Training The Missing Skills

One of the key areas to evaluate in any training operation is to make a list of the skills that have been trained, are being trained and the skills left on the to do list.  With recent news that recruiters are having a very difficult time filling open jobs with skilled employees, it occurred to me that we need to shift the priority of this diagnostic process.

Training Managers should be meeting regularly with HR recruiters to determine what the skill sets are that are applying for open positions, and develop training plans to hire and train people to perform the needed work.

I managed a training function a few years back that was in a growing industry.  It became impossible to hire people with experience because our competition was doing the same thing and there were just so many people available.  Working with HR, we looked at the skill level they could attract and/or was applying for work and created entry-level programs.

We had three main positions we were hiring for, and all three wells had dried up for experienced people.  So we needed to train every person in nearly every aspect of the job.  It took awhile to develop these people so that they could eventually handle the roles, but our retention efforts were very high because we made the effort that none of the competition made.

Today we read that companies have openings and want to hire but that the candidates do not have the necessary skills.  Seems like a simple solution with the right training department in place.  But the conversation between training and recruiting needs to happen first.

So go have that conversation, and then come back and comment on what you learned and how you plan to help your company solve their hiring problem.  If you need help, ask me.

Will You Survive in 2011?

I client of mine made a real off the wall comment this week about whether their training department would survive this next year.  She was genuinely concerned that if another rash of cut backs occurred, that her training department was next.

For the last couple of years I have kept a list of training departments that I believe are on the short list for expense reduction in their companies.  I have a criteria that so far is about 95% accurate that if the training department is not demonstrating will be gone within 6 months.

First, training departments that run reactive and avoid planning are the first to demonstrate they are costing the company not returning on the investment.  Training must be proactive and be able to pivot to a reactive mode when needed.

Second, any company that is not actively training basic management development skills in-depth (not the single workshop concept) are dooming their company and thus everyone will be out of a job soon.  This is by far the easiest activity, and often the most ignored.

Third, training departments that do not build core competency skills within the training personnel are unable to achieve the best results and drag the company backwards.  Especially the training manager, who when unskilled will cost the company money because of their incompetence.

Forth and last, training departments that fail to track results, and tie business objectives to their training activities are unfortunately the first to go EVEN IF they are doing their jobs well.

So, will you survive in 2011, or do you need to make some serious changes to your operation and quickly?

Uncovering Incompetence!

A fan of my book The Training Physical, asked me who seems to be buying the book and who seems to be interested in the process.

This friend is a very competent Training Director, so I figured he had some kind of motive for asking.  But rather than try to figure it out first, I responded that even though the book was written to be read by training people, it is non training and human resource people who are most interested.

He was dumbfounded since he said he had picked up a lot of reminders and tips that have improved his operation this past year and that he likes the perspective of a review from an outside person.  I told him that along with me, that makes two of us who are open to this kind of critique!

In a previous blog, I mentioned how ASTD blew off the topic for their next International Conference.  The same people who should be supporting the improvement process are shying away from it.  I mentioned this to my friend, and he said he was not surprised.

He said that The Training Physical if done correctly uncovers incompetence, but that too many training people are trying their best to cover up their incompetence.  With Senior Management usually unaware of what training’s real purpose and function is, the training people are able to snow senior management and cover up problems.

A client of mine that was making great progress on changes from an audit in late 2009, hired a training manager this year who is taking them in a very costly direction by insisting all training be created in-house.  That may be fine for programs that need customization, but they only have 200 employees, and when it comes to the programs they are developing from scratch they will pay 5 times what off the shelf would cost.

Yet, senior management is being snowed by an incompetent training manager that has not stayed current in available options and is stuck in the past.

But as I told my friend, The Training Physical is only meant to help training people realize they need to be competent in order to make their company’s employees competent.  If management wants incompetence, then they need only to remain on their current paths.

Cleaning Out The Storeroom

One of the most common disaster areas in a training environment is the storage room.  It is stuffed full of both current and ancient training materials and supplies.  I will bet right now you have at least a box of markers in there that are as dry as dirt.

During the last month of the year, things are pretty slow in training with so many people on vacation, parties and activities that training has been halted for all but mandatory events.  What better time to tackle the storage room?

If you followed my advice in The Training Physical, under the Treatment chapter, you cleaned this room up and did a complete inventory.  Using that inventory, you should update it as you clean.  But cleaning is not just rearranging the dust balls.

By now you know that I see this process as a way to refresh yourself with the contents of this room.  Whether it be a process that identifies something long forgotten that could be used, or to find the missing box of participant guides before you reorder the value of cleaning this room.

Since this is really a “chore” I would encourage you to make it a casual day and since it is party month, have a pot luck or bring in food.  It becomes a great team building event, reminders of all the work done this year, and the more hand helping the quicker it gets done!

Avoiding The Problem

Everyone has a friend or relative that is avoiding a health issue that is making them ill or less than top of their game.  They won’t seek medical advice and believe if they ignore the problem it will go away.

When I wrote The Training Physical, it was with the hope I could convince many a training professional to see the benefit of early detection and treatment.  A Training Department can only return on the investment if they are healthy enough to perform well.  And yet, it is my primary audience that is shying away from the process.

Senior Managers are on board, and yet that makes the audit process tough when it is forced upon the training staff. 

For anyone reading this blog (someone is reading right?), you are probably familiar with the American Society of Training Development or ASTD for short.  Among other things, they run an annual international conference and expo to which they are always seeking speakers on topics of interest to the learning profession.

Last year I sold several copies of The Training Physical in the bookstore, so this year I decided to proposal a 90-minute session on the topic in hopes of warming my target audience up to the idea of self-evaluation.

Well my proposal was flatly declined, and I can only assume it is because it was seen as an attack on the sanctity of the untouchable training world.  I’ve attended the ASTD conference since 1997 and I have never seen this kind of a topic before, and I think I am learning why.

ASTD wants to sell training just like every other training vendor in the world, and that more training makes us better training professionals.  I agree with that to a point, but the Performance Consultant in me wants people to focus on what will make a difference.

The Training Physical is much like a Training Needs Analysis of a performance situation.  If we are to expect our clients to endorse this step prior to training, then we should be open to this same evaluation ourselves.

So I am left to wonder how I am going to improve the impression of a healthy training department when the premier learning association in the world wants nothing to do with the concept of improving their members.

What are your thoughts and ideas?