Training And Developing People

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19th Jul 2014

4 min read

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Photo credit: woodleywonderworks | Flickr

In HR Talk, we pick one HR-related topic, and gather a few HR experts to share their opinions on it.

Question: What is your approach to training and developing people?

Director of Human Resources, Pfizer Malaysia

Who’s responsible?
Just like most things in life, training and development is the responsibility of the individual. The most crucial element for an organisation is to make its employees realise that it is their choice to become more competent.

The organisation can only provide a conducive learning environment and ample opportunities.

Your boss is not responsible for your development. Sure, he/she might give you the nudge and provide good career conversations but ultimately, it is not his/her career; it is yours.

The old adage, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is spot on here.

Today or future?
As an individual what do you focus on? Closing today’s gaps or focusing on realising your potential in the future?
Different organisations have different philosophies in addressing this.

As individuals, we are always more excited and “turned on” by our future roles.

Why bother being a good marketing manager today when you can focus on developing yourself to be a future marketing director?

The question that needs to be asked with this type of mindset is, will you ever get the opportunity to be the marketing director if you currently still have gaps as marketing manager?

Ask most chief executive officers or HR leaders and they will probably answer that in the negative.

Thus, the best way to be strongly considered as a future leader is to ensure you’re great at what you do today. So my modus operandi is to always close today’s gaps before planning for future roles.

Training programmes
Free meals and being away from the office. Surely they are effective?

I was once asked this while presenting at a conference, “Can an individual’s gaps be closed by attending training?”

There are two elements to this. First is the individual and second the methodology.

  1. The individualI believe that almost all gaps can be closed if the individual wants to address it.Many a time, an individual is sent for training because the organisation felt this was an important part of the person’s development. Unfortunately, in many cases, the individual does not affirm that thought.

    Thus the key is to ensure the individual is well aware of why he/she is being sent for a programme. Also, provide a choice to the individual to attend such programme.

  2. The methodologyThe second element is the methodology. I am not a strong proponent of training programmes only.Development should be a combination of on-the-job (OTJ) experiences/stretch assignments, mentoring and training programmes.

    The most common combo is the 70:20:10 rule where 70% of development should be based on OTJ experiences (new roles, stretch assignments, projects, cross functional teams, etc).

    This develops the individual based on actual experiences and real life scenarios. There is no substitute to experiences in life and this is how you should develop yourself.

    Next is to get a good mentor, someone not from your reporting line who will give you candid and transparent feedback. The need for a mentor is to leverage on another person’s valuable and rich experiences.

Finally, the training programmes which for me are only meant to complement the two elements.

Guess, I won’t be popular among the training providers now.


Co-founder and Human Resources director, Leaderonomics

I’m not sure if I would call this an approach. It’s purely an opinion and what I believe is important.

From a personal perspective (not organisational perspective), I believe that training and developing people should be very customised and personal.

Preferably it is based on an individual’s area of strength (to be developed) and area of needed improvement (to a level of expected performance) identified together with the individual.

It would be great if training and development programmes are catered specifically to the individual’s need and preferred learning mode.

For example, some prefer to learn the theory in a structured classroom manner and apply their learning at their own pace. Some prefer to learn through experience and love to be pushed to the brink of no return and then reflect on what they’ve learnt through the experience.

Some things can be learnt, some you can only learn from practical experience or from the experiences of others. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to training and developing people.

In an organisation, however, it may not be financially viable to customise/personalise everyone’s training and development.

In its best effort, I believe that training and development is more effective if it is:

  1. Owned and initiated by the individual/collective group
    People always say that training and development should be the responsibility of HR/learning and development (L&D) teams.However, I believe that training and development owned and initiated by the individuals themselves would be most relevant and effective as they would know some of their own needs better than anyone else. They would then be more committed to applying what they learnt for their own development.Owning it also means taking the initiative to seek feedback from your peers, leaders, customers and mentors to identify areas where you are not aware that you need to develop.
  2. Guided and coached by the direct supervisor
    The role of the direct leader is to help and support their people to identify areas of development, bounce ideas off with them on some practical training or development methods that would meet their needs best.Leaders should leverage their experience, knowledge and networks to partner with HR/L&D teams to architect what works best for their people.
  3. Enabled and facilitated by HR/L&D team
    HR/L&D teams play the role of partnering with line leaders in understanding development needs of their people and also aligning them to the strategic direction set by senior management.They would help enable the various development interventions, be it customised development/training or a collective structured intervention that is financially viable.
If you have any questions, send them to us at editor@leaderonomics.com and we will get our panel of experts to address them. Click here for more functional articles. 

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