Finding Your Replacement

No two training departments are alike, so the search to find a replacement for an outgoing training manager can be quite a challenge for your Human Resources recruiting function.  In the full spirit of succession planning, every training manager ought to be looking for their replacement before they leave.

Some employees will tell you that it is the responsibility of the company to find a replacement for every employee that leaves the company, whether it is voluntary or involuntary separation.  While technically this may be true, most training managers are quite invested in their training function and worry about what will happen to this environment after they leave.  No doubt your replacement will want to make some changes, but how would you feel if they came in and completely dismantled your department?

This happened to me after I resigned from a leadership role without finding a replacement that would carry on from the point we were at when I left.  Now I did have three very competent managers that could have stepped in and taken over, but I failed to secure the succession prior to leaving.  I had not sold my manager on the merits of any of the three enough to sway his opinion, and so he recruited a brand new person to replace me.

While this person was very competent, he didn’t feel anything we had been doing was a best practice and over the course of 6 months dismantled every corner of the operation.  He “upgraded” the function, and lost support from both the training staff, but more importantly the client.  While I was focused on results, he became focused more on offering the most current solutions available.  Not that his choices were bad from a learning standpoint, but they didn’t fit the culture as well.

For those that run the training function, you must be aware of your impact and your partnership with the other departments in your company.  They have depended on you for a level of service that too abrupt of a change can throw out of sync.  Finding a replacement, if at all possible from your team will assure a smooth transition.

If you have no one from your team to draw from, spend a little time recruiting candidates for your company to interview.  Let’s face it, you know your culture better than anyone, and know who will work best to fit in.

Bottom line, if you want to preserve your legacy, find your own replacement!

How Good is Your Training?

I cannot even imagine going to see my medical doctor and having him ask me how healthy am I?  I’m not the expert, he is.  And if I was to determine how healthy I am based on how I feel that day, I can count on missing something because I am too close to the subject.  Yet when I ask a training manager, “how good is your training” I always get an affirmative answer!

No one has ever told me that they lack a competent staff.  No one has ever told me that they don’t use their technology effectively.  No one has ever told me that their training function is not running on all cylinders with doubts they are effective.  Until recently.

I had a conversation with a Director of Human Resources that believes that his corporate university should be reviewed.  No immediate concerns, only that the structure was set up 10 years ago, and no one other than the original consultant that helped them design it has ever weighed in on how well it functions.  He also stated that he was positive that just the fact that a decade has passed, that something must be out of date.

I did not find this customer, he found me.  He had been looking for someone in the learning space for months that could evaluate what is working well and tweak what needs changing.  Of all of the Training Physicals I have ever done, this is the first time anyone has ever initiated the process. He is a strategic kind of leader, and I only wish we had more like him!

Yet, every single training leader should be able to answer the question of how good is your training if someone within the organization was to ask them.  In my book, I suggest that if the CEO was to ask the training leader this question, unless they can give them an answer on the spot, they are not fully aware of how good they are or are not.

If you would not be able to answer the question yourself, maybe it is time to schedule an appointment for your own Training Physical.  And even if you could give a decent answer, are you sure you aren’t missing something?


Training is Our Responsibility

A Chief Operating Officer told me this morning that “training is not my responsibility!”  Although she wishes her organization had a more formal corporate learning function, she didn’t want to step on the toes of the HR Director.  Let me back up a few weeks to fill in how we came to this point.

A former associate of mine runs one of the operating functions within this organization and met with the new COO to talk through some of the challenges.  Having a background in training, my associate linked a lot of their challenges to the inability to be very particular about who they hired because the community was smaller with limited people looking for work.  This means while a larger city might get 50 applicants for a single job posting, they typically get 5, and only 1 is even close to the job skills.

The lack of management, leadership, communications, and service skills are evident in a lot of the employees, but especially in their management ranks.  The lack of these skills are causing a lot of problems.  The COO expressed a disbelief in the absence of training, and asked if my associate knew of anyone that could help them start building a training function.  This is where my name was introduced and a referral was setup.

