Decoding Corporate Challenges: Training, Team Building, and the Work-Life Balance Dilemma

Modern trends in the business world impose a “rule” that every serious company, aiming to maintain its reputation and ensure future success, must provide employees with opportunities for additional development. There is nothing wrong with that; on the contrary, “one learns while living,” which is why activities like trainings, projects, workshops, and coaching are crucial and necessary (provided they make sense). Besides personal advancement, the company also progresses through the employee, who can apply newly acquired knowledge in their work. In this context, investing in development and improvement is not only expedient and logical but also economically justified.

However, HR activities are often organized solely to fulfill requests and spend budgets, regardless of the eventual impact, which may be absent. Different models are copied, repackaged in similar narratives, and success recipes are sold by non-professionals or individuals who have often faced failures themselves. (A similar illogicality exists in the realm of life coaches—many of whom have unsettled lives but expect you to believe they can fix yours. The decision and energy to change must come from you personally; no one else can be responsible for your decisions and actions.)

The core problem lies in inadequate implementation. Specifically, the assumption that training must be suitable for the individual’s educational, cultural, and sociological level for whom it is organized. If a team consists of people with varying levels of education, communication styles, upbringing, and worldviews (which is always the case, given our diversity), the training becomes inappropriate and futile. Rarely do these sessions achieve their primary goals because the form often suppresses the essence. Much money is wasted, precious time is lost, and results are barely visible, at best.

Though it is clear to both organizers and participants what the effects are, this type of “improvement” remains a supposedly useful obligation. Not only employees are taught, but also the top echelons of the corporation. Many consulting firms suggest countless ways to improve employee relations. In the past, training focused on acquiring skills for successful job performance, but in modern corporations, the focus is on people. Paradoxically, an approach is applied that concerns the establishment and maintenance of quality relationships with people, while individuals are treated as absolutely replaceable and, in this regard, are valued less than ever.

Corporations of the modern era often mention the so-called work-life balance. What does that actually mean? What kind of balance are we talking about? Organizing team building in your free time (which you should use differently, away from work, because it is free time!), unlimited working hours for managers or “wannabe managers,” sacrifice for the team, continuous measurement of contributions and evaluations, constant pressure to speed up or improve something, business-private socializing during working hours and after… It is hypocritical to promote work-life balance when you have an obligation during the weekend.

Team building is a well-thought-out concept, but the implementation is often poor. The mistake, first of all, refers to the timing of realization—outside working hours, conflicting with the natural need to have time that is exclusively yours and unrelated to work. The idea of socializing people from different sectors, especially in large systems, is unrealistic, forced, and artificial. Equally popular are events where a hundred employees go to some beautiful, inspiring natural environment (forest, mountain, lake…) to take a break from work and stress, only to spend the whole day in a conference room with presentations glorifying a team where everyone loves each other immensely. “Improving through socializing” continues in the evening in the form of a “fun” part, with a rich and greasy feast and, of course, relaxation to the sounds of the accordion. The Serbian mentality and falling into a trance after a few glasses of alcohol inevitably lead to the “what did I need” phase in the morning, when the alcohol evaporates, but not the memory of the previous night. It is not binding and will not promote the company’s growth; budgets intended for “raising team spirit” can certainly be used more wisely.

In general, if some other function happens to be more important than the business function, it is not good and will cost the company in the long run. My impression is that companies hire too many workers, who then somehow have to be activated and motivated. Anyone who has a job but does not have a business task and goal must devise activities (under the pretext of improving people) and justify their existence in the company. On the other hand, employees who are expected to achieve a specific result in their work (those who have realistic tasks and goals), and within a certain period, are often under constant stress due to numerous activities that have nothing to do with their work duties and take up valuable time. Then the system recognizes that it is ineffective and engages a consulting firm to find new promotion models, possibly cut costs, change the names of positions, and so on. Things are too logical for someone even remotely smart to recognize and understand them, but not everyone has equal interests at all times.

First, you waste time at work, and then you also waste time that should be yours alone. The current pandemic has made people aware of how much private life means to them. Most companies that have asked employees to return to their jobs have faced rejection and layoffs. People have realized that work can be completed more efficiently in less time, at a time that suits them (flexibility), without the standard time wasters such as commuting, too many meetings, and polite socializing with colleagues and superiors, instead of with your loved ones, relatives, and friends.

It’s your time—yours. Work is work. Mixing these two completely separate aspects is justified only in exceptional cases. Don’t let exceptional cases happen every day, because in that case, the training will only train your nerves.

Author: Dobra Odlucic