Why Are We Closing HR & Training?

With more frequency than I like to admit, I am witnessing companies close down their training function to save money.  And yet what is more frightening is that some of these companies are reducing the HR function down to a simple clerical job to save even more money.  Both of these actions will have provide a negative impact to the organization, so why is it happening?

The stated answers range from the basic cost savings benefit to the lack of value for the price of the service.  Both of these reasons are sadly and probably true!  The HR and the Training functions did cost money, and they did not demonstrate enough value to retain their jobs, let alone exceed the value expected.

From a business standpoint, it is very possible that management is planning to sell the company and they are looking to show a balance sheet value without these functions.  It is very possible they are merging with another company and the other guy has a superior operation that will take over soon.  It is also possible that management is short-sighted as to the issues they will need to deal with absent these functions and without a compelling argument by another on the team, the ax will fall.

One fact often absent is that without HR and Training functions, the employee issues fall to the management team, and there is not enough space here to go on about how unskilled most managers are these days to handle those issues.

But when the HR and the Training functions are not providing value, and arrogantly strut around believing they will never be out of a job, I’m in management’s corner.  My only disagreement is that the functions are still vital, but in eliminating the employees leading the functions they shoot themselves in the foot by closing the whole department.  Management needs to learn how to manage the poor performance, eliminate the employee if necessary, and replace them with a better qualified person, but keep the department open.

I’m very impressed with a company right now that lost their training manager and are not immediately replacing him.  I don’t have all the details of why this person left, but from previous conversations it was far from a match made in heaven and probably a joint decision to part ways.  Anyhow, the company has decided to step back and evaluate the needs of the role now and in the future.  They are deciding what they should do now with the function before they begin interviewing again.

This pause is surely frustrating to applicants that would like to apply for this job, but it is a very smart move on the company’s part to really understand what they want to do with training before they start looking for someone who can make it happen.  Yet the best part is that their HR is very strong and strategic, so training will not be eliminated.  Thank Goodness!


Real Trainers Never Stop Learning

Early into my career in training development, one of my best mentors and my training manager at the time told me that trainers never stop learning.  Much like the craft of acting, she said that real trainers keep looking for ways to improve their adult learning skills.  She also grouped all training roles whether it was a facilitator, instructional designer, manager or consultant into the category of trainer.  For over 20 years I have endorsed the concept, and seen it proved out in my interactions with other training professionals.

By far the most successful training professionals are both life-long learners AND are open to networking with other training professionals for ideas and feedback on what they are working on at any given moment.  On the flip side, some of the most ineffective training professionals are those that are done learning, can’t see the value in networking with others and, well, have already arrived at the pinnacle of their potential.

We have a lot of new training managers in the workforce that may have been a facilitator in a single competency at one time, and are now leading the entire learning function.  Some don’t have even that much connection to training, but had the inside track to get hired into the role.  Many know they are lucky to have gotten the job over more qualified applicants, but I am finding their learning attitudes are making all the difference in their actual success.

I seek out new training managers, because if I can save them costly errors up front, not only will they become successful, but ultimately they will retain their jobs and careers in training.  I usually offer a brief call where they can lay out their plans, and discuss their challenges.  I offer this free brainstorming call as a way to determine if I am talking with a real trainer or an imposter.

Accepting this call with me is my first signal that they are a possible learner, and the length of the call tells me for sure if they are open to ideas other than their own.  On the flip side, when they won’t even take 30 minutes to talk, they are hiding behind their insecurities and are going to be struggling.

Most people who meet me soon learn that I wrote the book called The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat and Cure Your Training Department.  Actually I have it plastered on almost everything I do, so it is hard to miss.  The author status helps to create credibility, but it also sends a rather clear message that I can smell a fake a mile away.  Senior Leaders love this, but training managers that want to remain anonymous really try to avoid talking with me.

Recently I talked with an experienced manager who I think is just fabulous and gifted.  I also talked with a brand new training manager that had been an executive assistant and was just wide open trying to quickly learn everything she could.  And in the same week I read the 4th email from a new and inexperienced training manager tell me there was no need to talk, that everything was under control.  I guess two out of three is not too bad, but my mission is to make sure all trainers are the real deal!

Keeping Your Training Job

When I set out to write The Training Physical 4 years ago it was with the simple mission that more learning professionals would keep their jobs and not get booted out the door when times got hard.  Yet recently I am seeing a lot of turnover in the training manager ranks again.  In some cases it is just job swapping where folks are moving to a different company, but many are just out of work.

Here is the kicker though for many of these out of work training managers.  Their former employers are planning to replace them!  It wasn’t a down sizing event, it was an old fashion termination.  Some saw the writing on the wall and decided to resign first, and now are out competing with 10 others for a single job.

Note to readers, I realize that the average job posting gets hundreds of applicants, not just 10.  What I am trying to say is that a more realistic number of actual competitors is still high even at 10 given the number of openings.

So what are these companies thinking about when they terminate this role?  I recently talked with a couple of hiring managers and the consensus for both was that the previous occupant was unable to demonstrate value.  There is a lot of different interpretations of value, and when that happens someone is going to feel shortchanged.

Then after talking with two of these former training managers I found out that neither operated off a simple training plan that would document activities and connect them to strategy.  So we are left with managers that may very well be doing a good job, but they cannot demonstrate their productivity, only that they are very busy.

I’ve had four conversations with training managers in the past month about their desire to create a training plan.  However important to their operation, none of them are motivated to get this task completed.  None of them can do it alone, and yet none of them will seek funding to get help.  My bet is that if they don’t pull this plan together soon, they may also be looking for work this time next year.

Unless you know for certain the value you demonstrate in your organization, you must assume that some do not support you!  This means you need to start working on things that will allow you to keep your training job.  If you need to understand what those activities might be, email me at Jim@JKHopkinsConsulting.com and we can set up a time to talk about it for free.


The Purpose of Training

Another friend lost her job as a training director this week due to a downsizing in the company.  Why must training disappear when we reduce the employee count?  My answer is when training is not fulfilling its purpose.

Readers of The Training Physical will remember my basic math problem description of the purpose of training.  Employers hire employees that need to perform key tasks that are not learned at home or in school.  Employers have training departments to build these skills.  When employees can perform key tasks, then the company makes money!

So if companies are still in business after even downsizing a lot of employees, why would they eliminate the training function?

I network with a lot of training managers, and I can tell you that many do not spend enough time in the week on their purpose.  They tweet, comment, and like all sorts of articles, blogs and discussions while posting their own sources all day long.  Which begs me to wonder when they get the real work done.  Then it hits me, they are not engaged in the real work, and are looking for things to keep themselves busy.

Real work includes facilitation, instructional design, needs analysis, planning, strategy and communication.  It is all about getting things accomplished and demonstrating the value your team brings to the organization for the salary and benefits they are paying all of you!

When Executive Management is unable to articulate the value training brings to the organization, you are not fulfilling your purpose.  When you look back each week on 40 hours and only 10 were spent on real work and 30 was spent on emails, chit chatting and other busy work, then you are not fulfilling your purpose.

If you are now getting worried about your future, then refocus on your purpose and begin tomorrow with a better plan.  And because it may be too late to turn things around, find time to update your resume.