Annual Means Every 12 Months

In my book The Training Physical, I suggest that corporations conduct a Training Physical annually from the completion date of the first Training Physical.  Readers learn quickly that to explain the concepts in this book I compare many of the commonly known features of a human physical with a Training Physical, and that includes seeing your doctor every 12 months.

As I have blood drawn every 3 months because of medication I take, I am in the doctor’s office more often than once a year.  Yet I overheard someone this week when I was at the doctor’s office saying they were getting their annual physical and it had been 4 years since their last physical.  This is why I want to emphasize that evaluating the health of the training function is on a 12 month year, just like the calendar.

Because most companies are working off a 12 month fiscal or standard calendar year, and most strategic plans for training are based off a 12 month timeframe, I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel by suggesting “annual” meant anything but every 12 months.  Yet, I would bet that over 90% of the training functions in corporate America have never had a training evaluation, and those that do take the time, seldom make it an annual event.

Just like the patient I overheard at the doctor’s office believed that the results of their physical 4 years ago was somehow fixed in time, many corporations believe that once they “fix” the issues discovered in a Training Physical then they are good to go from that point forward.  Actually, with the rapid evolution of training in the past 10 years, it may be wiser to evaluate training even more often than once a year.  Things are changing so rapidly because of technology that most training functions are operating in the proverbial dark ages right now.

So if you have not seen your medical doctor and/or your training doctor in the past 12 months, pick up the phone and make an appointment and get yourself checked out!

The Training Doctor

Operating Without A Plan

Too many training functions are operating without any kind of training plan, strategic in nature, or even a sticky note list of things to do.  While this adds a tremendous amount of freedom to work on whatever appeals to you, there becomes a lack of accountability and a challenge to demonstrate a return on investment.

Some of you may read my other blog JK Hopkins Consulting, which is directed at management, leadership and workplace issues.  I just wrote my last entry on a generic interview I participated in last week that was a total waste of time.  In that blog though I was focusing on the interview process when the hiring company is unsure of what they want the new hire to do.

I would like to direct readers of this blog into understanding the dangers of operating training without a training plan.  And while this company was more than willing to hire someone who would create marching orders for the company, I take a very different approach to the purpose of a training plan.

Being a Franklin Planner instructor since the mid-90’s, I firmly believe that nothing much gets done without a plan and projects with due dates.  I also believe that training is a support function that needs to balance reactive and proactive tasks to make sure that personnel are capable of performing their job responsibilities.  So with this in mind, I believe we start with an understanding of the direction of the company, factor in the skill set of employees and design a training plan to achieve our goals.  Notice the training plan comes at the end, not the beginning of that process.

The company I was interviewing for was hiring a new training director to create a training function from scratch.  Yet there was no sense of how quickly things needed to be completed, and in reality they were willing to let the new hire set the pace based on a budget that was not yet created or approved.  Although it was easy to lay out a draft of what they could/should be looking at in phase-one, they had no sense of whether it could be funded or when which leaves due dates adrift.

Unfortunately there will be several candidates to make an offer to that are willing to look busy, accomplish little and operate for years without any serious accountability.  That is not what is best for the company, the training effort or any real trainer either.

Busy and Unproductive Employee

Can you imagine a job posting like this:

“We are seeking to hire a training manager that can work long hours and stay very busy and yet be unproductive at all times.  We offer a competitive salary, benefits, time off for anything you want time to do, and long lunches and breaks.  Oh, and absolutely zero accountability to get anything done.”

While this may seem funny on the surface, I know of at least 7 training managers that could succeed at this role because this is how they are allowed to function today!

There is not a single company that advertises for this kind of busy and unproductive employee and yet every company has a few working for them.  As this blog is focused on the training function, I can tell you that plenty busy and unproductive people sadly exist in the training world.

How can they be unproductive if they are so busy?  Well, they are allowed to operate without any kind of training plan, goals or objectives.  They are sent on wild goose chases for solutions to unidentified issues, that have little importance to the operation and are often never implemented.  They are poor time managers, project managers and struggle with email.

Bottom line, being busy is not worth paying someone a salary.  Being productive is worth paying a salary, benefits and promoting this person and their agenda.

So the next time you tell someone you are just too busy to (fill in the blank), ask yourself if you are really productive or just another busy unproductive employee.

Circling The Wagons

Last week I posted a question on a few different groups in LinkedIn that I belong to posing a question about how an external applicant could penetrate the walls of a company that was trying to recruit for a new job.  Because it was a training role, I posted the question on HR & Training groups, but also a couple of groups focused on executive recruiting.

Just like in the western movies when the wagon train was being attacked by the indians, the HR & Training groups unanimously began circling the wagons and making excuses for the wall that exists within the recruiting process.  Not a single person suggested seeking out the hiring manager, or much of anything other than waiting to see what happens.

Now the executive recruiting groups were far from circling and acted more like the attacking indians.  To get in front of decision makers you much follow the establish rules for applying for a job, but after that you go and seek out the people who either make or influence the decision-making process.

Those people often include HR and I was quick to learn can sink the potential of the very best candidate if they so choose, so remember to step lightly.  But at the same time I asked who was the best to decide if a candidate fits the need?  Of course the answer is the hiring manager, but if HR is not cooperating now what?

We all know that internal politics are powerful, and even an external candidate needs to learn what works and does not work even before they join the company.  What struck me though was the nature of the common advice from the HR & Training Group.

“You must wait for HR to call you.”  “Never go over HR’s head even if they have not responded to you, they are busy.”  And my favorite is, “often the hiring manager doesn’t have a good handle on what they really need, and HR does.”

I guess all of these are possibly true statements, yet it was the fact that no one in HR & Training offered an idea outside the box that kind of alarmed me.  

In my book The Training Physical, I remind readers that Training is a support function, and their mission is to enable employees to perform their jobs.  When HR & Training lose sight of their purpose to support, then we end of fighting a losing battle.