A Training Partnership

Date01 May 1986
Published date01 May 1986
AuthorDon Yeates
Subject MatterEconomics,Information & knowledge management,Management science & operations
A Training
by Don Yeates
Datasolve Limited
We have heard a great deal recently about the importance
of training or re-skilling the work force in order to revitalise
British industry. We have, however, heard much less about
the training needs of managers. They are, after all, being
confronted with same dramatic changes to their working
environments. For example, increased decentralisation and
the move towards profit centre management requires ex-
ecutives across a wide range of businesses and functions
to learn not only a new way of thinking, but also how to
apply the modern techniques of spreadsheet modelling and
revenue/profit analysis which, as cost centre managers, they
have never faced before.
Of equal importance is the impact of change in working
practices that office technology will bring. You might be
forgiven for thinking that the problems with Acorn, Sinclair
and Control Data have signalled a slowdown in the march
of the business personal computer. In fact, we have yet to
see its full impact. It is anticipated that by 1988, three times
as many business personal computers will be installed in
British industry as were installed in 1984. Indeed, the rapid
development of microcomputer to mainframe links, which
allow the desktop PC to work with information drawn directly
from corporate data banks, will consolidate the position of
the micro and give it a strategic as well as a tactical
But will executives get the training they need to help them
rise to the challenge of new technology and new manage-
ment techniques? Recent reports, such as the Manpower
Services Commission's "A Challenge to Complacency" are,
in fact, pessimistic of our abilities as managers to make a
sufficient commitment to such training.
The picture painted by the MSC is a gloomy one. Top
managers are ignorant about how their company's training
performance compares with that of competitors in the UK
or overseas. A high proportion of senior executives have
little knowledge of the resources that are devoted to training
in their own companies, and with the exception of some
businesses in the service sector which rely heavily on
customer/staff contact, training was generally seen as not
being a prime contributor to competitiveness or profitabili-
ty. The picture of training is of it being delegated or
relegated to comparatively low status training staff or
managers. The MSC summed up by claiming that most UK
companies see training not as an investment, but as an
overhead which is reduced during times of financial
The MSC went on to list a number of actions to address
these problems, which I have summarised below.
How to Get our Businesses to Do More Training
What view can we take of these recommendations and
gestions? Clearly, the report is right in emphasising the need
to train more. However, beating industry with more and
ger sticks will not achieve that, neither will constant com-
parisons with different cultures overseas. We need to ad-
dress the problem of how to get our businesses to do more
training and how to make training more available to the new
I believe that a number of things can be done immediately.
Firstly, we must get training out of the backroom and into
the boardroom. The idea of a Queen's Award for Training
is a first-class one and so is the suggested requirement of
including information about training in annual company
reports. Both of these recommendations should be pursued
to make them real incentives rather than cosmetic window
Above all though, we need to raise the status of trainers.
Trainers must contribute towards this themselves by
centrating more on the results and less on the technique.
Training managers in industry are sometimes their own worst
enemy, and too often training departments present
themselves to their companies as an overhead rather than
as a means to better achievement of corporate objectives,
so it is not surprising that their budgets are the first to be cut.
Industry needs proof that training is an investment that pays
off. Businesses think in terms of saving money and increas-
ing productivity. Training can achieve
but however
much we say "training is good for you", it will not be treated
seriously until it is sold in terms of the specific benefits it
But training must also be made easier to "take". The
niques of technology-based training that enable people to
study on an individual basis, and part-time, need to be
developed more vigorously. Computer-based training (CBT)
and interactive video discs to deliver training materials need
more support. For this reason, I welcome the suggestion
of special allowances for the purchase of training equipment.
MSC grants are available now to support re-training ac-
tivities, but I suspect many companies do not realise this.

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