Opening a Pointless Training Department


Everyone was so excited 3 months ago when the announcement was made by senior management that they were going to open a training department. The company has been growing and it will continue to grow and the decision was made that training should be a focus going forward.

So what has happened in the past 3 months?

  • Maybe they hired someone that was a facilitator (trainer) and made them a manager.
  • Maybe they have posted a job and are looking for a training manager
  • Maybe they are knee deep in strategizing the purpose and goals of the training function before the seek to find a manager
  • Maybe they delegated this to an overtasked manager or HR person, neither of which knows much about the learning function, and there it sits.

Sadly, only one of these options would be a good use of the past 90 days, that being setting strategy and goals. Yet for a majority of companies that come up with the realization they need a training function, one of the other options is probably where this project is sitting.


In my first book, The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat and Cure your Training Department, I go into some detail on how to fix a poorly run training function. Yet for readers without a training function, it is also a clear roadmap as to how to setup a function that will return on investment.

I stress that the company should have in writing a clear sense of purpose for training. Why do you want it? What is the purpose? What are the goals in 6 months and the first year? Knowing the answers prepare you to interview people that can make it happen. Maybe a current trainer could be hired to manage the function, but if they can’t tell you how they will address these goals or push back on incorrect perceptions then they are not ready.


In my second book, Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies, I begin by saying that no company sets out to create Pointless Training programs or a Pointless Training Department, ON PURPOSE. Yet it happens all the time because the wrong strategies are implemented.

If you have delegated the implantation of a new training department to the wrong person, they will hire the wrong people to manage it. Often it is assumed that the HR function should be able to house a training department, sadly many HR Managers never studied Adult Learning Principles and are clueless to the components of a functional training department.


So what do you do if you have been the lucky one assigned the roll out of a new training department? Simply, get help from someone who has done it before successfully. Consultants can be your best resource, and you pay only for the work you contract.

  • Maybe you need help setting strategy and the consultant facilitates those conversations.
  • Maybe you need help designing a first year training plan and goals.
  • Maybe you need help interviewing finalists that say they can implement your plans, and you need someone to see through the jargon into whether a skill set exists.


So if a year from now you would like the employees of your organization to be cheering their new training department versus saying that our training is pointless, build it correctly in the first place. It is so much easier than to fix it later.



Stop The Incompetence in HR!


When is your management going to wake up and realize that their Human Resources function is run by incompetent staff? What will you do as the head of HR when that day comes?

And even though you have skated by for years running your little HR department without anyone in management saying anything negative about how you deliver services, there will come a time when someone new joins your company and points out the obvious to everyone. You can either wait until that day comes and resign in disgrace, or you can get your act together and learn your dam job!

I have a particular bent against incompetency being allowed in performance, which I chalk up to 30 years in the performance improvement field. Yet when it comes to HR, it brings me to a boil instantly when I see employees suffer because the dip stick running HR has no clue what they are doing, but they are so full of themselves they are above the need to improve.

The main reason we have so many incompetent HR leaders running smaller organizations is that the management team wants an administrative function, so they hire people that “have been in HR for years” whether they have anything to show (competencies) or not. Have you been an HR Generalist? Great you can now become an HR Manager. Uh, wait a minute?


How Do You Stop The Incompetence?

First thing to do is recognize as a senior manager, especially if the HR function reports to you, that you should know what an HR Manager should be doing. Are they reactive or proactive a majority of the time? Do they spend too long recruiting, and you still end up with mismatched people and roles? Do they have goals? Do they need outside consultants, attorneys and groups to support their every decision? Do they ever take a stand against a management’s decision and push the norm?

Second is to decide if you replace this person, or get them on an aggressive developmental path with a live coach for independent feedback. And while certifications are nice, they really only mean they can retain information long enough to pass an exam. Spend this money are your top notch people.

Third is to act today and not put this off for months, because your entire people operation suffers when the HR leader is a dud.


The Power of Auditing the HR Function

While many organizations audit the compliance and operational areas of HR, many forget to audit the people. When I audit HR or Training, I spend the bulk of my time assessing how the HR function actually functions. Where is the time and energy spent? Do they understand their role, responsibilities and where they add value? And just because they understand it, I want to see how they are doing it.

