Grading The Training Function

Anyone that has read my book, (The Training Physical) knows I set extremely high expectations for the productivity and competency of the training function.  I offer very little sympathy for ineffective training departments that eventually find themselves out of work.

In fact the whole purpose of the book is to examine the health of the training function and what needs to improve so that it can and will return on the annual investment the company budgets for each year.

I was talking with two very different training managers last week.  The first was lamenting on how she hates the budgeting process and never seems to get the amount of money she needs to do her job.  I asked one of my notoriously stupid questions about the condition of her training plan, and oh, she doesn’t believe in training plans.  Her alternative is “her expertise” and therefore “management should just approve her wish list.”

The second manager was looking forward to “pushing the envelope” this year on her budget requests over last year.  She said she had been working for months on building her case and supplied her 2011 training plan as backup to her 2011 budget plan.  Since she had spent so much time with senior management building a plan that supports their department goals, she was very confident her budget would be approved.

If I was grading these two managers, the first one flunks out and needs to be coached into a new mindset.  The second manager needs to be applauded and I would give her an A+ for planning and budgeting.

So the question of the day is, what grade are you earning?

Training MIA at Strategy Meeting

When the training department is not present at the strategy meeting for the company, they not only lack the infamous “seat at the table” but are regarded more as the hired help than a part of the team.

In my book I discuss that training managers need to be more than the waiter who takes the order of a senior manager, runs back to the kitchen and then delivers the food.  The training manager needs to be involved in the process from strategy to implementation.

I was talking with a very experienced training manager this week that was preparing her boss (head of HR) to “represent” training at the annual strategic planning meeting.   It was her hope that this year they will be able to convince this company to focus on customer service training since both sales and service levels were in decline.

The main reason this topic never gets very far with the senior management team, is the person delivering the message is unqualified to speak to the value of improved skills and how training could return on the investment ten-fold if applied correctly.

I’m taking bets that the results this year will be the same as previous years.  The focus will be diverted to other topics, and a revenue generating initiative will be replaced with a lower producing project.

The lack of leadership is standing in the way of success at this company, because they are excluding the one person who could make a difference because she can build a case for the training.   I only hope that senior management wakes up soon and uses the talent they have on board, or this training manager finds a better place to work.  

In any case this training department is currently unhealthy, and the treatment is to allow the training manager to participate at a higher level.

The Annual Budget Process

Ah there is a chill in the air, and along with autumn arriving so does the annual budgeting process.  For some reason though it is getting delayed this year, and I believe we are waiting for a variety of reasons.

Yet rather than speculate, I would like us to think about this process and determine if we are even ready to launch into the budgeting process in any case.

Back in August I began talking and blogging about the development of the 2011 training plan.  You see your operational plans are the first step in the budgeting process.  Answering questions about what your department and/or function is planning to accomplish sets the stage for creating a budget that facilitates the implementation of the plan.

I ran across a job listing recently for a senior training manager (none of your banks) and in the job description I was taken aback by this requirement.  “Needs to collaboratively develop and execute training within pre-determined budgets.”  I read that and just smiled and the poor soul that would need to step into a new role, and hope the predesessor had planned well and had created a budget that mapped to that plan.

Otherwise you are left to wonder if management hadn’t just used last year’s numbers and copied and pasted them into this year’s budget.  A friend of mine used to refer to her company’s budgeting process as a big dart board, and you threw darts to see how much money you would get. (not really, it just felt that way)

Today’s economy should not be allowing any department to throw darts, or reuse old numbers.  Every department should have a solid operational plan that supports a draft budget.  When the numbers need to be reduced, so does the implementation plan.  Or on those rare occassions when you didn’t ask for enough money, you can actually plan to accomplish more on the plan.

If you have never created a training plan before, I would highly recommend the steps we take in The Training Physical first.  The results will identify priority areas, as well as projects that need completing. 

If you need help with planning and budgeting, let me know!