Training on the Defense


More than we have seen in years, the training function is on the defense in many companies hoping to prove their worth enough to keep their jobs.  In too many companies, the training function is simply an expense that can be eliminated to save money, which is truth from a limited perspective.

For the past couple of years I have been on a crusade to help the corporate training function get into a healthy and productive position that would keep them off the expense chopping block.  While my intentions have been with a pure heart that a healthy training function makes all the difference in a company’s ability to execute, I have been blamed for highlighting what unhealthy looks like.

Many of my peers in training are of the belief that keeping the true purpose of training a secret allows them to misguide management into believing that they are an indispensible function.  I have responded many times that if you work on proving training’s worth, you need never worry about being out of work.

Starting in 2013, my focus is going to be on improving workplace performance on both an individual and group basis.  Conducting a review of the internal training function (The Training Physical) will be but one of the tools I will use to evaluate the causes of weak performance.

When you realize that training is only a solution that works about 50% of the time to fix poor performance, it is almost scary how often we miss the real issues!

I still hold firm that a healthy training department can prevent a lot of performance issues, I never will or should hold them more than 50% responsible for the cure.

I’m up for the challenge, and look forward to meeting new people next year that are troubled about an area of performance among their team that needs improving.  I am excited about working together to identify and apply the necessary fixes that will make their work lives better and their companies more profitable.

If you have a challenge, or know of someone who needs help, let’s talk. – Jim@jkhopkinsconsulting.com

Thankfull for Training


Not many of us arrived at the doorsteps of our companies with the complete skill sets to perform our job responsibilities.  Even the most seasoned employee needs to learn operational processes and culture if they plan to be successful and that is obtained at the very least through on the job training.  Not all training is formal, and not all learning comes directly from the training department.  Yet in the spirit of Thanksgiving, how thankful are you for your training department?

Do your training departments feel like they are a valuable asset, or are they like turkeys this time of year, looking out for the ax to fall?

If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times – “when things get tough, training is the first to go” and yet how do we explain the companies that are struggling and yet still have a training department?  These are companies that recognize that without training there would be no company.  Without learning advocates, there would not be a need to set goals outside the current scope or a need to reach higher.

More often than not, great training departments live within great companies.  They are like matches that feed off each other and know in their souls that one cannot exist without the other.  These companies include training, and support training efforts at every level.  In a single word, they are “thankful” for training.

Have you ever noticed that when people support you, and are really thankful they have you in their lives; you do your utmost to support them?  Hum, could it be that companies that are thankful for their training departments get at least a pinch more out of them?  Could it be that companies that barely recognize the existence of their training staff get the same in return?

As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, it is my hope and prayer that each of us includes the people in our training departments as part of the reason for our individual and corporate success.  And if you are so inclined, go tell them how you feel, and watch their reaction.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Always Diagnose First


For those of you that are in the training field, maybe a manager or even an external consultant, I can bet that when you are contacted about something you can do, you are only seconds away from talking up the potential benefits of your solution.  But my advice is not to do it!

Well, eventually you will want to talk it up to the stars if it is the best solution, but what I am encouraging all of you to do is fully diagnose the issues, problems and concerns before proposing any solution.

While we all have favorite cure-all programs that we have personally see countless healings when it was implemented, we must act like a trusted physician and collect all the symptoms, interview the patient and diagnose the full illness before recommending a treatment plan.

Years ago, after spending a lot of time as a facilitator and then as an instructional designer, I was introduced to the world of performance consulting.  The initial training program that I participated in drove home the need to dig deep into what it takes to perform a given job, so that every area of performance could be evaluated way before any solution was discussed.  It made asking a lot of questions and saying little in response a key part of the process.

To say this was easy to learn would be false, as it took more than the 2-day workshop to get the hang of it.  Yet overtime I began to listen to myself to monitor my speech, and use discussion questions I preplanned to keep myself on a path that did not include talk of solutions.

Once you fully understand all the causes for good performance, and have a list of areas that need shoring up, you can quickly identify fixes.  Some will indeed be training skills, while others could be coaching, management inclusion, different equipment, better procedures and the list goes on.

So the next time someone says “how can I improve our sales”, I want you to diagnose first, and treat the whole process second; no matter how wonderful your new sales training is.