Even Pointless Training Costs Money!

Pointless Training Cover

I would bet that every single person reading this posting has walked out of a training session, or signed off an online or eLearning event and said something like, “That was pointless.” Either the content was not relevant, or you didn’t connect the reason for the training to your job. In any case, it does not matter if you felt it was pointless, it still cost the company money to provide it.

Both good training and bad training comes with a fee, so if you are going to spend the money on training then demand that it returns on the investment. If a company spends money on training that does not return on an investment, it is like burning cash. But I have an even better idea.

If you have no desire to implement purposeful training that returns appropriate skills and value to the learners and the company, then don’t train. Yes, I said it. Save the money, pay larger salaries, or throw a party. Pointless training is more damaging than no training at all, so if you are going to waste the company budget on pointless training, don’t and defer it to other line items in the budget that will be appreciated.

And while we are on the subject, if your training department cannot seem to implement training that returns on the investment, and aligns with the strategic goals of the company, save even more money and close that department completely. While every company should have a strong learning function, once again, a weak training function does more harm than good. It is time to trim the waste and improve the bottom line by closing training until you find more competent employees to run it.

285671_D1L1_01Six years ago I wrote a book that outlines what it takes to have a healthy and productive training function. It is called “The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat and Cure Your Training Department.” The idea was through a self-audit process or better yet by hiring a 3rd party that is objective, you could identify what is working and fix what is not working.

Pointless Training CoverLast year I wrote the sequel, “Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies to emphasize by content areas how easy training could become pointless to employees and the company, and with a bit more effort how it could become purposeful instead.

I wrote these books to help organizations provide good learning environments and solid learning events for their employees. Each book is less than $15 from the publisher, and provides the necessary information for training departments to be genuine business partners. Some companies have invested $30 to become healthier, and some have chosen to remain ineffective while wasting thousands of dollars a year. Honestly, does that make any sense?

For more information go to www.TheTrainingPhysical.com

When Training Will Not Work

no training

Many training professionals believe in their heart that training can fix any performance challenge. If at first you don’t succeed train them again. Unfortunately training will not work all of the time, and all training professionals would do themselves and our profession a great deal of service to wake up to this reality.

When I first began learning performance management consulting, the instructor began by saying, “training only fixes performance issues about 50% of the time.” I remember not even being able to complete my notes when my brain was struck with complete shock over that statement. I was perplexed over even hearing that we trainers couldn’t fix everything. I was working for a company that had me in the classroom 3-4 days a week, so how was it possible that I wasn’t fixing every performance problem.

It was when he started listing out the other things that get in the way of correct performance that I began to realize training couldn’t fix everything.

To understand what training can fix most of the time, it is important to know when training should be used as a performance solution.

  1. Training should be used when a person does not have the skills needed to perform the job. Often new hire training will build the necessary skill for operations, product knowledge, sales and compliance. When I need to learn something new training will help.
  2. Training is also used to update people on changes in products, procedures, maybe a new software system.   I may know how to do my job, but enough changes have been made that I need training to understand what is different.
  3. Training is used to create a common focus, or a refocus on a particular skill set that has gone stale. Everyone in the room knows how to perform a particular task, but for one reason or another, no one is performing well. Customer Service training is refreshed annually in a lot of organizations to put new life into the service experience, or to energize the masses.

When I find people wanting to use training when the skills exist, I will ask a series of questions to determine what else is blocking performance. Often this is tricky with management that just wants the problem to go away and believes training over and over will change the outcome. It won’t, and we need to do a better job of getting to the root of performance problems before we prescribe another training cure.

Training People to be Trainers

285671_D1L1_01Soon after I first published The Training Physical, I wrote an Article  about Training the Trainers Before Training Others. It became a popular interview topic as it resonated with so many people that had gone to training events with terrible trainers.

Even if someone is being asked to train a single event, spending time with this person so that they make a good training event successful is worth your time.  But I also talked about professional development that is ongoing for the training team members.