I’ve seen HR Managers that brag about having a seat at the table with Senior Management. When I’ve observed them in these meetings, honestly, their lack of participation or value would not be missed. And that is everyone’s fault.

Because even a high tech company runs on the humans working for them, every company in America would be in better shape if their HR functions did their jobs properly. And for those companies with Cracker-Jack HR Leadership, you already know this is true. Your people are engaged. Your Management is engaged. You are achieving goals, growing and your end results improve year after year.

But for those of you with HR duds leading the functions, you will continue to struggle. Replace with more competent leadership and you will see a rapid change. A note to management, you may find yourself challenged to work differently with better HR. Yet, would that be so bad?

Stop Trying to Fix Everything with Training

no training

For most of you reading, you have heard others before throw caution at trying to use training as a solution to everything performance challenge. Statistically, training can only fix about 50% of performance challenges, because it only works when a skill is missing, or so underused that it is stale and needs to be refreshed.


Yet just because training is not an option for your current performance challenge doesn’t mean you ignore the poor performance.


I’d like you to ponder that last thought for a second, because most of the time we either try to slap training on a broken employee or we simply ignore the problem hoping it will go away. Both leave us with a performance challenge that only gets worse overtime.

Think about areas in your organization that probably would lead you to seeking an alternative solution to training:

  • Unethical and/or morally corrupt Senior Management
  • Unethical and/or morally corrupt Board of Directors
  • Fraud, Lying, Spin
  • Mismanagement of Assets
  • Embezzlement
  • Continual Harassment
  • Lying to Auditors and/or Regulators
  • Discrimination in Hiring Practices
  • Discrimination in Promotions, Pay & Benefits

The list goes on, and in many cases when an organization is facing any one of these issues, they are often facing many at the same time. You see what they have in common is the need for Power & Control. Fighting these issues requires a more direct approach. And that approach is Termination of Employment.

Ridding the organization of corrupt people requires surgery to remove the cancer. No amount of treatment will cure the kind of depravity that allows an employee to misbehave in these ways. And before my HR friends start jumping down my throat for such a harsh approach, let me remind them that training rarely can change character traits permanently.

So the next time someone wants you to have Senior Management go through an Ethics Workshop, suggest they talk with HR & an Employment Law Attorney about termination of employment as the solution. And should the Board of Directors be the problem, it is time to get your regulators involved to remove them.

Is Your Training Function Returning on Investment?

diceFor seven years I’ve had the honor of being a judge for the CLO LearningElite awards. Applications from all over the country and every industry compete for the honor of reaching an Elite status for their work in their company. Some should never have bothered to apply, and some just want to make you tear up with joy over the kind of impact they are making.

Now having said that, whether you are Elite, Best, Standard or Under-Developed, each of these companies think they deserve to win. I mean some should, hands down, not a reason they shouldn’t. But many are under the idea they are much more than they are in reality. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

It happens every single time that the HR Management and the Learning Management are inexperienced. They may have a few years with the appropriate title, but they lack the right competencies. Senior Management allows these people to pretend they are doing a good job because it is cheaper to hire them.

Okay I said it. Experienced people cost more. They often produce more and make fewer mistakes and return on the investment, but dang it they cost more!

So if your training function is not returning on investment it is time to evaluate if your current learning leader can be mentored or needs to be replaced. Give me 30 minutes with them on the phone and I’ll tell you which way you should go.

Are You Training Too Late?

Pointless Training Cover In most companies training to prevent workplace harassment occurs as a preventative measure to reduce incidents, and to reduce liability to lawsuits when harassment does happen. In my state of California, we legislated to require companies to train all employees, and even went as far as requiring managers to take a 2-hour minimum training every two years in this topic.

It is sad that we had to make it a law, but too many organizations where not taking the problem seriously enough to train employees to prevent a problem. The state had to make it a law with penalties for not training to motivate employers. But just because it is a law doesn’t mean that management still doesn’t skip training.

What really gets under my skin is the company that will wait to see if a harassment complaint comes forward before they train. Is that too late to train? My answer would be yes to prevent this current issue, but no if you want to prevent future ones from popping up.