I introduced myself by email and asked for time to talk through her view of the challenges and get a sense of the direction and speed she wanted to take to solve the lack of training.  Within 3 days of sending my email, I got a response that she was not getting involved, that training was something they needed but not her responsibility and she would send my contact information to the new HR Director.

While technically she may be correct that she is not going to run a training department directly,  she is responsible as the COO for all operational functions and results.  She is at the level in the organization to make things happen in order to solve and/or prevent problems.  Her deflection of her personal responsibility as a manager to the training function for employees is problematic.  She should be acting as an enabler, and if she is serious about building a training function, she should be clearing out all the brush to make way for a new learning environment.

Imagine this organization was a hospital.  Can you just imagine yourself as a patient, needing care, and their operating philosophy was that your problem is not my responsibility.  Maybe not, but I’m bleeding, could you find someone to help me?

Training is everyone’s personal responsibility in every organization.  It is our individual responsibility to learn and develop, and it is also our responsibility to help others do the same.   My hope is the new HR Director sees training as a business partner or this place is in for a rough year.

Making a Significant Difference

If your training department made a difference to the operations and success of your company last year, I’d like to challenge you to make a significant difference this year.  Kick it up a notch from whatever point you achieved last year and not only look for ways to get better but implement that insight into your operation.

Now if you are struggling to identify if you made a difference, then you are probably too close to the issues and I encourage you to seek out an external vendor to evaluate your operation.  I call this evaluation a Training Physical, and my book was created to give training managers the ability to look at their operation in a more clinical way.  Every area of the physical process details areas to capture what is working well and identify gaps that could cause problems down the road.

It is important to be able to articulate how training makes a difference.  And please, don’t tell us how many people you have trained and in what topics and assume because so many bodies went through a program that you made a difference.  Gauging how well you are partnering with the line business by measuring “butts in seats” never has and never will make a difference.

Whenever I conduct a Training Physical I like to point out that your company needs to be able to document that training makes a difference.  I’ve interviewed senior managers that say, “we’d miss training if it wasn’t here” and then are unable to answer my follow-up question as to “Why?”  And the reason they can’t put their finger on why is because the link to the purpose of training was never made a single time in recent memory.

Spend the next week reviewing and documenting the good the bad and the ugly that is your training function.  Create a findings report that captures what is working well, and what needs to change and how to change it.  Review this process mid year, and check your progress.  Continue to make a difference, and strive to make an annual significant difference!

If you need help, let me know!

A Year Without Training

What would your company be like today if you had not had a training function last year?  What are some of the issues that you are not dealing with simply because you trained well?

So often we lament over companies that avoid training managers and employees and expect them to learn on the job.  Oh, the horrors and tragedies that have occurred because they don’t train the skills needed and roll the dice to see if they can save a few dollars.  I thought for a change it might be beneficial to celebrate the companies that do train and compare them to the results that are achieved by companies that avoid training.

For instance, I watched two bank mergers this year where equal size banks were bringing their branches together for a combined bank.  One choose to default to on-the-job training, and the other had comprehensive systems, products and culture training programs that began before day one of the new combined bank.

The bank that chose on-the-job as their solution is fighting to retain the relationships of the acquired bank.  Not enough of their employees were retained, and those that were kept are struggling to learn their new jobs.  Service is slow, and errors are high.  At present my source tells me that nearly 30% of the deposits have left.  Customers are unhappy, and the stress level is high everywhere.  Yet, they saved a ton of money on training since they didn’t do any.

The bank that chose a training path started culture training for both banks (since things will change) three months before the merger.  They designed systems training for the acquired bank employees and rotated them into other branches to practice on the system.  Product training was provided to all new employees and a buddy branch system was introduced.  This bank was working together as one team months before they legally merged.  My source tells me they are holding at around a 90% retention of deposits so far.

A year without training does save money up front, but costs much more in the end.  When we avoid management training and we lose good employees because of bad managers, the company loses money.  When we fail to provide employees with basic job skills we create poor customer service environments and lose customers.  When we invest money wisely we get a return, and when we fail to invest, or invest poorly we will lose money.

Will this year be a year without training for your company or will the phrase “Happy New Year” be one that you only spoke out loud yesterday?