Are You Solving or Preventing Problems?

As a Training Manager, have you ever stopped to ask yourself how much of your time is spent solving performance problems versus preventing performance problems?  The difference is being a proactive solution provider rather than a reactive solution provider.

In my book, The Training Physical, I make a reference that we need to have training departments that are doing both.  However, most training functions are running around filling training requests for one class topic after another, instead of getting in front of the issues more with proactive and more comprehensive training solutions.

Not a lot of training companies are focusing these days on management development.  10 years ago developing manager communications skills like setting expectations, interviewing, coaching and conducting performance reviews were the norm.  Today you have training managers training one skill at a time!

I guess if you want to develop your basic manager skills over a decade this will work, but geez, think of all the damage this person can cause while they wait for next year’s topic.  “Oh, sorry about what I said, I haven’t taken the coaching module yet.”

There are times when company performance or the way you are doing business suddenly changes and the training department needs to step up to the plate.  Great training departments can turn on a dime, analyze the issue, and implement a performance solution quickly.

Great training departments also need to be meeting with management frequently to find out what is causing them headaches, or what they are planning to do in the next 6-12 months that employees are not ready to perform just yet and will need training.  Getting in front of the wave is how you demonstrate your true value, while at the same time you are saving countless hours solving problems later.

  • So how much of your year do you spend preventing problems?
  • What could you do this week to become more proactive?

If you need someone to talk to, just let me know!

Tougher Than Boot Camp Model

When we think of boot camp training, I doubt many of you are thinking of a pleasant and relaxing experience.  However, for one such company, the Marine version of boot camp training is softer than their approach to new hire training.  One participant referred to the learning methodology as:

Break them Down, Tear them Up, Spit them Out…and Rebuild them!!!

 After thousands of dollars are spent on recruitment processes to hire the right people, the purpose of the training function is to enable these new recruits to perform their job responsibilities.  When an employee finishes training and is unable to perform then we must look at both the recruitment and training process for flaws.

When the recruiting process is as detailed as this company uses, the chances of finding the wrong candidates are very slim.  So we then need to look at the learning process that is used, along with the competencies of the training personnel.

I was shocked to hear first hand how learning is conducted, especially in an adult learning environment, but the techniques used by the facilitators are appalling at best.  Harassing and demeaning are the kinds descriptors for what may fit in a military boot camp, but have no place in a corporate environment.

Intimidation, is and should never be part of a trainer’s toolkit, and I would terminate any trainer on a team I manage for using techniques that tear down self-esteem in a learner.  Gads, how can this type of training exist for a call-center environment that brands customer service as their hallmark?

Not only does half of the class wash out, but the return on investment from this half-witted training department is a complete waste of the corporate dollar.  These trainers and programs are ineffective at meeting the needs of adult learners.  At the same time look how many dollars were lost (not wasted) in the recruitment process.

No company should ever be without the training function, but this company should do some serious house cleaning of training personnel and soon!

Wanted: “A Real Training Manager”

 I laughed so hard after reading a job posting for a training manager this week that it brought tears to my eyes.  In the text of what this company was seeking were the words “a real training manager.”  I thought, well they must be looking for a real one this time, as the last one was fake.

Sadly I knew the person who was running their training department.  A really nice person, but she had no idea how to manage and lead a training function.  Then one day she was terminated and this very heartfelt job posting said it all.

I reached out to this training manager, and sadly she doesn’t understand why she was terminated, because in her mind she was very busy and had a lot of things to do.  I asked if the activities were productive and accomplished training goals and objectives, and she said she assumed they did.

Last week on a LinkedIn group discussion, the question was asked about if there was any real difference between being busy and being productive.  In this context I can bet most of you would agree there is a big difference.  And yet our training manager in the midst of working saw no difference, and this lost her a job.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again.  There is no company that should be without the training function, but there are companies that need to be without certain training employees.

Too often I am watching one training manager after another turn a blind eye to the inefficiency of their department, and when they lose budget dollars, staff, or their own job, they are clueless as to why.

Now HR Recruiting has the task of finding “a real training manager.”  It is not impossible, but I wonder if they know what a real one even looks like?

Have You Been Vaccinated for the Training Virus?

Companies everywhere are dying a slow death because they are infected with the Training Virus.  This nasty bug eats away at the competencies of employees and over time renders them incapable of meeting, let alone exceeding, their company’s business objectives.  Without being vaccinated, a company is very susceptible to this internally produced virus.  Without treatment, the virus will eventually kill a company’s ability to exist!

Every company employs a percentage of what we call in the human resource world, human beings.  These beings all start off with a skill set in varying degrees of competency and experience.  Solid recruiting and interviewing by hiring managers has allowed some organizations to hire the best talent in the market to work for their company, but additional skills must always be developed in order for this employee to continue to provide optimal production.

Enter a company’s internal training and development function –

The training development function within an organization is there to provide both immediate skill development to compensate for skills not brought to the table, as well as, future skills and competencies needed by the organization.  That is the purpose of the training function in a nutshell!  This is the bare minimum that the training function is required to provide as a return on the investment in their function.

Training personnel should be talented and possess the skills to close skill gaps as soon as they are discovered, and at the same time be flexible to the future needs of the organization by being proactive in planning for skills that fix performance issues as well as preventing a deficit of skills for company needs.

Organizational Health is directly tied to the health of the training function!

When a training department is unhealthy, in other words, they lack the skills, competencies, or motivation to perform their distinctive roles, then the employee population has a very difficult time achieving the knowledge and abilities they need to perform both basic and complex tasks.  Once the training department becomes ill (contracts the virus), it may not become immediately obvious to senior management.  Rarely will a training department be forthcoming with their illness for fear of reprisal, but none the less the illness remains and left untreated will get worse.

How to identify if your company has the Training Virus……

Senior Management should look for warning signs at the very minimum from this list:

  • Is there an annual training plan that maps to the organization’s strategic plan?
  • Does the training department regularly update senior management with progress reports?
  • Does the training department regularly seek input from senior management?
  • Is training offered through different medias, formats and choices?
  • Is there a return on the investment being made in training?
  • What has training done recently that has been instrumental to the business operation?

This is a list of symptoms and much like the stuffy nose, sore throat and coughing that alerts you to the coming cold, and the headache with fever heralds the coming of the flu, nothing is for certain without a trip to the doctor.  And in the case of training, what is needed is a complete audit of the health of this function.

Why all the Drama?

Training is often a misunderstood function, that is either saddled with responsibilities outside of their scope or they are not held accountable to the correct activities.  At times training can screw up so badly at one thing that it can have an impact on the business, but most of the time other factors compensate for any incompetency.  However over time, this incompetency will fester and evolve into the virus that eventually paralyzes or kills a company’s ability to function.

Focusing management on the true value and purpose of training and how it ties into the health of their organization is vital to keep a training cold from every becoming a training virus.  And even though most training departments appear to be functioning, the hard reality is most are quite sick and in need of immediate treatment.

A version of this blog was originally posted on May 2. 2011 at