On the unintended consequences of leadership training programs

On a weekly “open thread” for The Diff, I wrote:

Although the founders weren’t laid off, they founded Health-Ade Kombucha in 2012 while at GSK when it was going through a series of lay-offs. Daina Trout and Vanessa Dew were both in sales at GSK, and in the early 2010s it was struggling to adjust to competition from generics. GSK notoriously mismanaged the process in 2010 by laying off sales reps just days after promising no layoffs at their sales convention: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/glaxosmithkline-layoffs-follow-promise-of-no-cuts-at-national-sales-meeting/

To improve morale and innovation, GSK started a rotational innovation / leadership program that Daina went through. However, after having this inspirational confidence-building experience, she was sent back to her old job in sales. The rotational program and repeated layoffs were both bad for employee morale by bringing “false dawns” followed by disappointment. Having said that, you might say that GSK’s choices did in fact build confidence and innovation, but only in ways that didn’t benefit GSK itself.

Daina Trout’s interview on the How I Built It podcast is great btw: https://www.npr.org/2020/09/25/916944612/health-ade-kombucha-daina-trout

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