The Big Debate: Is corporate Learning & Development a waste of money?

Why should companies bother investing in learning and development (L&D)?

Surely, when it comes to employment law, it is beneficial to have a robust L&D structure. If you need to let someone go, being able to demonstrate that an employee was provided with adequate training and development opportunities is essential – it is equally as important to have strong procedural and policy structures in place. 

When standing before the tribunals, the opportunities, procedures, and policies that have been provided to employees can be the deciding factors for whether the company, or the employee, is successful in their claim. In addition to potential legal benefits, are there any other reasons why companies should invest in L&D? The debate rages on.

I am certain that in a perfect world where everyone is 100% receptive, all information would be completely absorbed, and everyone would be willing to embrace change. If this were the case, L&D would have unimaginable positive effects and exponentially increase the growth levels of every company in all sectors. So, why isn’t this the norm?

I believe we can find the first clue by examining current social tendencies. In the past, the information provided was very selective. For example, in prehistoric times, information was experience based: a tiger can kill;  therefore, avoid tigers. In the Middle Ages, only priests (or those of a similar ranking) and nobility were literate – all the scriptures were written in a different language, usually Latin. 

Because of this, it was necessary for the people to trust what they were told by the religious institutions or those in power and if they didn’t comply, they were flogged, scorched or worse. During these times, information was limited, controlled and it had to stick in people’s brains since survival played a big role. 

During the first three quarters of the 20th century, society began to tackle illiteracy and people went to school. Information was still being controlled; however, libraries were available for research. Throughout this period, teachers made sure that the information they taught was fully absorbed by their students. Oftentimes, their teaching tactics were quite violent –they made sure their lessons stuck by using sticks.

Over the past 15 years, the situation has completely turned around; however, the same problems exist but are now caused by the opposite reason – once there was too little information available, now too much information has become available too quickly. Since the internet has become widespread, unlimited information is available at our fingertips. 

However, this information can be unfiltered, dangerously biased and from unknown sources. The availability of instant access to information has caused both the absorption rate of information and the attention spans of youth and adult populations to fall drastically. 

Since the year 2000, when the mobile revolution began, our attention span went from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, which is less than a goldfish (9 seconds). This was a research developed by Microsoft in Canada, where they surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs).

Additionally, the uncertainty of whether what we are reading or viewing online is valid has caused a lot of confusion.

So, fear can both promote and deter change and learning. For example, I w ent to a talk about HR procedures, what I remember the most of the three hours are mostly the horror stories. Fear can seal the information fast into our Deep Mind. The trouble is that any information that is absorbed through fear is usually the source of many phobias or mental health issues –  which can often seem completely unrelated to the original cause. 

For example, when a teacher or a parent imposes information on another by using violence, bad feelings and shock can be attached to the information. Additionally, this type of teaching can also affect the recipients character, which can manifest itself at a later time as dysfunctional behaviour or low self-esteem, depending on how the recipient processes the material.

The more engrained the information, the harder it is to change. It is interesting to examine the advertising industry’s skilful use of shock and fear. Most adverts are designed to shock the consumer, which causes them to remember and ultimately buy the product. 

For example, some charities that show famine and disease in their advertising, with powerful and shocking images, are using fear to convince the audience to sponsor them. Shock comes in very different shapes and forms though, not only fear, such as sexual arousal, bursts of happiness, extreme wealth and so on. At the same time, learning and development are being hindered by peoples’ fear of change, fear of being judged by others, fear of making mistakes, low self-esteem, bad habits and so on.

We are all highly automated, biological machines. Our fears and bad habits are engrained inside the part of our brains that we don’t control, the unconscious or deep mind. Our unconscious mind is approximately nine times larger and stronger than the part that we consciously control, the logical or superficial mind. 

So, to achieve tangible change, a channel of communication needs to be established with the unconscious mind. Generally, explaining an issue or discussing a problem is not enough – to make a lasting change, adjustments need to be made and our personal rulebooks, which are kept safe in our deep mind, need to be re-written.

When a new method or technique threatens to replace a deeply engrained habit or uncovers a latent fear that we are not quite sure about, we automatically shut down and stop learning.

Habits are installed in the unconscious mind in the form of automatic loops, some of which are very positive and necessary, some are not. Imagine what it would be like if you had to re-learn how to drive, walk and talk every time you wanted to perform one of these functions. Daily life would be a complete nightmare! 

While these automated tasks have their perks, they also have drawbacks. For example, when an event causes a big enough shock, the information can be written into a deeper level of DNA, which can result in serious illnesses and could even be transferred to future generations!

To summarise, L&D initiatives fail when individuals need to replace an old habit, which was engrained by shock and fear, with a new one. Unless this new information is delivered into the deep mind, it will be very difficult to achieve substantial change. However, there are two options:

  • Deliver information using stronger fear tactics. For example, “If you don’t do this, you will lose your job,” or “If you don’t comply, you will be fined a lot of money.” Over the long run, I don’t think this method would be productive.
  • We determine the source of an individual’s bad habit and work on installing new, positive skills to replace it. This is more work; however, it truly develops the person and increases their talent and fidelity to the company.

Sometimes, traditional coaching and training are limited by the power of the unconscious. To break through this barrier, trainers and coaches should acquire a background in clinical hypnosis, brief strategic therapies and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), which are strategies used to change the deep mind from within. 

The Your Mind Up Deep Mind Training uses techniques inspired by these therapies, aiming to achieve a learning objective rather than a strictly therapeutic outcome. This method helps improve the reception and absorption of information and encourages individuals to replace bad habits or phobias with new positive skills. The training and personal growth of a person should always go hand in hand; this could be the way to improve society – by starting with individuals

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