Paul Matthews: A common pitfall for HRBPs

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Paul Matthews talks to us about the pros and cons of training for HRBPs

You are an HR Business Partner.

Your client in the business asks you to organise a training course for a couple of teams who are struggling to hit their numbers.

What do you do?

If you are like most HRBPs, you ask the manager a few questions to make sure you understand the training need, and then you sort out the paperwork and requisition forms, and send them off to L&D so they can arrange the training course. You have done your bit, and other than checking in later to make sure the training was delivered; you move on to other things. There is that pending disciplinary, and someone is arguing about their holiday entitlement, and you have three people to recruit, and you have just heard that Mary is off on maternity leave soon… Your inbox is full.

The manager, your client, is happy. You have done what they asked, and they think their performance problem with those teams is now on the way to being fixed.

The teams are happy. They are going to get a couple of days off site at a nice hotel, the one with that lovely creamy blueberry cheesecake for lunch. And their boss has eased up a bit for now while they all wait for the training course.

L&D is happy. They have some training to deliver, and it even comes with a bit of budget attached. Training is what they do, and in these times of cuts, it is good to be needed.

You are happy. You have managed to sort that one out quickly with a minimum of fuss, and it is crossed off your to-do list. You can put your attention back on that possible tribunal issue and other much more urgent HR stuff.

Time passes…

The training course eventually is done, and yet afterwards there is little change in the KPIs of the teams. The performance issue is still there, so that means the training didn’t work.

The manager, your client is not happy. He is now demanding more training, or a better supplier.

The teams are not happy. They are still not managing to hit the numbers which is frustrating them, and of course their boss has come down heavy. Some are thinking of leaving.

L&D is not happy. They did the best they could and delivered what they thought was a great course, and yet everyone says it failed, and that L&D does not know what it is doing.

You are not happy, because you have just as much work as before, and now this seemingly simple training issue has exploded in your face. Your client is demanding urgent action to fix these ‘incompetent’ people on his teams.

Oh dear… Sound familiar, even just a little bit?

All this trouble and unhappiness could have been avoided with one simple step that was missed out of the process.

Let’s rewind…

Your client in the business asks you to organise a training course for a couple of teams who are struggling to hit their numbers.

What do you do?

If you are like most HRBPs, you ask the manager a few questions to make sure you understand the training need, and then you sort out the paperwork and requisition forms, and… STOP RIGHT THERE!

You have made an assumption that is extremely dangerous. You have assumed that the business manager has correctly diagnosed the performance issue with his teams and arrived at a reasonable solution, which in this case is training. This assumption is usually wrong. This assumption is a deep, and well camouflaged pitfall. It even feels comfortable when you first fall in, but that is a temporary illusion.

Satisfactory employee performance arises as the result of the interplay of a whole raft of factors operating as a system.  One of those factors, a very big one, is the manager within that system.  It is virtually impossible for that manager on their own to diagnose the issues within a system of which they are an integral part. And it is far too seductive for them to blame other parts of the system, such as the inadequacy of the employees.

To avoid the pitfall, you need to assist the manager through a performance diagnostics process that considers the whole system, including them. You need to make visible to them what they really need to fix the performance problems, rather than accept what they want as a reasonable solution.

This means you need to act as a performance consultant for the manager. You sidestep the pitfall by helping the manager see that what they think they want is probably not what they really need to fix their performance issue.

How do you do that? See Part 2 coming soon.

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About Paul Matthews

Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy and expert in workplace learning, especially informal learning, as well as management development and employee performance improvement. He is the author of “Informal Learning at Work: How to Boost Performance in Tough Times” and “Capability at Work: How to Solve the Performance Puzzle”. For further information please visit www.peoplealchemy.co.uk.

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