Talent Management
Personnel development 4.0 – Save yourself traditional seminars!

Table of contents

Traditional continuing education today – a discontinued model

What is the mission of HR development?
What are personnel development measures carried out for?

Traditionally, companies define requirements that an employee should fulfill, depending on the position:

  • What skills are needed to successfully fill this position?
  • What behavior should be exhibited to contribute to overall success?
  • Which of these required skills and behaviors are already present?
  • Where is there a need for improvement?

As a result, there are training catalogs and personnel development programs. These usually present themselves in two ways:

  1. On the one hand – and this is the much larger part – people go into a seminar room. A person is invited who firstly knows the content to be conveyed, secondly has mastered it and thirdly has prepared it and can present it well. The aim is for the relevant target group to enjoy absorbing the content and to develop the idea that the content can be used in a meaningful way in everyday working life.
  2. The second, rather rarely used option for obtaining the required information is “webinars”.

Seminars usually bring little benefit to the company. -Why?

This is the status quo today: personnel development measures such as those traditionally offered in seminar hotels or coaching situations. However, I question the success of these measures – i.e. the concrete benefit for the company – massively:
A person – let’s call him a trainer or consultant – has an information advantage and communicates this in a target group-oriented way. The participants acquire this information. However, I consider it not only unproven, but even extremely doubtful that this will result in competence in everyday working life, i.e. a skill that generates added value for the company. Because information received is not the same as knowledge; applying it in a seminar is not the same as skill: You may have learned everything about driving in theory – but it does not mean that this knowledge will make you a good driver.

I believe that the gain for the company resulting from most personnel development measures is very manageable. For me, the main benefit of such events is to generate curiosity among the participants and to form networks across departments and possibly also across locations. These are certainly important topics, but for me they have nothing to do with personnel “development” at all, but with cultural development within the company. The importance of this should not be underestimated, but the actual goal – the development of skills – is not achieved through the classic form of personnel development, i.e. through seminars.

How can companies tell whether personnel development events are making a difference?

How do companies actually measure the success of such training?
The answer: It is hardly measured at all. In order to determine the success of a personnel development measure, it would be necessary to measure the competencies of the respective employees before and after a measure using suitable tools – and to determine whether a change/development relevant to success has occurred. Since reliable figures are not available, I can look back on 20 years of experience in management consulting: I can almost always see a gain in knowledge among seminar participants. However, the often prevalent belief that the impulses and information from qualification events will automatically ensure that they are put into practice is not justified: As a rule, the transfer of experience from the seminar into professional practice hardly ever happens. When I observe how much of the measure the employees actually apply on a daily basis – and thus ensure improved performance – then I would describe it as very manageable at best.

>> Read here:
“We already have well-founded personnel diagnostics”- Why well-founded is not always well-founded.

How can personnel development be organized effectively?

What could help is to clarify why I want to do personnel development at all.
As a rule, people need more knowledge in order to be able to continue doing the job they are doing today at least as well in the future. A learning organization and people who see themselves as a learning organization are best suited for this. In other words, people who take responsibility for obtaining the information they need (“pull principle”). And not only that – above all, they should be able to create spaces in which they can have experiences that help them to do their job better than before. As already mentioned, information alone is not enough.

The complete transfer of information, which traditionally takes place in the seminar room (“push principle”), should be moved out of the seminar room and into the virtual world. This means that the information that is normally given to the participants by the competent, friendly, eloquent trainer is acquired by the participants themselves. Participants should be prepared to place themselves in a working context (project or peer group) in the company in which they can train their personal application; in which they can exclusively practice the practical implementation.
There is a next step that is unavoidable and absolutely necessary in the HR development concept of the future. This is a permanent follow-up event in the company: Opportunities must be created that make it easy for participants to apply or even have to apply the content taught and experience gained on a daily basis. So far, however, this has usually been thoroughly underestimated.

An example

A manager who has completed a leadership curriculum part 1, 2, 3 and returns to the company full of enthusiasm will certainly not be a better manager. It just has more information to fall back on. Here it is important – and this should be the task of personnel development in the future – to create spaces for experience that make it necessary to really apply the impulses and information gained.
For example, a peer group of potential candidates can carry out a real project under mutual supervision. This project should have real “business relevance”. One such peer group of one of our customers is currently developing a “leadership model” in collaboration with HR and management. In this way, the young managers experience “live” application of the “project manager skills” they have acquired.
So far, traditional personnel development has fallen short here, as most companies do not really support the transfer of seminar experience into the company environment.

>> Read here:
Brave new work – will your profession still exist in the future?

What exactly does the preparation look like?

Participants are provided with (online) reading material or can watch corresponding videos and webinars online. For this purpose, it must be precisely defined what information the participants need in order to be able to have the learning experience offered in the seminar.
An example: As a manager, I read 3-4 leadership models online. I use an online test to find out what my strengths, preferences and learning areas are as a manager. All of this can be accomplished in a relatively short time. I don’t use or waste two days plus travel just to get the basic information. At the event itself, there is no more information transfer or analysis of the current situation; instead, the learning group works in an application-oriented manner and gets down to implementation.

