Limited Training Experience Can Be Costly


So you hired someone with limited training experience because you liked their personality, smile and charm, but they have only worked for one company in their training career thus far. You thought hiring someone with your industry experience was a plus, but you were not thinking about the built-in flaw that is a part of that limited experience.

If you are being tasked with setting up a training function from scratch, initially creating plans and content all by yourself, you are going to naturally yield to what is most familiar as a way to hit the ground running. Most training professionals have a limited understanding of copy write laws and protection, and those that hire them have even less awareness of the need to avoid repurposing content.

But let’s say you hired someone from your competition (same industry) to build your training function, and they use anything from their past employer to create plans and content for your company, without expressed written permission, they have violated copy write protections and are subject to being sued. But let’s face it, your new training officer is not where the money is, so they tie you and the company into that lawsuit and those dollars can now be huge!

Big enough that petty cash won’t cover this lawsuit and the Board of Directors will learn of it because of the monetary amounts that need board approval for payment. Guess who all lose their job when it goes this far?  Not only will the charming training officer be out of work but you as the dimwitted hiring manager will be unemployed too!

Bottom line you hired Limited Training Experience because you wanted to save salary dollars over hiring someone that has a diverse background and knows the responsibilities that come with the job. Because you are like most executives that believe any idiot can manage training, you have no idea the risks and don’t bother to monitor activities or question where the content for your training programs was derived.

You saved $40K in salary hiring a pretty face with potential, and paid a million dollars to their former employer for Copy Write Infringement. You don’t have to be a banker to know that was not a good investment.


Where Did All the Value Go?


How can you lead a training function for 15 years, and not show the value to continue this function? Can you even imagine the utter disaster a training department would have to be in for management to eliminate the head of training after 15 years on the job with most of the staff included? I’d want to hang my head in shame if this ever happened to me.

Thankfully it never did, because I insisted that everything we did have an outcome that demonstrated our value. I passed on the party planner role for the company, and wouldn’t have my staff playing the roles of caterer or diplomatic hosts and tour guides. We were always about building skills that made a return on the investment.

This company is a large financial institution that never saw the need to evaluate their training function and the director always kept me at arm’s length from management when it came to The Training Physical. Well, duh, now I know why!

So this guy is out of work, in this late 50’s with a track record that screams never put him in charge of training again. Time for a new career, with less at stake my friend.

Now what boggles my mind even more is that senior management has not changed much in quite some time. I figured that there had to have been some new people that added accountability to the company, and so I was eager to see who had been hired at that level in the past few years and didn’t see anyone that fit that description. That would have at least explained how 15 years seemingly went by without a word until recently. So where did all the value go?

My guess is the bottom line numbers are getting worse or not improving much and it was time to eliminate expenses. First thing to go is usually training because although we know it serves a purpose it is hard to identify how much it saves or earns the company, so hack, it gets removed.

I feel for this guy trying to find work at his age because, hello, age discrimination is alive and well. However, I am not upset that this company finally woke up and took the first steps toward fixing their training function!


Is Your Company’s Training Lousy?


If the training at your company is lousy at best, blame the CEO. The CEO is responsible for running a well-tuned engine, and if your employee training is subpar, then so are the skills of your employees. If the employees are not fully skilled they are producing less, and unable to care for your customers as well as they should. And dare I say, those wonderful company values are not being met either.

Hello CEO! Why are you taking such a lack of interest in the development of your team members? When was the last time you personally evaluated the training at your company? When was the last time you reviewed the annual training plan and objectives?

Sir Richard Branson, of the Virgin Group of 60+ companies, said that each company focuses on the employee. If the employee is happy, then everything else is easier to manage. Southwest Airlines focuses on the employee first too, and they are successful and loved by many passengers. But most companies don’t focus enough energy on employees and they suffer for it.

Too many training departments are led by managers that are weak in learning development, while some are outright incompetent. If you ask the CEO how effective training is, they have nothing tangible to comment about, or have no clue how to answer. It really is a shame.

Even adults that are fully competent are always looking to learn new things that will help them perform their duties. Yet when training is weak, these employees look to other companies when opportunities arise. You then lose a qualified employee, lose time recruiting a replacement, and you lose even more time training the new person. Wow, that was a waste of time, energy and money.

So why do I and many others in the Learning Development space continue to preach this same sermon? We hope to get through to the many out there that there is a better way. If even one of you reads this and calls for help, I have made progress.


What Skills Need Developed?

