Thankfully I Received Training

With Thanksgiving in mind, and this blog being about the Training function, I realized that my career would not be where it is today had I tried to learn it all on my own.

From my early days in banking as a teller, without training, all of those transaction would never have happened.  There is no way I would have learned the platform, operations and lending side of banking had there not been a ton of training to enable me to perform those roles.  And if compliance training had not existed, I would have been terminated for not knowing all of the regulations I needed to follow.

Like so many I was promoted into management because I was a subject matter expert, and I struggled with the communications side of managing.  I had both good and bad role models in upper management over the years, and styled my own methods.  It was years later when I facilitated management and leadership training that my skills developed.  When I returned to a management role to lead a training organization as a CLO, I was a pretty effective manager by then.

Even my training career was developed by numerous training events that taught me how to facilitate, design training programs and materials and uncover organizational and performance problems.   These are not skills you are born with, and they must be learned to be successful.

Many in the workplace today have not received training to do their jobs.  It is assumed that they learned everything in school, which doesn’t happen, or they will pick it up on the job.  While informal or on-the-job learning does work, it is never comprehensive or consistent.  Companies that avoid formal training are throwing the dice and hoping to win.

To all of the companies and managers that have seen fit to develop my skills over the past 30+ years, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Training is Not Optional

  • “We don’t have a training department because we are too small.” 
  • “We don’t have a training department because we train each other.” “
  • We don’t have training because it costs too much.”

Recently these old and moldy excuses for not having a training function are being dragged out again like outdated clothes that will somehow be fashionable again.  Yet, the truth is that no matter what size company you work for, we all have one thing in common.  We hire and employ people.  Yep, good old human beings that need to learn the job they have been hired to do.

Small companies may not have a need for a fully staffed training department, but even if you only have 10 employees you have skill development needs.  Knowing how best to train your employees, and keep them current requires partnering with people who can direct you to programs that fit your requirements.  You don’t have to have a full-time employee, but you can contract with people throughout the year to keep learning current and your people engaged.

Training each other on the job goes on in every organization.  However, even though it is a very valid training tool, it comes with the responsibility to monitor consistent messages.  Testing skills, certifications, checklists and other verification tools become a way to monitor on the job efforts.  Yet, can you leave management development to on the job?  Can you trust that your on the job sales training is providing everyone with the same attention to your sales process?

I will admit that training costs money.  If done incorrectly it can often costs a lot of money with no return for the dollars.  Yet when it is done correctly, training can return not only the investment, but increased sales and productivity and reduced expenses because of a lack of waste.  Take a bank of 10,000 employees and a bank with 10 employees.  The cost of training will be significantly different because of the amount of staff.  Many budgets are planned simply on a dollar amount per employee.  Yet here is the kicker.  The total skills needed for each bank are the same.  Both banks follow the same rules and offer basically the same products, so both need to know how to do the same chores and tasks.

Someone once said that “what happens if we train them and they leave?”  To which the reply was, “what if we don’t train them and they stay?”  Training is not optional, and we need to stop making excuses for avoiding it and find reasons to do more of it.


The Dollar Value of a Training Plan

It was the tale of two HR Managers and their quests to create a training function out of thin air.  Both discussed the possibilities with their CEO when they interviewed for the positions earlier this year, and both knew that they would need to wait until late this year to request budget dollars for 2014.

While both planned to eventually hire a training manager to run their training functions, both understood that they would have to wait until 2014 when budget dollars were available to hire.  Although one company is sitting in the Midwest and one in the Northeast, they are both community banks with similar size and functions.  Yet this is where the similarities’ end.

I met both of these HR Managers after they each down loaded a White Paper I wrote called “Bank Training Revival: How to Rebuild a World Class Bank Training Function from Scratch in 90-days or less.” During our conversation I stressed that for both of them my recommendation was the same, and that was to build out a complete training plan for 2014 to back up their budget request.  While neither of them wanted help, only one chose to follow my advice.

I recently learned that both banks received approvals to build their training functions, which is great news in and of itself.  What was astounding to me was that the bank that had developed a training plan had more than enough money to make their training department a reality.  The other bank had only received salary dollars to hire a training manager.  They will need to develop a training plan after they have hired a training manager and then go back mid-year to what I call the “budget well” and see if they can get money to proceed.

The HR Manager that took the time to develop a plan, (a vision) laid out such details, that she obtained salary dollars for a training manager, and one other full-time employee.  She budgeted for contractors, software solutions, training materials, and eLearning courses.  Because she went into budget meetings with a plan for how to use the money and how it would benefit the bank, she walked out with the necessary resources to implement her whole plan.

The bigger value this manager obtained was early buy-in for building a training function.  Word is spreading on what will be coming in 2014.  Whereas, our other bank has yet to begin this work, so they will be at least a year behind.

What a dollar difference having a plan makes!

Another Company Loses Their Training Department

“The first thing to go when things get bad is Training.”  However true this statement has been in the past, it is alive and well today!  And I had a front row seat this past week watching the demise of another training manager who was in over his head from day one and did nothing to correct the situation.

Now although I prefaced this blog with the training manager’s lack of skill and ability to fix the situation, the real problem started back when the company first created the training department.

Senior management wanted training for their growing company, because several of them had come from previous companies with robust learning environments.  And true to most good training departments, these talented people made it all look easy.  So it is somewhat expected that the initial plan to hire a trainer was all that was needed.  When HR got involved, they applied a little organizational development to the process and helped Sr. Management realize that they should start with a training manager and build from that point.  And so began a search for the most experienced unemployed training manager available that would work for a trainer’s salary.

There is another saying that “you get what you pay for” and they found a willing soul to accept the position.  The lack of experience was noted, but they figured he would learn on the job.

The list of projects appeared and rather than establish a training plan or prioritize the list, this guy just worked on everything at the same time and a year and a half later didn’t have a whole lot accomplished.  So when the company started to lose money they cut training out to save expenses.

Lessons Learned:

  • First, the company didn’t have a compensation budget that would allow HR to hire the right competencies, and they had not allotted any additional money to hire or contract with others to build out this training department.  Their wish list was lengthy and yet way too much for a single person to accomplish
  • Second, the training manager functioned more as a worker bee instead of a leader.  He knew he was in over his head, but did nothing to improve the situation.  Hopefully he has learned this lesson and will not repeat it at the next job.
  • Third, absolutely everyone lost out because this company is not meeting objectives and cannot seem to connect the dots that the lack of employee skills are causing poor performance all over the company.

You may be asking yourself that if Jim had a front row seat why did all this happen?  Well I should clarify that my seat was in the bleachers.  I was advising people who thought they knew better, and are now quite embarrassed about how bad things have turned out.  It is my hope that they will try this again within the next couple of months, and this time we will do it the right way!