Speed to Proficiency     Creating a sustainable competitive advantage



Learning & KM: When work and values collide

collideI wrote a blog post called News Flash: A LOT of work is boring the other day. A colleague responded and said, “Hopefully the boring task is connected in some way to a greater purpose, such as to one of the missions or goals of the company.”

Perhaps I’m just in a weird mood this morning, but that got me thinking. In that other post, I took the example of claims processing as a fairly boring task. In this case, the company’s communications department could weave together a narrative that by processing claims quickly and accurately, they are helping suffering claimants get on with their lives.

Unfortunately, in this case, the SVP of Learning that insurer once said to me, very frankly, that claim adjusters are trained to find any reason they can to deny or limit the payout on a claim. When you think about it, that makes sense if the purpose of the claim process may be to add to short-term shareholder value by limiting the amount the company has to pay out. But it may not sit well with the individual claim adjuster or processor. So trying to motivate the person to learn by appealing to underlying values may be a losing proposition.

Is this an isolated example, or do many workers face situations where their personal values are not in sync with what constitutes doing the job “well” in the eyes of the line of business owner? Ignoring sick cattle in a slaughterhouse… Passing a weld or seal in a space shuttle that is marginal…  Denying a claim because of the letter of the law… Not reporting violations of civil liberties because it would buck the system… Working on a research grant that obviously has a political agenda…

What does this semi-rant have to do with learning and development? I guess it’s this. Often I read descriptions of motivating employees for training that seem aspirational in nature, and don’t match with the reality I see day to day. In my original post, for example, I suggested that the claim adjuster’s job was boring, and this needed to be taken into account in creating a training and development program. Now I’m also suggesting that talking about how important this job is may not be a “fix” for this, as it calls into question underlying values and may provoke an internal response of “bullshit.”

I guess my conclusion is that if we use interventions that rely on the internal desire of employees to be all that they can be and that assume that they are as motivated as we senior level consultants are, we may be fooling ourselves.

Or perhaps I just put too little sugar in my coffee this morning. What do you think?

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