Meeting Customer Needs - Training and Development

The"client" or "customer" will often have a preconceived notion of what the training needs are. However, it is important to note that their perceptions are not always accurately identified. Sometimes, the"fix" doesn't involve training at all. Therefore, we want to emphasize this point: In practice, the customer is seldom completely right. In the best of situations, customers are aware of the problems for which training interventions are needed. More typically, even their view of the problem is biased and often incorrect. Only in the rarest of situations do customers have the expertise to identify, design, and carry out effective HRD solutions. Following the customer's recommendation may satisfy the customer in the short run,but-eventually the customers will determine that the T&D efforts they advocated added little value.

Yet many T&D and HRD specialists operate on the principle that customer service is a top priority. When T&D operates from a paradigm of customer service, the tendency is to anchor practice in the core principle of customer service: Ultimately the customer—the managers, trainees, etc.—is always "right" and gets what he or she wants. The end result is that ineffective and sometimes unethical practices are perpetuated and supported by HRD or T&D specialists.

What does that say about the value HRD places on its expertise? If the customer is ultimately always right, then HRD has nothing of value to add other than implementation.This notion is incorrect. HRD expertise is just as important and specialized as any expertise that engineers, accountants, lawyers, or architects have to offer. Furthermore, in an era where the intellectual capital is a competitive advantage, the impact of errors made in managing and developing human resources is at least as serious as the impact of errors in other professions. Ironically, it is the customer service model of practice that leads to lower professional esteem and reputation. In the short run, pleasing customers, even if they are wrong, is seductive.

It appears to increase HRD's power and influence. Over the longer term, the end result is likely to be just the opposite. Customer satisfaction is important, but when defined as submitting to the customers' demands,it leads to diminished power and influence. Eventually, customers conclude that the providers of professional services have little value to add. Only when customer satisfaction is bounded by narrowly defined parameters of sound and ethical practice is it an effective performance measure for HRD.


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