Keep On Training!

You may be old enough to remember the catch phrase Keep On Truckin’ as a way to motivate people to keep trying even in the face of extreme obstacles.  In today’s tough business economy it would seem to remain a relevant phrase.

In too many companies, the slowing of the business has been matched with the slowing of training initiatives.  When unless you plan to lay off everyone, this is the perfect time to be building job skills when there is a little bit more time to devote to learning.

I read an article this past week, and I’m sorry I don’t remember where I read it, but the gist was that management and leadership training is still a focused agenda item for businesses even in a lagging economy.  I have a perfect reply for why this is so true.

Many businesses in America still have management and leadership training on their agendas (are you ready for the highly insightful reason?) because they have not spent any serious amount of time or effort on building these skills in nearly a decade!  So, Duh, it is still on the to-do-list.

If I spend the next 6 months not mowing my yard, in 6 months it will still be something I need to do!  I might have to substitute my Craftsman mower with something from John Deere, but the grass will still need mowing.  So I guess I could pass on to the world the good news that even in this slowing economy, the grass still needs mowing!

So rather than all of us discussing and listing all of the really cool skills we want to train our employees in, let’s take the list and implement it.  Let’s use the time to build skills, solve problems and don’t stop employee development for any reason!  Let’s Keep On Training!

“Procrastination does not produce results,” I was heard recently saying to a friend.  He said I was wrong, that procrastination produces more work!  I stand corrected.

CEO Evaluates Results

In last week’s blog, An Exercise for the CEO, I was sharing with you the experience of a credit union CEO that I asked if she thought that her training department was returning on the money (investment) being allocated to the training efforts.  She was not certain of the answer and so I suggested that she require the training department to detail out what they had produced this year to date.

I spoke again with the CEO last Friday to see what she had discovered.  She said it was quite eye-opening when she met with the HR Director who oversaw training and asked her to give her an overview of what had been accomplished by the two people and herself year to date.  “Like a deer in headlights” was the response this CEO initially got.

This was followed by an immediate, “don’t you think I’m doing my job?”  In other words, don’t you trust me?  The CEO is one of my favorite people right now, because she said it was nothing personal, but something she had never evaluated before and felt it was important to check the ROI on every function that supported the credit union.

The HR Director said she would get back to her in a day, which turned into 3 days.  The list I predicted last week was everything these people did, and appeared more as a task list rather than accomplishments.  There was nothing substantial (CEO’s choice of words) and appeared to be a “busy list” to further disguise their lack of focused productivity.

I asked if a training plan was attached, and the answer was it does not even exist.  I asked if there was an understanding of the priorities for performance development, and the CEO said, “not even close!”  At this point the CEO said, “how soon can you give us a physical?”

I had sent a copy of my book The Training Physical, and bless this CEO again, she had read it!  So she was fully prepared to talk about Diagnosing, Treating and Curing her Training Department!

So if you started this exercise in your company, what was the result?  Do you have a healthy training function, or do they need a training physical too?

An Exercise for the CEO

While talking with a CEO this past week, I asked her if the training department was at least returning on the money spent this past year.  She laughed a bit, and said, “I really don’t know.”  So I said, let’s try an exercise.  Tally up the amount spent on training year to date, and ask the person in charge of training to explain how it was spent and what was the return the company got on the return.

This is a small credit union, and we are talking about less than $200,000, and yet I am told this exercise has sent a wave of panic through the Human Resource function.  It would seem that the very thought that a department should have to justify their expenses to the CEO was unheard of.  The CEO is waiting for an answer, and she told me she is now expecting the worst.

If this training function was working off an actual training plan, in less than a day they should be able to provide their CEO a rough idea of what has been accomplished and what is being worked on.  They could show why each project, course or action was implemented, and the connection to the business plan of the credit union.

My guess is that we are going to get a laundry list of things they have done, and when the CEO compares it to the money spent, the return on the investment will be lower than assumed.  I say assumed rather than expected, because no one has been monitoring this function.

I will check in on Friday, and let you know the results in next week’s blog.  I plan to either compliment them on a job well done, or recommend a training physical ASAP!    In today’s economy, there is zero reason for any department to get money without being able to justify the return.

My hope is that every CEO reading this blog does this same exercise to their training department if they don’t already know what this budget line is accomplishing!  And if you are wondering if you have the right to know this detail, ask yourself what the CEO of Bank of American is saying about return on investment.  With an announcement today of 30,000 employees being let go, would it not be good to know if you are keeping the productive ones?

Is Training Worth Keeping?

In an age of saving every penny possible, and getting back every nickel spent, it boggles my mind why training department managers are not going out of their way to prove that their function should be the last to go when times get tough.  Instead, I am seeing too many training managers that are unable to account for any quantifiable data that proves they are productive and supporting their company.

I am working on the premise for this blog that training is returning on the investment being made and that their activities are central to the developmental needs of the organization.  So why is it so hard to gather the details of your daily, weekly and monthly activities and promote the good training does?

It isn’t difficult to collect the data, but maybe it is difficult to self-promote (prove your worth) to others without sounding boastful.  Frankly, if I need to resort to being boastful to keep my job these days I will do that if a result of informing others of our value is interpreted by some to be bragging.  It is too important that the majority know the value of training before the decision has been made to eliminate it.

In my book The Training Physical, I suggest that training departments should make this process fun by creating a monthly newsletter for all employees and share articles and pictures of training in action.  I also fully promote that the training manager needs to conduct frequent senior management meetings and road show presentations that illustrate the accomplishments of training and how they increased business, saved customers or retained employees.

If you think that training is worth keeping I would suggest that you go out of your way to create a fan club within your organization.  Don’t wait to collect your accomplishments for when you update your resume!