But what do you say when the management team is wrestling with several charges of harassment for different reasons with the same employee complaining to everyone and it appears the management team is clueless about what all the fuss is about. Then when the EEOC and the State employment departments get involved the management team starts to take notice. The HR Director signs everyone up for workplace harassment training and updates the policy to create awareness. Too Little, Too Late?

There are three reasons to conduct any kind of training:

  1. To build missing skills needed to perform the job function
  2. To refresh skills once learned and yet forgotten with a lack of use
  3. And to reinforce awareness of required behaviors

If you ask most managers if it okay to harass employees they are going to say no. These same managers probably have a good idea of what to do if an employee makes a complaint. Yet putting everyone through the same training at the same time creates discussions and longer retention. This is why harassment training is taught every 1-2 years.

When it comes to preventing workplace harassment all three reasons are used. A new manager must learn their new responsibilities. Training every 1-2 years keeps awareness fresh. And when someone messes up, part of their corrective action should be another round of training.

My preference is that you train on a schedule. Training some topics after a problem occurs is a reason to review the learning process because something slipped through the crack on the first round in the actual learning process.

But only training when the bottom falls out is a symptom of incompetency. Who is in charge of your training function, HR or a Training Director? If they wait too late to train, then they are incompetent. If they are incompetent you need to cover your flank because the enemy will win the war.  #trainingphysical, #pointlesstraining




The ROI for NOT Training

CFO to CEOEveryone has read the above conversation between a hypothetical CFO and CEO, and seen the obvious reason for investing in staff skill building.   But every once in awhile, I get to watch an organization that chose to save the training dollar and suffer the consequences.

Too many executives want cheap training, and don’t focus on results.  They are unaffected by their HR and Training leadership when they beg for more accountability in the learning process.  That is until the problems start hitting the fan.

Imagine your management team doesn’t understand these laws & policies:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Act
  • Diversity in the Workplace
  • Harassment Free Work Environment

Now imagine that you hire a sharp senior manager to come to work for you and in less than 6 months your employees manage to obliterate these laws and ignore these policies all with the same senior manager.  You add fuel to the fire by forcing this senior manager’s resignation because you are tired of dealing with their complaints.

√  Enter a full blown EEOC investigation and Lawsuit for personal injuries.

I’m laughing myself silly.  The management team is so full of themselves that they operate in full view anyway they want to, with a complacent and incompetent HR Director allowing their behaviors to go unaddressed for at least the past 5 years.

So our hypothetical CEO is about the get their question answered.  “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

Cha Ching!

Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch


This quote, by Peter Drucker, has been on my bulletin board for years as a reminder that a company’s strategy can be as clear as a bell, including the training strategy I’m so fond of reminding people to design before training people, but it all goes to waste if we forget the impact of culture.

In many job descriptions for training managers, we see that they are responsible for culture too. This can be misinterpreted as to how much impact training has on culture that is already in place. Training can reinforce culture if it is the kind of culture you want in your organization, but it cannot change culture all by itself. A good question for applicants is to find out of the culture in question is a good one, or one that needs changing.

All too often I watch companies that are failing in some area that is in direct conflict with the lofty phrases within their vision and mission statements. Once the realization of the disconnect becomes apparent enough for management to agree, I want to cry openly when the knee jerk reaction is to offer up a training program to solve the problem. If there is an internal training function it is dumped in their lap along with the responsibility to change performance to match the desired culture.

Now when a training department takes this on all by themselves stand back and watch time and money disappear with no real change. However, when training says they will be glad to partner with management to introduce, reinforce and measure the results of training, now you have a plan that might work.

Now anytime you try to wrangle culture back in line with strategy you are in for a fight, as long as it is an all hands on deck initiative you have a fighting chance. But if you think an eLearning class, or a fiery presentation will change a culture of harassment all by itself, I have good reason to lose hope in your recovery.

Every single training course you offer should be tied into a process that changes performance. If it does not, then you hired training and human resource employees that lack the skills to do their job. If you need proof, and help delivering the bad news, give me a call and will make the needed changes together.