285671_D1L1_01  If you want a single question that can assess the healthiness of your training function, ask Senior Management “What Skills Need to be Developed in their Employees?” If they can answer with a list of things then management is being kept informed and is aware of skill deficiencies. If they cannot answer, or give broad answers like leadership, compliance or operations, then they are trying to fake it.

My next favorite question is, “How do employees learn?” Or you could ask, “How do you train employees?” Either question will get to the root of how much on the job training, or show and tell training is trying to replace more formal methods that have better sticking power.

But in every type of training, you can do it so poorly that it is a waste of time and money. In my latest book, “Pointless Training” I talk about how any form of training can be implemented poorly and thus yield weak results.

CLASSROOM: Have you ever been in a workshop where the instructor is a talking machine that never stops? They feel they are the source of all information and so all the participants need to do is be quiet and listen.

WEBINAR: While it could be the same talking instructor who runs off at the mouth for the whole hour, it could be that there is also no way for the participants to interact, ask questions, or add value. It could be the wrong instructor and/or platform for training.

ELEARNING: Good old self-paced. Some are good and are interactive, but if you need to include no doze or extra caffeine to participate then maybe not. Or is it all reading with a quiz?

ON-THE-JOB: The cheapest and least reliable. No consistency unless there are deliverables, demonstrations, practice and accountability for objectives.

JOB AIDES: My favorite cheap training. Solves everything and solves nothing, as it all depends on the quality of the design and depth of content.

READING: If you have a Policy & Procedures Manual and assign it as reading, and then hold people accountable to everything, you are a cruel person. Reading opens up a topic as an introduction or is a resource after training.

CONFERENCES: A bunch of seminars, with nuggets of information, which generally are lost and forgotten days after the event. Unless you have accountability and deliverables built in for after the event, you just spent a bunch of money for nothing. But they had fun!


These two areas of training must be led in the right direction or your training function is unhealthy. Management must be part of the learning process and every learning event must be implemented correctly or things do not work for the common good.

Creating a Pointless Training Function

Pointless Training Cover

If you have the choice of not having a corporate training function and setting up a Pointless training function, may I suggest you take a big pass on employee development and minimize the damage to your organization? Let me repeat that again. If you are going to implement pointless solutions you will do more damage than skipping it all together.

I have an organization sitting in my back yard that announced in January that they would be establishing a corporate training function. Since I knew whose lap this was dropped into, I reached out with a free copy of both of my books and an offer to help. I received a nice thank you and never heard back again. This week I noticed a job posting and the title (Corporate Training Officer) gave away what I knew I would be reading in the description (one person, does everything, failure guaranteed).

Now contrary to popular opinion, not every village idiot can run a training department. And while the smaller the department the more cross functional abilities are needed by the team, listing out everything a training department should do under one person is just plain ignorant. While they will find someone who can do everything on the list, nobody can do everything at the same time! This means a lot more of these tasks will not get done over the few that can get done. This kind of job description and organizational setup will not attract experienced learning professionals because they are doomed to fail under unrealistic expectations. They will read this description and take a pass.


Let’s take a different perspective so you can see the insanity and open a restaurant. The owner wants to hire a manager and the job description seeks people who should be able to:

  • Setup the dining room, kitchen and exterior design.
  • They should be able to work with all the vendors that supply materials and labor.
  • They should also establish a menu, source food vendors, supplies, equipment and food.
  • They should be able to prep all menu items, plate and serve.
  • Don’t forget administrative functions like reservations, seating, cash register, and accounting.
  • They should have a complete working knowledge of IT since everything we do is on our own private servers.
  • They should be outgoing and converse with customers, and do all the marketing, promotions and community involvement.

Just like a restaurant, a training function has a lot going on all at the same time. So why on earth would you seek to hire one person and expect everything to get done?

Mark my words. This company will find a “trainer” who wants to be a “manager.” They will not have enough practical let alone strategic experience to lean on for this role. After a year they will have designed a couple of programs and delivered a few workshops. Management will be stunned that all 90 items on their list were not accomplished and seek to run this individual out of the company and hire another employee. This too shall fail because no one will stand up in the first place and tell management the truth. The truth being that this function requires several employees and a lot more money than anyone has budgeted.

Management is blowing this initiative big time. Yet the only people that will lose their job because the project flops are the ones that accepted the job of Corporate Training Officer. If my friend’s career was tied into the success of the training function, she would be setting this whole thing up differently. But what do I know?



Snake Oil Salesmen Dressed as Trainers


Nothing gets under my skin faster than the trainer that promises the world once participants complete their one day miracle workshop. Well, except maybe the idiot manager that writes a check for this workshop and actually believes the sales pitch.

