Avoiding a Checkup

Have you ever met anyone that refuses to go to the doctor for a checkup because “they might find something wrong?”  That is like saying I would rather die than learn about an illness, get treatment and be cured.  This mentality sadly does exists, and I am finding that it is even more common when the check up is on their training operation.

I contact several companies a week offering a complimentary assessment of their training function, and I get zero response.  Yesterday I actually got the CEO on the phone and he said, “I am not aware of any problems in training, and I want to keep it that way.”

So in other words Rest In Peace!  Things might be fine and things might not, but we are going to leave things alone until the illness becomes terminal.

I wrote the book with the comparison of a human physical to illustrate quickly the process of a training physical.  What I have learned though is the similarity goes much deeper.  There are a lot of companies that would rather live in the dark recesses of denial that come into the light of day and learn about the health of one of their pivotal operations.

What would you recommend be done to encourage more proactive behaviors in our organizations?

The IT Physical

I met a super lady today that has been an IT consultant for 20 years, working with Chief Information Officers to make sure that systems are being used to their full potential.

After sharing what I have been doing with the training function, we concluded that she has a similar process for the health of IT organizations.  That the health of the IT department spells out the future of the company.

I never really put the health of the training function at that level, and yet she made me think a little about the results of a good or bad training function.  With IT working well or not working well there is a pretty solid connection to the operation and it can succeed or come crashing down instantly.

With training, I think of it more as a component of health.  A healthy and functional training department “enables” success, and an unhealthy training department is like a virus that can destroy the operation over time.

In any case, I felt better about the whole purpose of assessing department health.  Each in their own way contributes to a successful organization if they are functioning correctly!

Is Training Returning on the Investment?

I asked this question of a CEO this week, and he said what I expected, “I don’t know.”  Actually I was quite pleased to hear an honest answer, so I asked him if it mattered.

You see if you are not concerned that the cost of staff, facilities, materials and systems is never recovered from the training department, it does not make sense auditing it to increase efficiency.  However, 99.9% of the time management today is very cost conscience and doing better than returning on the investment is what they are after.

I found another company this week that is about to hire a “newly created” senior role to run training for this growing company.  The job description was boiler plate asking for the moon, stars and the ability to leap tall buildings etc.  A perfect match for my skills!  But I digress…..

Anyhow, I am trying to reach the CEO to offer some guidance on whether the company is really ready to engage this hire.  The opening will no doubt attract some heavy hitters, until the interview and realize the company has little idea on how this role fits into the operation.  How the word strategic is used in regards to training.

Both of these examples point to companies where training will not return on the investment.  They each will be paying money without the ability to get a return.  They are missing components that a lot of companies are today, and while I am pleased to see training manager openings again, I am not pleased to see another failed operation in the works.

Tell me, is training returning on the investment being made at your company, or is it exceeding the investment?

Audit Training Before the Budget

I’m trying to reach as many companies as possible right now because so many will be heading into budget negotiations in the next few months.  Knowing the condition of your training department will allow a company to focus on what is most important in 2011.

The biggest thing I note in most audits is the lack of a training plan, and yet money is allocated annually to a training department without any plan on how they will use the money.  Hello?

The next thing I often find in an audit is under-skilled training personnel, and zero dollars allocated in the budget for professional development of these folks.  Yet, honestly, why should the company budget professional development if no one has identified the skills that need to be developed?

With that said, let’s start a medical emergency now and get as many companies through the audit process as we can Before the Budget begins!

Death of a Training Department

I learned of yet another training department that was shut down this week to save money.  Three people are no longer in the training function and have accepted other positions within the company.  Was this a good idea?  Yes and No.

These three people came to work everyday and were very busy training people in basic skill development.  They operated in a very reactive role ready for anything anyone wanted them to do.  There was no training plan, goals or objectives and each year they struggled to show any kind of return on the investment being made in their department.

Yet even with all of this fog in place, they earned salary and benefits!  When the closure was announced, the CEO said that the department was not demonstrating a reason to continue this expense, and that since they were all valued employees they would be placed into other roles.

Well here is what went right and wrong in my view.  First, the CEO was overdue in letting these three people go.  They were committing fraud by collecting a paycheck and providing little value to their company.

Second, the CEO threw the baby out with the bath water!  The training department needs fixing, not closing.  I did not audit this training department, but it is possible that the training people were not capable of doing their jobs correctly.  It is also possible that there just was no leadership and accountability and the place lost its focus.

In my book, The Training Physical, I am quite firm in my committment that no company should be without the training function, but many companies need to get a new set of training employees.  Sometimes people lose the edge over the years and stop caring, and others never had the heart of a trainer in the first place.

My goal now is to see if I can convince this CEO to reinstate the training function, and structure it to work this time.  This will not be an easy task given that the last team did such a bang-up job of screwing up the purpose of training in management’s mind.

Wish me luck!