Recently I ran into a young man who has been a successful HR Recruiter and has the desire to move into the training field.  After spending time with him working another project I know that he would be a natural for the training field and I really hope he can find the right opportunity.

I did caution him that most training managers today want experience and are not willing to spend time training him on facilitation, instructional design, needs analysis, organizational development and strategic planning.  At the same time I was wishing that I was back running a training function because I would spend the time and effort to build his competencies.

My personal opinion is that not everyone that wants to be a training professional can be great at it.  Just because you know something about a subject does not make a trainer out of you. (I sound like Yoda)  Anyhow, being able to transfer what you know how to do into someone else being able to do the same thing is more about desire that technique.  I can teach you the techniques to transfer learning, but I can’t teach you to want to share it with others.

I wish more training managers would spend the time developing new blood.  I worked at Bank of America in my initial training years and we often had rotational roles in training.  All to often we had people that wanted to stay past the rotational dates, but the idea was to build training competencies into future leaders.  Better presentations, better staff development, better succession planning.  If more companies saw this connection they would never have to go outside to find trainers.

I do have my eye on a full time director role again, so if I get it not only will it be a win for me and the company, but I can hire this talented individual and build another trainer from scratch.  Pray for all of us!


Self-Directed Learning

thAs a human being that wants to know how to do something, not much can get in the way of that objective.  When we want to learn, we seek out the information and most of the time are not willing to wait very long to get it.

This is why a training function needs to realize that they need to release the reins on learning and allow it to be more self-directed.  You can still have your formal workshops scheduled quarterly on the calendar, but you also need to release content in forms that allow adult learners immediate access.

Personal Example:

I love to cook and I am always interested in learning new techniques, or getting a new appliance to make cooking easier or tastier.  I recently received one of the new electric pressure cookers as a gift, but it did not come with a recipe book.  It had instructions on how to operate the machine, but the expectations as to how it differs from a traditional on the stove pressure cooker were missing.

I immediately went to search online for a cookbook, and landed up on one of the most popular websites, YouTube.  After watching several videos for various recipes that I have used a traditional pressure cooker, I discovered that the recipes were the same.  I not only had several cookbooks on the shelf, but I learned rather quickly they would work the same with my new cooker.

It took me a few days to realize that without thinking, I needed to learn something and I used online content to learn it.  In a few minutes I got my questions answered and was able to go to work.  Self-directed learning was available, and without hesitation I used it to obtain the information I needed.

You can expect your employees to do the same thing, and to once again show value in a corporate training function, work related content should be easy to access and readily available.  Is that the case in your company or do you have some work to do to get up to speed?

Your Training Efforts Are Pointless!

Pointless Training CoverI hated to be the barer of bad news this past week, but after completing a full Training Physical for a client, I was searching for something positive to report.  While I entered this work agreement with the client telling me that he had little faith that I would find anything that training was doing that made a difference, I was convinced that no training effort was without some redeeming quality.

Well, after performing countless Training Physicals on organizations of all shapes and sizes, I was forced to agree completely with the client.  Absolutely nothing they were training had any impact or return on investment.  Their training efforts were pointless and needed to stop.  Not only were they wasting money, the lack of quality and purpose in their efforts was clouding the future of any training effort.

So while I didn’t have to stress over how the client was going to take the news, I have been concerned about what to recommend doing from now on.  How should I direct this turn around?

First it may be helpful to know that their “Training Manager” had resigned 2 months ago, coincidentally I’m sure when the contract was signed to conduct the Training Physical .  This has afforded me complete access to the operation with nothing diverting my attention from known problem areas.  So now I am recommending they approach the redesign of the training function before they hire a new training manager.

I am suggesting the design first, so they can interview with expectations.  The design is something I can facilitate with management in a few weeks, where a new training manager could easily take 90-days before they begin implementation.  Now a new training manager can start implementation within their first week on the job.

