Year in Review: The Worst Employee Training Mistakes of 2011

The end of the year is a good time to look ahead and make plans and resolutions to improve in the year to come. But the run-up to New Year’s Day isn’t all about optimism and positive change. It’s also a time to look back and shake your head in disbelief over the foolish mistakes of the previous 12 months.

From worst CEO mistakes to worst movies, at this time of year the Internet is peppered not only with happy memories but also with recollections of incredible, head-slapping stupidity. Employee training is not absent from these countdowns of shame, either, with several media outlets setting out to nominate the stupidest training blunders making the rounds in organizations.

The first of these comes from Katie Morell, writing for the American Express OPEN Forum, who manages to round up five common training errors that bedevil companies. For inspiration she looks to Billie G. Blair of Change Strategists, among others. Blair was burned by a bad contractor recently, and learned a bit of hard-won wisdom which Morell shares with readers. Her blunder?

Assuming anything. The contractor Blair hired was a member of a couple of professional organizations and a business teacher at a local university: credentials Blair thought could justify a training sidestep.

“‘I should have spent more time with her and explained everything,’ Blair says. ‘If I’d done that, I would have been able to catch problems and potential unethical conduct before it happened.’”

Morell also looks to FlexJobs.com CEO Sara Sutton Fell who, like Blair, has learned some training lessons through the school of hard knocks. Her mistake?

Acting too casual. Treating your employees like friends is a recipe for disaster, says Sutton Fell. Even if you’re hiring a personal friend or family member, it’s important to establish a level of professionalism during the training process.

“’A lot of small business owners will try to reach out and connect on a friendship level during the training process, but you don’t want to do that,’ she says. ‘It can make things really hard when something goes wrong. Try not to blur those lines.’”

But it’s not just Morrell who is trying to help readers avoid training errors by shining a light on the blunders made this year. On British site HRmagazine.co.uk, Kevin Young, MD at SkillSoft, has also selected his top training mistake: generic training programs.

“A recent survey conducted by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) stated that British employers should design and tailor their training courses to the specific need of their business. The assumption that organizations haven’t already adopted a tailored training program is more than worrying.

“Smart organizations accept personalized training programs as common knowledge, and those organizations implementing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach are missing a trick . . .  rolling out a generic training program is a significant waste of money, as each employee has different roles and tasks and thus varying training needs.”

Of course, these articles looking back on the year’s screw ups seem to show up every year, illustrating how fresh problems continually crop up. But perhaps by sharing our least-inspired moments of the year, we can help ensure that, by learning from the missteps of others, at least we’re making new training errors in 2012 rather than bungling the same old ones.

In that spirit, what’s the biggest training misstep you’ve witnessed this year?

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user kjarrett.

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for Inc.com, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist.