Does Your Training Department Work For You?

They say you should never ask a question you already know the answer to, but I think it is perfectly okay to ask a question of someone if I doubt they know the answer.  But let me begin with a little background first.

I believe that for a training department to be functional, they need to be doing the following basics:

  1. They need to be working off an annual strategic training plan that is aligned with corporate performance objectives
  2. They need to be designing, developing and implementing training that change behaviors
  3. They need to be evaluating the results of their efforts using methods that prove their value to the organization

When I discover a training function that is operating without a plan, implementing training without a connection to the success of the organization or their evaluation method is simply to wait to hear of problems, I know they are not functioning properly.  When I have the opportunity to talk with the CEO, COO or any senior leader in that organization, I ask them if their training department works for them?

Not a fair question you say?  Why, because I know that the training function isn’t working for them?  What if they think it is?

Because the question is asked this way, I usually get a very thoughtful answer that starts with a pause because they are thinking about results.  The goal of every training manager should be that their management team instantly responds with a “Yes” they are working for me.

I’ve had answers all over the board, from a strong “yes”, to “haven’t got a clue.”  Recently a CEO answered truthfully that they don’t have a training function.  I asked why not.  He said that they are doing okay, and don’t need training.  While I kept this conversation going a little longer, it was apparent that they never have seen a value in training, and at the same time could not connect their future needs to training today.  My gut tells me they will close their doors or merge by the end of the year.  They are planning to fail, by failing to plan for success.

Bottom line, the training function is a support function.  They need to be working for each and every department within your organization.  If they are not, let’s talk about what needs to change so your future is brighter.


Scared To Fail

Is your training department scared to fail?  Are they staying in their comfort zone because it is not safe to try new things and fail?  Is your culture holding back the potential of your workforce?

In many companies, the culture of taking risks are not allowed, much less encouraged, and people are down right afraid to act for a fear that if they fail, they will lose their job.  Before we go any further, ask yourself if this is true in your company.  Are you certain that the culture will terminate every failure, or has the fear created a belief that is not anchored in truth?

In full disclosure I am not a big risk taker and never been a gambler of anything.  I take pain staking time and analysis before making decisions out of the need to be correct and accurate in the work I do.  Yet, the very essence of the training world does not come with 100% assurance of success.  Even if we do everything possible to meet our objectives, the human factor involved in the learning process has been known to screw up perfect plans.

If you have ever trained anything, you know with certainty that if any of the participants go back to their work environment and their manager tells them we are not doing what you learned in training in this department, training was a complete waste of time.  Was that a reason not to train?  It was if you knew about this manager ahead of time and did nothing about it.  However, no matter how prepared you are, things happen that can disrupt learning.

What bothers me most is when training is avoided because it could focus a negative spotlight on the training manager.  Or how about their manager not approving a training initiative because they don’t want to be blamed for a failed process?  As leaders, we need to encourage some risk because if successful the rewards outweigh the risk.

This blog has been dedicated to taking your pulse on a lot of issues.  I am asking you today to evaluate if you are holding back on something because you are fearful of what will happen if it fails.  Tell you what I will do.  I will talk with anyone for free over the phone about what you believe is holding you back, and between the two of us we will brain-storm a solution to help you move forward.  Email me at to set up a time to talk.

Stop being afraid, and move forward toward success!

Are You Focused on Performance?

This may seem like an obvious question in a training blog, but it is one that must be asked frequently if performance is always the focus of training solutions.  It is very easy to become distracted with the latest cool technology, or brand new program offered by a favored vendor and forget what our goal in training is, that being to improve performance.

Too many sales people focus on selling the bells and whistles of the new product, and make it fit into the operation.  “We have management training, and you have managers, right?”  Just because our courses don’t train the skills that have been identified as critical to your managers being successful shouldn’t stop you from checking us out.  (Not in quotes, because they never say this, they only think it.)

I am a big Stephen Covey fan, and often incorporate “Begin with the End in Mind” as the basis for most performance discussions.  I want to make sure we are focused on what kind of behaviors and skills are missing that we need to build.  Once I am focused on the end results, it makes designing and purchasing training solutions much easier.  Either they will work or they will not.  Once the list is narrowed down, we look at implementation issues and costs.

The reason I focus on performance and the reason I beat this drum so often with my peer group is because it is easy to get distracted.  A senior manager in your organization wants a particular type of training, and wants the training manager to go get it and implement it.  Too often the training manager does just that without a single clarifying question or a stitch of analysis.  What if this solution won’t get the job done?  Who will take the hit if it flops?  Need I ask?

Finally I want to remind all of us of another important fact if we are focused on performance and that is by when.  What date does this all need to happen?  Back up the truck and determine when the flag must come down on this race if you have any hope of winning.  If you need 60-days to implement, when do decisions need to be made.  If it will take another 30-days after training is over to practice the skills before a product launch, will we be finished with the training in time?

Focus on Performance and you will be rewarded in the end.

Implementation is the Key to Success!

What is the key to training success?  If we are to use one of the most familiar models, ADDIE, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation, I would firmly plant my reputation on Implementation.

It is very important to perform a clean analysis of the performance issue, keeping in mind the needed outcomes, and designing a learning process that gets to that end.  Putting those aspects into a developed product, or purchasing an off the shelf solution that meets your needs, still leaves this project sitting on someone’s desk.

Learners actually need to experience the learning event, or all that front end work will go to waste.  And when it comes to evaluation, what are you going to evaluate if you have yet to train anyone.

Year after year after year, we in the learning profession witness companies spout off about the virtues of training management development.  For some they feel elevating the word to leadership is a loftier goal, but no matter what you call it, if you are unable to implement what good are you doing?

Training Managers spend valuable time determining the skill sets they wish to build, identifying course content, and yet stop when it comes to implementing.  They don’t make decisions to purchase or design training materials.  And even if they have them sitting in a box ready to go, they often never get past a pilot workshop.  Why?

There are many organizations that run an effective training organization.  But unfortunately we have just as many that pass on training.  We have unskilled training managers working in those companies, and they report to managers that also lack the skills to promote and build  learning environments.

I have a simple solution.  Either make training a functional department that is making a difference, or close down the shop.  And if you make the decision to close down the shop, make one more termination decision while you are closing training.  The person that training reported to must also be let go.  Because no company should be without training, if you are forced to close the shop, then the level of management they reported to is also part of the problem.

If you want to improve the quality of your training, or need advice on which path to take, then make an appointment for a Training Physical.  Find out what is working, and how to fix what is not.  Email me at