Some variations of the following story is played out in boardrooms across the world every year.  

The head of Human Resources had finished rolling out her grandiose plans for a comprehensive company-wide training program.  When she mentioned how much it would cost, the tight-fisted CFO went pale and blurted, “What if we train our people and they leave?”  The CEO leaned back and sardonically quipped, “What if they don’t?”

To train or not to train employees is a million dollar question confronting many companies, these days.  Why is training critical and what does it do for the individual and the company as a whole?  Training is defined as the action of teaching a person or an animal a particular skill or behavior.

Employees can be broadly classified into four categories, from a skills standpoint:

Unconsciously incompetent: 

This species resides at the very bottom of the food chain and is the most dangerous.  Their incompetence could stem from inexperience or a sheer lack of aptitude.  What makes them dangerous is that they are totally oblivious of their lack of competence.  They blunder through their job functions with careless abandon, wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of wreckage, with not a clue.  The first step is to evaluate and ascertain that these persons have the potential to rise out of their ineptitude.  The second step is to raise their awareness and put them on a closely monitored performance improvement program.  When they graduate, they are no longer unconscious and will benefit from a well-tailored training regimen.  Often, a hard decision to part ways has to be made, if the glove does not fit. 

Consciously incompetent:  

Up a step is another breed of the incompetent employee. Their only redeeming feature being an awareness of their own incompetence.  This type of person is willing to seek help and put in the work needed to raise their level of skills.  Pick them up, invest in them, train them and they will pay rich dividends.

Unconsciously competent:

Most experienced, highly qualified, long-tenured employees fall into this category.  They have been at their jobs for as long as they can remember or are so talented that they can do it in their sleep, with their hands tied behind their back.  Many of them are know-it-alls who eschew the rigors of a systematic process in favor of flying by the seat of their pants.  While this group of people will get the job done well most of the time, they are prone to leaving a few “i”s undotted and a few “t”s uncrossed.  While this may not be critical in many job functions, imagine if they were brain surgeons or pilots or nuclear plant operators.

Consciously competent:  

These people are at the top of their game and rightfully at or headed to the top of the totem pole, in any organization.  They have a meticulous system for every critical activity; use a checklist every single time to make sure that their execution is flawless; follow-up with a “lessons learned” review.  They are often mocked as pedantic and dour, by their colleagues. But, who would you rather have at the controls of your plane?  A pilot who has pored over and checked off every item on a checklist or a swashbuckling cowboy who breezes into the cockpit and takes off with a “yeehaw”?

Continuous training is essential to elevate employees from their various levels of competence and consciousness or lack thereof in order to transform them into productive, consciously competent strategy executors.

As a kid growing up in Neyveli and later as an itinerant sales guy, I spent a lot of time on Indian trains.  Journeys on rails are educational and entertainment experiences in themselves.  They transport you to new places and teach you the ways of the world and different cultures.  Training is akin to train trips.  It is a quintessential part of growth and success. 

Whether you are an employee or a corporate leader, hop on to the training train.  It will take you and your company places.  

All aboard the Choo Choo training Train.


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