I know I will start with an annual training plan that matches the existing strategic plan, and then begin a general clean up.  This will mean tossing what doesn’t work and replacing it with better solutions.  My biggest concern is how to demonstrate a new training function to the masses quickly.  I believe I have a topic that could benefit the entire organization, and my pitch will be to engage all employees in a new learning process at the same time.

Getting everyone engaged at the same time creates that positive buzz that moves around the population within days.  Once we have people being wowed by the new way to learn, we can begin implementing other training solutions one after another.

It is my sincere hope that this time next year we can say that training is running with a purpose, and no one is saying anything remotely like the word “Pointless” ever again.

What Is Your Purpose For Training?

thumbnailCA4Z1XR6What Is Your Purpose For Training?  Easy question I would think for any executive that is working for a company that has a training function.  Actually, not as easy of a question as you would think for most to answer.

I am forever disappointed in executive management that doesn’t understand the purpose of a training department.  They seem to have a firm grasp on all of the other human resource functions, like payroll, benefits, employee relations, and recruitment, but are just plum stymied by a definition for why they have a training department.

Then there is the company that wants to build out a training function from scratch.  Brand new initiative and even those closest to the approval phase are not really in touch with why the company needs training.  They try to latch on to safe bets like, “it is to improve retention efforts”  or my personal favorite, “what do you mean, shouldn’t we have training?”

While training has some common reasons for existing, management should not be struggling with a reason they have or want a training function, unless it really is a brand new concept.

Recently I met with two organizations that want to build out a training function.  The first had already begun, but were running into a lot of issues with having the right people implementing training.  Yet they had learning as a core value and could really articulate why this function needed to get things done and how their work impacted the organization.  I mean, this management team was solid on the value and purpose of training.

The second organization wants training, but from the job they see ahead of them, has no real understanding of the purpose of training.   Digging a little deeper, I realized that the management team has never worked for a company that had a training function, so their personal careers have never intersected with corporate sponsored learning.  They struggle because they simply have no experience to draw on for a purpose.  They want training because outgoing employees are asking for it.  Maybe a weak reason to begin this process, but at least it is a start.

My point is that before training can be built, and before it can be implemented, management needs to be able to articulate and sell the reasons their company needs this function.  It is also the responsibility of the training leader in both organizations to guide these discussions so that a solid purpose statement can be defined.  For more information on the purpose of training, check out The Training Physical at an online bookstore or our website.

Zero Skill Deficiencies?

no trainingI discovered another company this week that does not see the need to train staff.  There is no training department, and Human Resources have been told by the CEO that there is no need to focus on training.  As it turns out, the CEO and I are connected in LinkedIn, so I sent her an email and asked:

What are your employee skill deficiencies?

Much to my surprise she responded with an honest answer, that she didn’t know off-hand, and wanted to know the purpose of my question.

So I continued the email conversation with an appreciation for her honesty, and that I had heard that training was not on the agenda anymore.  In my mind this means there are zero skill deficiencies, and I was excited to hear how this company had pulled this off.  In 25 plus years I had not found a single company that had perfectly aligned skill sets and was eager to learn how their process could be duplicated.

Well, as you can imagine, there was a pause.  In fact for over a week, and just when I was about to follow-up, she replied and told me that in fact there were quite a few skill deficiencies, many common ones, and that it may be the reason certain projects and objectives may not be getting accomplished.  Dumbstruck once again with her honesty, I asked her if she wants to change this situation.  I’m currently waiting on her response.

You see, not training employees was going to be the way forward, until someone bothered to question that decision.  Yes, HR should have done it, but she was uncomfortable doing it so I did it for her.  If we are going to serve the companies we work for than we need to do our jobs well.  And at times that means questioning a decision, process or in this case a missing component for employees to perform well.

I will admit that this CEO is an open-minded leader, and you may not be working with that kind of mindset currently.  If you need help communicating your concerns to senior management, let’s brain-storm on the phone and come up with a strategy.  It may or may not work, but never walk away from a bad processes because you fear trying.