Training is NOT a Punishment!

I was helping a client look for a one-off training solution this week for a single employee.  Given that I was talking to a Human Resources Manager, I assumed the purpose of the training had been identified as an appropriate performance solution without asking the question of why only one person was getting training.  It turned out that the saying “you should never assume” applied rather well this time.

Yes, I walked right into a situation that training did not apply and thankfully the particular training solution I was trying to find in the delivery method they asked for was not available.  So it gave me the opportunity to ask why training was needed.  This is when I found out that the identified employee had been disciplined for an inappropriate act and training was their punishment.

When I heard the word punishment I nearly lost my teeth!  This person had the skills to perform correctly, they understood the rules, laws and issues related to perform correctly, the just choose not to do it correctly one day.  So the solution involved a disciplinary write-up AND training.

You can bet the employee will see no benefit in taking another training course, and put little effort into learning anything new.  You can bet that this is a waste of company time in lost productivity and the cost of the training is water down the drain.  So why are they doing it.

In my book The Training Physical I discuss “culture” and “the way it is works here” as part and parcel to a lot of what can make training unhealthy.  The culture of the company I was trying to help this week involves learning about things in mass.  I’m talking about a university, where knowledge is absorbed by the truck load whether it will be used or not.  So the culture requires more learning if someone is not performing correctly.

I did some old fashion performance consulting with my client since it was impossible to offer a training solution that fit their requirements, and I believe we have a better approach to improving performance and eliminating the previous behaviors.

Although this ended well, I must remind all my readers that I screwed up big time by not asking the “why are we are training” questions.  I should not have assumed this Human Resources Manager was doing their job correctly, and it was a great reminder to me to not let this happen again.

Examination Kit Available

Since I wrote The Training Physical in 2010, I have been asked numerous times about creating a kit with all of the worksheets included to conduct a training physical.  Well finally this week I pulled out all the stops and finished this project!

When I have conducted a training physical myself, I have not used such formal worksheets except for the findings report.  I have always had these items locked in my head, and I just kept track of the categories I wanted to evaluate.  Yet I yielded to the idea that people who had just read my book might be hard pressed to remember all of the areas to look at and what questions to ask.

Although this kit is not available for purchase yet, I am looking for pilot organizations to test it out with to make sure I’ve addressed these well.  I found that as I was finishing up the writing of my book it was immensely helpful to be in the process of an audit and it had a major impact on my final product.

So stay tuned for more updates, and if you know of an organization that could use a Training Physical, I will be offering a 25% discount as a pilot partner.  Email me at for more information.

Be About Doing Something!

I watched the movie “Iron Lady” this week about Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and was struck by a comment she made to a lady that was gushing over meeting her and how she felt Lady Thatcher had been an inspiration to her.  Lady Thatcher said, “it used to be about doing something, but today it is about being someone.”

Although I will admit that at first I didn’t catch the meaning, the following day it started to resonate with me about how we need to focus on getting something done rather than being focused on how people view us.  Our work essentially frames us and creates our legacy, yet when we are more focused on impressions, opinions, our star quality; I think we diminish our impact.

In the world of training I sadly can say I’ve been witness to more training professionals that are more impressed with their position then they are with the work they are doing.  In my book The Training Physical, I label people with a “Trainer’s Heart” as folks that are solidly in the camp of learning for themselves and making sure others are learning too.  In my travels I have noted that the main issue with an unhealthy training department is a lack of trainer’s heart in the staff.  They are running around bragging about how many people have been trained, instead of focusing on what the employees can now do.

Facilitators, Instructional Designers, OD Consultants and Training Managers should all be focused on doing something, making a difference and having an impact.  Focus more on results and less on your “wonderfulness” to the cause of training.

For those of you that attended the ASTD International Conference and EXPO last week in Denver, take out a pad of paper and pencil and note the speakers and vendors that you met that are focused on doing something in our industry.  On the opposite side of the page note the ones that are more into being someone.  Which side impressed you the most?  Which side do you want to follow?  And, which side would your name be on?

Managing Vendors

Over the years I been on both the buying and selling side for training programs.  Because most training vendors hire sales people over consultants to sell their products and programs, the responsibility to correctly match need to solution remains the job of the Training Manager.

Yet, how often do training managers push back when then are being product popped a solution for which there is no issue to solve?  What happens when the sales person comes a calling with the latest and greatest solution for something you will never need?

Most of the time the training manager will listen to the presentation, watch the webinar, or talk by phone and chalk it up to “keeping informed” on what is available.  Why?  Do you really have that much free time on your hands?  Why do you need to be the source of all knowledge before the need arises?

The first thing I recommend all training managers have in place is a training plan.  Always know what you are working on in the next 12 months, so you remain focused and when a sales person calls you instantly know if this is something you need to listen to or not.

The second thing is to take control of the sales experience.  This means, (now this may be really bold) return the call or email and tell the person why you are not interested.  Tell them why it doesn’t fit into your training plan this year.  Cut the sales cycle off at the knees by managing the process.  Don’t be led along by the sales person, and you tell them if, when and how you want follow-up!

Third, would be attending events that prepare you for work on your agenda, not to just take up space in your day.  Each of you that attends these free webinars or conference calls are assumed to be a potential client.  And not just the potential someday, but the following week.

Forth, when you engage with a vendor, decide how quickly you want to move and keep setting the next appointment or action yourself.  The more you take control, the less the sales person is taking control.  When you determine a good fit, then make it happen.  Likewise, if you determine for whatever reason the solution is not a fit, tell the sales person the truthful reasons why.

We need training vendor programs and products to be efficient and productive and save money.  But that all backfires if you are being sold something rather than you buying something.