Internal Design Failures

Most of the in-house designed training programs that I have witnessed in the past two decades have failed to achieve their targeted results.  Yet, companies are being led down a path of waste in time and money because too often training management prefers to focus on job security over a return on the investment.

Let’s begin with the assumption that training has a purpose to prepare employees to perform specific job functions.  This means building skills that are learned and applied so as to achieve targeted results.  Training starts with a solid needs analysis, and is supported by a learning plan that goes from point A to point B.

So what happens if a training manager decides that they and their team are indispensable and they must be the ones that design the entire program and all learning materials?  Rather than using a tested program from a vendor, they choose to spend months creating a “custom course” just for your company.  They explain that the materials are cheaper to create internally, but are remise in the cost of personnel to create said materials.

Because there is no other “subject matter expert” in training to question this internal authority, management will often yield to what they are being told and opt out of the decision process of internal design rather than purchasing external materials.  The kicker is that management can and should require accountability for the results!

If training wants to take on all of the design process, they need to be 100% accountable to the results.  Ask for a cost analysis of time and materials for the internal design versus the completed vendor program.  Ask how the training will be applied after the workshop or online course is completed.  Ask how the training department will be measuring the use of the new skills, and measuring the impact.

When management holds training responsible and accountable for results, training management will default to the best solutions and not necessarily the ones that focus on how long it will keep their team busy and employed.  Refocus training on their purpose and that job security is based on achieving that purpose.

And lastly, fear not that you may lose quality training personnel because you are getting this involved.  The quality trainer will not object, but their evil twin will.

The Training Pill

I just finished reading again Ken Blanchard’s book, “The Leadership Pill” which takes readers on a journey of discovering that one does not become a leader by simply taking a pill.  I started to think about how often training is used as a performance solution when there is no correlation to a need for training.  It is as if training is a pill we prescribe for every performance issue as some kind of cure all.

Any performance or organizational development consultant will tell you that training is only the solution to a performance issue about 50% of the time, and yet it is prescribed way more often than that.  The client is usually just fine with a training solution, until later down the road when little has changed.  Those of us out there prescribing training as a cure-all solution need to be open to alternative cures, as in the ones that will actually make a difference.

Training is a tool when building a skill, and notice I used the word “a” not “the” tool.  Training is great to refresh a skill that has gone unused for a while, or when you are trying to focus a large group of people to use certain behaviors.

Training is not to be used when an employee could perform a task, but chooses not to for some reason.  Or when a manager provides different instructions than what training taught the employee.  Training people in the same skills over an over again is usually not helpful, and different methods should be employed.

The kicker is to remember when to use training, and avoid passing out a bottle of training pills for every ailment.

For Sale By Owner

When you think of the phrase “For Sale By Owner” what first comes to mind? Maybe when selling your house, car or other large item. I guess it could fit anything we own and have the right to sell, and we are not getting help from anyone else to sell it.

Last week someone in my inner circle who likes to kid me, connected the efforts of a consultant like me marketing services to a For Sale By Owner advertisement. Upon a moment of reflection I laughed, and said I guess I am advertising my services that way. I am the product, and since I charge for my services I am “For Sale.”

I find it odd that when I worked internally, I never saw myself as the Chief Selling Officer for training. I was meeting a need the company had with a performance solution. I and my team did this over and over again and we kept our jobs, earned our paychecks and we made a difference to the success of the company.  In reality I was selling us all the time and yet the process was so much easier on the inside.

So why is it so hard for this same process to work outside of an internal role? When I was a salaried person I got paid every two weeks. Granted I worked hard for my paycheck, but did I really need to? I would have been paid anyhow, at least until it dawned on someone that I was not doing anything. And yet as an external consultant, managers expect all sorts of free consulting, free advice, free products and they call it testing you out.

I find myself being asked to speak at conferences every so often for travel and expenses only, no speaker fee. I’m told they don’t have the money and want me to write it off as a marketing expense. That works sometimes when the audience actually buys my services after the engagement, but most of the time that is a long shot. Conferences are being promoted with sizeable fees to attend, and the organizers are the ones making money. Without the speakers there would not be a conference.

The whole concept of the occasional free speaking engagement, free consulting is that it will come back to the consultant in the form of business. After all, having expenses is only cool when they reduce the taxable earnings. But what happens when the expenses exceed the earnings?

If you were selling your house as a “For Sale By Owner” would you let people live in it for a week to see if they liked it? Or if you are selling your car, would it be okay if they took a 3-day test drive and drained the gas tank? My guess is your answer is absolutely not. So why should I keep working for nothing?

An HR Manager told me a few months back that she likes to pick my brain. I must have been having an off day because without thinking I said, “I’m glad you think I’m valuable, but the sample tray is getting empty.” Ding! She said, “my word, I have been abusing your kindness.” I let that comment go without a response. I wonder if it will make a difference.

My tip for those reading that run HR and/or Training is to watch how much you expect from your external resources to provide you for free.  They need to make a living too, and it is important to be respectful of their time.  While you are earning a paycheck drilling them for ideas and solutions, remember they are not earning a dime.  After an hour on the phone you are several dollars richer and they are an hour poorer.

In the mean time, let everyone you know that in addition to a truck I have for sale, I am also selling my services – “Jim Hopkins – For Sale By Owner!”