learning in groups.  As such, it involves skills in session planning, selecting and using audio-visual aids, questioning skills, adult learning principles and other competencies.  Once a manager or supervisor acquires these skills and takes the role of developer seriously, then the process can revolutionize their staff performance.  Coaching and motivating of staff will occur with well planned and presented sessions and then be followed up with relevant on-the-job feedback.  This in turn will enhance morale, job performance and satisfaction and ultimately productivity because the individuals in the organization are growing and learning.


In conclusion, the implementation of systematic, long term, comprehensive in-house Human Resource Development Program with high quality material will give organizations a competitive edge in developing their staff to meet the challenges of the future.