Training should always be about outcomes. You must be able to answer the question of “What will the participant be able to do after the training ends” or you have no idea or assurances of what the training will accomplish.

My favorite oversold workshop is management training in a day. Lordy, there is no way to prepare people to manage a team of people in a single day, yet there is no shortage of workshops and gullible people paying money to attend. You may walk away with an “understanding” (a low level objective) but you will never be capable of communicating well after a day of lecture.

I once was losing the argument of hiring a trainer that was over promising on a workshop for her team that she desperately felt would help her group. I had looked at the materials, activities and talked with the trainer pitching the program and saw nothing that assured me learning was going to occur. I began by asking the trainer for a money back guarantee and was laughed at. I then gathered up a jar and counted out $5000 in play money and put it in the jar. This represented the cost of the one day workshop that was purchased.

A day after the training I approached the manager and asked how she felt the workshop went and did it meet the stated expectations. She said it was a good seminar, but she was a bit underwhelmed. I asked her if the $5000 fee was worth it, and she said it should have been a maximum of $4000. So I opened the jar and counted out $1000 and handed it to her and asked her to go shred it. In other words, I wanted her to feel the pain of wasting $1000.

We went through this same drill 30 days later and she shredded another $1000. So inside a month it was clear that ROI was not good. But since learning is supposed to stick longer than a month I approached her with my jar 60 days later. She had been dealing with fallout from things that shouldn’t have happened if skills had been learned. She took by jar and dumped the entire $3000 into the shredder and said, “Next time I will listen to you.” We then created a learning program that helped her team.

As training professionals you will find that not everyone in our field is as professional as they should be and are focused on making money, not on learners learning. I do recommend that you keep a little black book of these folks and make it public for your management team to see. Block in advance the outsiders that will do harm to your employees, financials and your real efforts to improve employee performance.

Do You Train Consequences?

untitled10In the training world we spend countless hours designing and delivering training solutions that build competencies in order to achieve levels of results. If we want managers to communicate better we train the necessary skills that enable managers to converse with people so the message is delivered, and is respectful of others.

Yet any learning development professional that has been in the game for a while will admit, selling a training initiative is never a slam dunk. You may have the perfectly designed solution that will pop out the right results and it still falls on deaf ears when getting an agreement to go forward. This is why many of us have learned that the consequences of NOT training should always be part of the communication.



“What happens if we train our employees and then they leave?”


“What happens if we don’t train our employees and they stay?”


I am sure some trainer came up with this quote as a way to make a point, as I really doubt there is a single CEO or CFO that has ever had this conversation. It does however remind us that not training skills that produce company expectations will produce consequences.

For decades now most of today’s managers have gone without what I call basic communication skills. Very few managers take the time to evaluate the consequences of the words they choose to speak or write and how they will be taken. In a single email, you can instantly kill a good relationship with a fellow employee or staff member that cannot be repaired. Because you spoke unprofessionally, or accused wrongfully, irreparable damage can be afflicted on a fellow human being just because you decided to be a pompous ass at that moment.

I used to train a management development program that began every skill development showing a video demonstration for the wrong way to communicate that topic. I spent more time debriefing the consequences of “the wrong way” to drill in the impact than I did debriefing why the preferred way was better. I found that people understood the right way once they understood why the wrong way didn’t work.

I carried out this process when I managed large groups of people. When I observed inappropriate behavior, or within a string of email noticed a bad choice of words or impression conveyed to another employee, I called out not only what I observed, but the potential consequences of their actions. My staff could expect me to get involved if I saw mistreatment.

At the same time my managers knew I would not accept their bad day being redirected to me. I let them know the consequences of their actions. I’ll never forget one manager who felt it appropriate to misinterpret an email I sent her asking for help with a member of her team that was not doing their job, thus having an impact on me doing my job. She lit me up like a candle in an email, taking “offense” at my choice of words.

Up to this point we had a solid relationship, so I responded that she had interpreted my request for help incorrectly, and that I had not done what she was accusing me of doing. Her reply consisted of a change of tone, immediate help, but absent an apology! No way was she ever going to admit fault and I better get used to it. Two months later I resigned and told her why I was leaving. The consequence of her lack of communication skills was made evident in losing a good employee and keeping a bad one. I’ll never forget the look on her face.  (It still wasn’t her fault)

Bottom line, train the skills to enable the behaviors you seek and need. Yet hold managers accountable, even if they are sitting in the C Suite.