What impact does this have on the coaching profession?

First of all, it is also about redefining the job profile of a consultant and trainer. A trainer is no longer the likeable one-dancer or the likeable presenter who knows so much more than the participants. It is no longer a question of the participants’ desire to know just as much through sympathy. Instead, the trainer should ensure that there is no such information advantage. And instead of using a flip chart or projector presentation to drone on about his knowledge, the trainer of the future addresses and guides the group. In this way, it provides the participants with the experiences that this group in particular needs in addition to the content acquired in advance.

And what is coaching suitable for?

There are different views on whether coaching is a suitable part of personnel development.
I put forward the thesis that coaching is not an instrument for increasing a person’s performance in a business context. That is not the task of coaching. But this is exactly what coaching is often misused for; a lot of money is spent on it.
My advice to you: Check what the intervention – be it a seminar or coaching – is intended to achieve. – Is the method you have chosen so far really the right one? Save money!

I see coaching as a very suitable instrument to give the coachee the opportunity to look at the current situation from a new perspective. Under no circumstances can and should coaching help to improve performance. In a well-conducted discussion with a coach, new perspectives can be gained and new options for action can be derived. This should take a maximum of three days in total. Coaching can do no more and no less. However, managers often refer employees to coaching so that they can do their job better. – The boss delegates his management task to an external partner: simply a declaration of bankruptcy. I think that’s the worst form of personnel development.

Who is responsible for personnel development? Is it the responsibility of the company or the employees?

I would like to put forward the following thesis: personnel development is not the task of a company. However, it is the task of a manager to ensure that people can develop in their area of responsibility. I consider personnel development as such to be the responsibility of every employee. This does not mean that I am releasing companies from their responsibility. However, I would like to shift the responsibility to the employees and managers. The company can be responsible for creating rooms and space and providing budgets to make further training possible. In my view, however, responsibility for development should not lie solely with the company or the HR department.

In the best case scenario, employees learn in peer groups. Of course, the framework conditions must be provided for this, but please no prefabricated seminar series or programs. These are usually not really tailored to the exact needs of the target group, so that a benefit would not be measurable. Of course, this does not include specialist qualifications that provide employees with the specialist know-how they need!

For the personnel development of the future, it is ultimately important to ensure that the right people are hired: Employees who are interested in developing themselves over the years on their own initiative – and who retain this interest.

>> Read here:
Recruiting – How we found the perfect employee. And how not.

How can the benefit of a measure be measured?

Our experience at berliner team is that qualifications are not really successful in many companies. In order to save costs and effort in the future and only invest in truly beneficial measures, companies should measure the success of current personnel development measures internally. You should find out what benefits a seminar series has brought for a manager, an employee, a project leader or a manager. Has the employee really become more competent? Many companies lack the resources and tools to actually measure success.
Such measurements can be carried out very easily using online-based evaluation tools. Companies should make much more use of this opportunity. Competence measurements before the start of the measure and renewed competence measurements at the end of the measure are an absolute necessity for me from a business perspective.

In another blog post, we described exactly how such personnel diagnostics tools work. We as the berlin team have had very good experiences with the “Developer”.

I question whether people are even capable of “qualifying” or “empowering” other people.

The belief that people can “enable” other people to do something is prevalent in many companies, regardless of whether they are SMEs or large corporations.
My conviction as a consultant: I don’t believe that I can “enable” you to do anything. That is not my image of humanity. Why?

  • I can provide you with information.
  • I can also give you impulses that you may or may not accept.
  • I can create a space in which you can have this or that experience.

But that does not mean that I have enabled you. You have already empowered yourself. I am concerned here with the image of man. I would like to see a paradigm shift here.

This is about answering the question of the form of learning once again.
The path leads us away from so-called Brockhaus thinking (linear and based on one another). This form of learning hoards information in a similar way to the aforementioned encyclopedia: I can accumulate and process my knowledge in the letters A, B, C, D and then at some point up to Z. If necessary, I then refer to the relevant book or the required information. This is a type of information and learning experience that is no longer up to date! I would even argue that it was never contemporary.

It should not be about filling our information stores with knowledge or even allowing them to be filled. At the very least, today it’s about ensuring that our synapses are networked.
In other words, to develop a form of learning that keeps thinking flexible and creative. This means mental alertness and presence. The inner attitude: I know that the information I have now will only help me for a short time. Tomorrow I may need different information to tackle the same problem. This different, flexible way of thinking must be reflected in the form of personnel development in the future.

>> Read here:
How to find the perfect employee in just three weeks.


The authors

Annika Semmer
berliner team
Jonas Bergert
Kassandra Knebel
Michelle Templin
Susanne Grätsch
Berliner Team