How human resources co-opted operational training in corporate America

Historically the human resource (HR) department has been the merchant of bureaucracy. Dealing with the management of vast quantities of data was a challenge that eventually outstripped internal resources. The obvious solution was to outsource. It didn’t take long for the third-party suppliers to see the money was in manufacturing solutions to control an entire system rather than just receiving HR data to process. Why not control both?

Software companies sprung up by the thousands to meet the demand. Using HR as a conduit, they sold easy to down load process modules for problems that didn’t exist. With each down load, HR’s head count increased. With each new head count came new job titles in control of software that transferred responsibilities back to HR. A new language was born not out of academic rigor, but rather the market place of ideas. Training directors, training manager, training supervisor, training content manager, training content supervisor, instructional design project manager, learning management system, learning management system administrator, learning content management system, learning content management supervisor, curriculum manager, competency manager, training coordinator and on and on it goes. Back office functions now exceed the tip of the spear reducing operational training resources. As the system matures, it subjugates other department processes, shifting control to a centralized power.

Support for HRs never ending quest for resources has begun to sag. Software companies come to the rescue with sales content, packaged conveniently into the very thing they are selling, learning. HR has sold more canned pitches to senior management teams in board rooms across America than cans of Spam sold in the Pacific islands. It was an easy sell. Management sees a familiarity in the dog and pony show having been schooled in the formal university style of knowledge dumps. Management nostalgia has unwspamittingly turned business needs upside down. What you need, what you want and what you like, flipped, leaving HR to manufacture their own low hanging fruit. A like turns into an urgent need. IT and HR departments have created a billion dollar talent development industry masquerading under the guise, learning and development. Nostalgia now serves as both model and inspiration. Proving the old adage, we teach the way we were taught.

The problem with enterprise initiatives, is that eventually, you run out of other people’s money to spend. HRs long game of purchasing products and then selling them internally as a strategic plan, has turned into a liability. Operational training clients are being led to believe the only thing to eat is the free cheese in the mouse trap. With HR supplying the cheese, they manufacture a captive audience feeding off a planned obsolescence software cycle rendering deliverables hazardous. Like those cheap printers programmed to fail after so many prints, the chip inside counts down user capability. In a frivolous attempt to reset the chip, suppliers and HR consortium’s are kenning language. Boutique learning centers are popping up with names like Jelly Belly University. The American Society for Training & Development got in on the act and became, Association for Talent Development. The term “client” is now, business partner. The word “training” has no value but to the person using it. The word “professional” is a product to be purchased online towards HR certification. The fact the word is associated with a process honored by those in the police, military, law and medicine is lost. Those same individuals who stand in front of their peers, pledge an oath and are also judged in a process that will terminate ones career. HR does not suffer this fate. The Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP) certification and all others in North America carries zero accountability, unlike the operational managers fate when someone dies on the shop floor. You will be happy to know, your local kindergarten teacher working down the street is under more scrutiny than anyone who works in HR.

There are operational managers who understand the best training results are achieved by the best trainers. For the operational managers or trainers who did not receive the memo in Forbes titled, Challenges For HR Directors In 2016 by Karen Higginbottom it states, “We did research recently which revealed that 50% of business leaders don’t value the analytics that HR provides for them”.