Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pie In The Sky?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allPie
I read blog posts and articles that tell where education and learning are supposed to be heading with the economic downturn. I wonder how much this evident crisis is being used by many would-be educators to assist them to push their own barrows.

It might be my age, but I feel that the rush-rush-rush of postmodernity is no excuse for continuing campaigns for further change just for the sake of it. Especially in training and education.

We have watched a foray of theorising - on digital natives/digital immigrants - on the spurious benefits of multi-tasking and how this is supposedly the way to work and learn - on how hype-new communication technologies have just got to be the way to go - on how we should chuck the book and the text-book with no real thought given as to how these will be effectively replaced.

New age

The present digitalogical age is nearly new. Some of us are still playing with the packaging from much of its technology. And we learn that we must get rid of everything else we’ve been using up till now to make way for what’s yet to be unpacked. It’s strange how, in times of financial crisis, we seem to perpetuate this practice, with no time given to total what assets we have and what may be of use.

While some are still extolling the virtues of pedagogy, others want to get rid of it, often with no real evidential basis for the extinction. And so, training is getting the heave - yet again. If we’re looking for something new to heave, forget training. It’s been heaved so many times before. Nothing new in that. Most often when it happens though, it’s heaved without regard to what’s thrown.

Training Cookery

In times of financial crisis, getting rid of training is familiar recipe to me. In 1992 I was made redundant from a corporation through the use of this same formula, only to be offered my job back. I was a computer trainer. Needless to say, I refused the offer. I felt indignation at the trauma I’d been put through.

Fortunately, another company offered me a job. Since then I’ve continued to witness the ebb and flow of training with the financial tide. There were phases when training was in abundant supply - price no object. But when finances were tight, training became a touchy topic.

I wondered about this seesaw change in attitude. I began to take note of how training was viewed by and within organisations in these varying economic climes.

Two metaphorical, attitudinal states for training came clear. In one, I was at home as a teacher/trainer in the workplace. In the other, I felt quite insecure and vulnerable.

Pie topping

I clearly felt insecure when training was treated as topping on the pie. These were times when training was offered as a confection - an incentive, rather than a nutritious necessity.

Often the training and accompanying resources were expensive. On these occasions, contractors might be brought in, at great expense, to provide training that, ultimately, was seldom put to good use. It was like flocculent cream topping, full of air, no real substance, and no nutritive value. But ooh! soo expensive! And we had to be grateful for what we received. When funds were tight, topping was off the menu.

The environment that this sort of training cultivated was one quick to change. It fostered resentment in its recipients, indigestion in the organisation, making further courses of similar fare almost unpalatable and certainly of little provisional use.

Pie base

The most secure state was not necessarily when money for training was at its most plentiful. In that state, it was the attitude of the organisation, within the hierarchy of management, right to the CEO, that provided a vigorous climate for both teaching and learning.

If funds were tight, innovative and smart approaches were sought and used if found. If funding was plentiful, it was for needed resources and strategies to best implement their use.

In terms of the ‘training pie’, this is the pastry-base state. It provides a firm foundation on which to build a healthy recipe for learning. The funding of this base was flexible, within limits, permitting a variety of quality ingredients to be at the disposal of the training. If times were tight, the ingredients for the base could easily be plain-pack without substantial loss of quality overall.

These two states are all about attitude to training – whatever form the training may take – held by the management hierarchy within an organisation.

In lean times, what recipe would you rather have - a pie with no topping, or a pie with no base?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Britt Watwood said...

An interesting post, my friend. It would be revealing, I think, to go back and look at a longitudinal study of companies that took the topping versus base approach and any correlation to their longevity. While the "cut training" tactic is pretty common, so is businesses failing, so it would be interesting to see if business success could be tied to investment in their own people or not.

Nicole said...

Hi Ken,

You've probably seen this report, it came out last quarter of 08 from Cranfield University:

Has some interesting stats on why training needs to stay when times get tough, a notion I thoroughly support.

Thanks for a very thoughtful post!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Britt

I would like to see a study done like the one you describe. I'm afraid that much of the evidence that might be available may be difficult to use in a way that might throw light on the effect alone of training attitude in companies. But you're right to identify an area of possible research in this.

I guess it's much like how it is in education. In education it is notoriously difficult to gather useful observational data that shows a correlation between practice and results - not that it's impossible. It's just difficult to run the controls.

Haere mai Nicole!

Thank you for the lead to the report on nurturing talent - an absorbingly interesting paper - no I hadn't come across it, thanks.

Interesting that "internal development brings greater benefit to the organisation than external recruitment". It is grist to my anecdotal observations. It took me over 20 years of observation to gather those!

Nice to have you visit and comment on my blog!

Catchya later

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Cranfield University video - Nurturing Talent