Are You Pulling Your Weight?

Looking back on last week, and assuming you were not on vacation or ill, you probably clocked a good 40 hours or more of work in your role in training.  If you were an independent consultant instead of a full-time employee, how many of those hours would you be able to say were focused on work objectives that you could charge for your time?

As an hourly contractor, you are unable to charge a client for the hours you spend on email or chatting with people online or the on the phone.  You can’t charge for time spent on personal projects or even breaks and lunches.  Ultimately when a contractor spends 8 hours working, they must be working that entire time to invoice for 8 hours of work, and often cannot because of other things that interrupt their time.

Now it may seem tough to look back over the past week to determine how many of those hours could be billable.  So if you are unable to determine the exact amount, start with a guess.  Be honest with yourself (and your employer) and how many do you think you devoted to work?  How much did you accomplish?  Could you feel good presenting an invoice to your employer for the hours they are paying you?

Oh, was that last question unfair?  If you put in 40 hours you are working full-time.  If you could only invoice for 30 then you are not pulling your weight and earning your full salary.  Some of you are at work 60 hours a week so you can theoretically invoice for the 40 hours you are earning in a salary.  But, at least you are pulling your weight, so be proud.

For those of you that cannot quite fathom how many hours you could justify invoicing for your time worked, spend the next few days with a notebook and jot down what you are doing every hour, and at the end of the day, tally up a total.

What I’m trying to do here for my training peers is to demonstrate that many are busy, but if you are not productive it doesn’t matter at the end of the day.  If you cannot invoice for your time because you are salary, you can at least work the hours you are being paid to and really earn the money in your paycheck.  The goal should be the same if you are salary or hourly.  Be accountable for your productivity and respectful of the people paying you.

Memorial for Training Department

Attention all Senior Management reading this blog!  If you have no idea what is going on within your internal training department beyond a recent class you have attended, it might be in a terminal condition.  If you are unable to get straight answers to how this department is returning on the dollars being spent to fund this operation, then it may be time to plan a Memorial Service for your Training Department.

Even after spending the past 7 years preaching the gospel of how training needs to be returning more than is being spent on this function, and after all the work writing a process called The Training Physical for companies to increase the health and vitality of their training departments, I remain dumbfounded that company after company lives with a poorly run training function.

So I’m now advocating that if you really have no idea if your training department is functioning in a healthy manner, AND you have no desire to learn if it is, then it is time to close that department and save the company money.  Plan a memorial service that eulogizes the function, people and the purpose it once provided to the organization.  Have employees share what it was once like and how it once impacted their careers.

In some change management processes, a memorial service is held with employees to help them deal with an ending of a function or department.  It gives employees a reason to celebrate the past and build a bridge toward a new way of doing business.

I’m advocating a memorial service to remind management they are spending money on a function that they have every right to know is returning on the investment, and if it cannot prove this, it is time to shut off the money and close the department.

Yet I guess, if you have money to burn, you can always leave training hooked up to life support indefinitely.  Maybe someday they will wake up on their own and be well again.

Oh, that reminds me, I have a 1 in 180 million chance of winning the lotery this week and I need to buy a ticket today!

Fear of Failure Reduces Productivity

All too often when we are asked to take on a role, job, or task where we have little experience, our fear of failure will stop us cold.  We might even pass up a promotion, or take on a new responsibility because we might fail.  Have you ever noticed that our fear of failure reduces our ability to be productive?

Training Managers that are asked to bring about a new learning method, program or change the way they do business will often get excited at the news and seem almost thrilled at first.  Yet when months go by and nothing has been implemented, one needs to ask why?

If the budget is in place, and the support from management is with you, what else could be keeping you from implementation?

I am finding it difficult to help people become successful until I can get them to cross the bridge from their fear of failure to trying.  If you are completely ill-equipped to pull off an initiative, then you must be willing to seek help.

I’d like you to think about two scenarios that could play out over time when you are asked to take on a new project and you are unsure how to actually make it happen.

Scenario #1

You receive the request to review, select and purchase a Learning Management System, and have it implemented in 90-days.  You realize this is way over your current competency at the moment so you ask for help to hire an experienced consultant.  You get approval, spend the extra for the consultant and in 90-days your new LMS has been implemented.

Scenario #2

In this scenario you decide that you can figure this out.  No sence in telling anyone this is your first time, and you plunge into the project and in 90-days, you have kicked up a lot of dirt, but you have not even selected a LMS provider, let alone negotiated and implemented the system.  Your company has just paid you 90-days of salary and benefits and what did they get in return?

I want us to realize that we are not going to be accomplished at everything we are asked to do.  I personally evaluate an assignment on my current abilities and the abilities of my staff before I accept any kind of time-table for implementation.  When I realize I cannot produce the results on time or at all, I raise the red flag.  I get the help I need because I asked for it early!

When you don’t waste the company’s money paying you for a job you are not able to do, and then try to ask for help and money later, you are losing credibility.  However, if you are honest with people and set realistic expectations, then you both win.

I wonder, are you wasting time and resources on something today that you could accomplish if you had the right help?  Is it time to face your fear and increase your productivity?

Creating From Scratch

Most of my work with corporate training departments involve determining how to make the existing training operation more productive.  The process of diagnosing the health of the function is separating what is working well from what is not working as well.  Yet I am about to work with a completely blank slate soon.  A major corporation without any learning function wants to create a learning organization from scratch!

When I first heard about this mandate, it of course peaked my interest, and yet I was just sure there was something to build from, that it couldn’t possibly be from scratch.  Yet I met with the individual that has the responsibility to pull this training department out of a hat and she confirmed that there are no trainers, designers or training managers on staff in any of the 5 companies under this mandate.  Only two compliance courses are taught online and that is it for training!

The directive to create a complete learning organization from scratch is a very cool project.  Not only can we begin with some serious needs analysis, we then can staff appropriately for the workflow ahead and choose some spot-on learning solutions.

We have the ability to avoid so many errors and to start with current learning programs, processes and systems.

Think for a minute about some of the challenges you are faced with in your own training department.  Do you have an outdated training program that is working, but needs updating?  Do you have a learning management system that resembles graph paper and 3×5 cards?  And wouldn’t you like to replace your Continental Congress Leadership Development program, copyright 1776?

I feel like I am about to become the conductor of a orchrastra that has no musicians, instruments or music.  Yet we have an opening concert with a sold out opening performance.  For some this may seem overwhelming, for me it sounds like a blast!

You may wonder why I would bring this topic up on my Training Physical Blog.  I believe that the only thing different from that process and this one will be that everything needs to be addressed.  With nothing in place, I must lead a complete creation from scratch.  So the processes are the same, there are just more of them to complete for a treatment process.

I look forward to working with many of you as we build this learning organization.  If I reach out to you, I sure hope you realize that I am contacting the very best people available.  The ones with a trainer’s heart.