All of us like attending seminars or short term courses once in a while, don’t we? This gives us a break from mundane activities and a chance to be away to network with fellow professionals. The lucky ones get an outing every now and then but some are not as fortunate. I am reminded of a senior official in an organization that I worked for, and he was one of the fortunate ones. He was intelligent, but wasn’t one of those efficient and effective managers who are sought after, nor did he get along well with this peers and seniors. So away from routine work, he was assigned as an officer on special duty with no clue of what his responsibilities were. The organization heads were often flooded with requests from industry associations, management institutes and vendors asking them to nominate someone for their seminars and short term courses. Out of obligation, the directors looked around and finding no one free for the purpose would send our man on Fridays to attend the seminars. That fortunate soul spent half of his time attending such sessions and gained knowledge which was never put to use by the business. This speaks of the mis-utilization of learning opportunities in many corporates.
The CIO faces this situation often, either with respect to his own training or for the officers and staff reporting to him. He is torn between alternatives and tries to balance the factors in question. Let us look at some of these situations.
The HR intervention
The human resources function has their task cut out clearly. They have their own budgets and targets to meet, for example, the number of training programs to hold, total training hours achieved, average training hours per employee met etc. So they fix up seminars & courses and then look around for candidates to fill in for the batches. Quite often, without my knowledge, I have been nominated for management development programs, soft skill development (like communication skills), leadership development, negotiation skills or as a representative to an industry forum. Similar pressure is applied when they ask our officers to be spared for training seminars they have arranged. Constrained by the work in hand, CIOs may nominate someone who can easily be spared. This story thus gets repeated more often than we are aware of.
The CIO too has his own sphere of influence. He has friends in the industry, whether it is vendors, service providers or media agencies. Seminars and events take place at a monotonous frequency and the CIO cannot possibly attend all of them. He is however obligated and cannot afford to neglect the invite that may affect his relationships and therefore assigns one or two of his associates to attend the events. He therefore plays the same game with his associates that his management plays on him.
Candidate’s own needs
In most organizations there is a process of asking the employee of his training needs so that steps can be taken during the year to meet those expectations. Some term it as ‘development need’ for the employee so as to help him function more effectively and is directly linked to the role that he has to play. The needs may be genuine but at other times it has more to do with the candidate’s desire to learn something which could make him marketable to seek opportunities elsewhere. The CIO has to play a balancing act here by striking down a few requests and agreeing to others.
Is there a right way ?
Yes, I would think so. We are normally consumed by the conventional practices followed by the functions and toe the line faithfully. It may sometimes be prudent to turn down requests for attending events if they do not seem to benefit us and at the same time pick up courage to ask for specific programs or seminars which would benefit the department. Breaking traditions is always a difficult task but is worth attempting.