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.

Some People Reject Learning

rejectionHow do you handle the employees in your organization that reject learning?  Either they reject learning something new, a different way of working, or assistance.

While most people enjoy learning, most of us need to be convinced to open up to any kind of change.  Learning something invites us to possible change, and thus we as adult learners must always be sold on the benefits of learning.  We also need to be sold on the urgency of learning.  Urgency is key to an adult learner because once again we are busy people and learning just to fill in time is not a valid reason.  Learning because something is about to change and I need the information to do my job is a great reason.

I reviewed all this simply to set the stage for another reason people reject learning that needs to be addressed when it is the remaining culprit blocking your efforts to build skills

The reason is Ego.

  • “No I don’t need to learn another way because the way I do it works just fine.”
  • “No I don’t need your help because I am fully capable of doing it myself.”
  • “No I don’t want to learn another method because I am the boss and no longer need anyone.”
  • “No I don’t need your opinion because my way is the only way.”

When you run into Ego as the reason someone doesn’t need help, want to learn, or refuses your efforts to make life easier, I have a simple response that will keep your sanity.

Leave them alone, and let them succeed or fail by themselves.

Sorry if you think that is heartless, but people that are so full of themselves that the only reason for refusing to learn is their ego, there is no changing that from an external process.  You must let them prove to themselves that they were either right or wrong.  And the best teacher that something might have made a difference is failure.  No one is harder on themselves than a person hung up on their ego.

Yes it is hard to watch someone crash and burn, but next time they just might be more open to learning.

Why Don’t You Train Your Employees?

thumbnailCA4Z1XR6Most management retention surveys will tell you that employee development ranks very high on the reason your employees stay with you year to year, and that compensation is actually near the bottom of the list.  While every company pays their employees to work, not every company provides training development.

Why Don’t You Train Your Employees?

I made a friend this past week by asking this question.  Not really a friend at first since he was beyond ticked off that I had the audacity to ask the question, but eventually he warmed up to understanding the value he was missing by not providing his employees with professional development.  Let’s say we parted as friends.

You see this company has a great reputation, and very good employee reviews on sites like, and if they were only looking at training as a retention tool, I can see why it was never prioritized very high.  Yet, when I discovered that most of their recruiting efforts required HR to go outside the company, I realized it was because they were not building competencies in-house.

There was also zero succession plans on the books for any position in this company of 150+ employees and they continued plans to grow would be hampered if they continually need to source external applicants.

You may wonder why your company trains management and leadership competencies.  If subject matter experts are trained in management communications they can assume supervisory and manager roles in their units.  If you don’t train these skills then you are hard pressed to promote people.  You have to go outside.

Yet the same goes for skills to perform another person’s job.  If you can train an existing employee to do another job, you retain an employee that already knows your culture and how to get things done.  They “hit the ground running” better than an external hire.

If you currently don’t train your employees beyond the required compliance topics for your industry, then let’s talk for 30 minutes.  The call is free, and I guarantee there are benefits to training that you are not using to your advantage.  Email me at to set up a time to talk.





When Did Training Become Optional?

thumbnailCA4Z1XR6In some industries, training employees has become an optional activity.  No longer do companies see the need to develop employees so they can produce results, exceed goals or even as a retention tool.  So “When Did Training Become Optional?”

Thirty years ago, financial services was an industry that spent serious time and money on developing staff.  If they were to be competitive, they had to have the brightest people representing them, and that meant training skills was a required activity.  Employees learned both operational skills and communication skills, while at the same time we built interpersonal and management development skills.  Sadly, only a handful of banks in this country develop their employees today.

Our society has evolved into a disposal society in more ways than most will admit out loud.  Employees that don’t come with the necessary skills better figure out a way to obtain them or they will lose their jobs.  Employers have learned in the past 8 years that they can replace one warm body with another warm body without a lot of effort.  So why spend money on development when you can throw away and replace any given employee?

Human Resources have learned that to be constantly viable to an organization, they must either devote a lot of effort to performance management, organizational development, succession planning, training and retention.  Or, they can avoid all that and just get good at recruitment.  Oh, did I just say the obvious?  Unless you devote time to your existing workforce, they will leave and you will be spending time finding replacements.  And that my friends is what makes a lot of HR people feel secure.  “They need us because we have a lot of openings to fill.”

In financial services, only the bigger institutions train their employees anymore.  Mid-size to small banks and credit unions will train compliance topics because the regulators force them, and then only train topics after performance is found to be an issue.  Reactive training efforts far exceed proactive development efforts.

The only way this can turn around in any industry or company is through the leadership ranks.  Until we have leaders that see the value of developing staff, nothing will change.  To assist this effort, new applicants should ask what kinds of employee development occurs before they entertain or accept an offer.  If nothing much is happening, then make that the reason you decline.  If it becomes hard to recruit, leadership might just have to wake up to a new reality.