One of the organizational factors that determine the impact of training is alignment. This is the fit between training and intended outcomes of the organization. I was reminded of this important factor today while reading in the New York Times about Cynthia Fitzgerald. She brought a whistle-blower lawsuit against some of the leading medical products companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Becton Dickinson, and Merck, and her former employer, Novation. I can’t speak to the veracity of her complaint but I am struck by her claim that she received extensive training in ethical purchasing procedures by the same company that pressured her as a purchasing agent to accept dividends and rebates in a manner that violated the ethical principles she had been taught in training.
If true, this is a prime example of how a lack of alignment between training and culture can have serious consequences for a company. One value was being communicated in training while a contrary value applied in the workplace. It doesn’t matter how good the training is if the culture of the organization does not support the knowledge, skills, and values that the formal training program is intended to communicate to employees. I have witnessed a similar kind of alignment problem in sales organizations that train their sales people in “relationship selling” and then hold them accountable for only end of the month numbers. When these kinds of disconnects occur, organizations are wasting valuable training resources. They need to either change what is communicated in training to bring it into alignment with workplace practices or change workplace practices to bring them into alignment with training.