Is Your Training Department Any Good?

285671_D1L1_01“Is your training department any good?”  If you answer in the affirmative, I hope you have several specific reasons why, and if you answered that is does not, I hope you could detail what is missing.  The worst answer possible is that you have no idea if your training department is any good.

Does your training department meet or exceed your needs and expectations, or does it fall short becomes not only an awareness factor, but whether you have a good understanding of what it should be doing for the company.  Having a lot of training classes, or a group of people who seem very busy may be signs of both an effective and an ineffective function.

Four years ago I wrote a book about a process I developed called The Training Physical.  While my intent was to document what is essentially a review of what is working well, what is not working or absent in the function, it became a guide for what every training department should be doing on a basic or minimum level.  Reviewers have commented that while it is full of good reminders, it does not lay out a plan for everything that should be done by the training function.

I am the first to agree with the feedback that it doesn’t address any of what most Fortune 1000 companies achieve.  I felt there was plenty of guides on improving the function from the basic level.  My goal was to illustrate the need for a training function in every company, and that if you are going to run a training department you ought to at least be running a healthy function.  While I wrote it for new training managers to guide them, it has become a sales tool for executives to learn what their training functions should be providing.

If a CEO can answer that their training function is in good shape, you can bet that most of the time it is.  However, most CEOs are not that involved in training, so they have no idea.  If a CEO is proud of the training function, they understand the purpose, and can readily name off several instances where training makes an impact on the organization.  They know the training team, are involved in promoting training events and programs in person, heck some even train staff themselves.

I’ve had the honor of being a judge for the CLO Magazine’s “Learning Elite Awards” for the past 3 years, and have reviewed some top-notch organizations.  They make the basic level look like just that, the foundation of the building.  And yet, this past year a couple of my applications were not what I expected.  They had not even achieved a basic level, so until they grasp what that looks like they will not be able to grow.  Yet here they were completing an application at the elite end of the spectrum.  They obviously thought that what they were doing was right up there with the best of the best, and yet sadly they were not even meeting minimum standards.

Training impacts employee development.  Employees must be able to perform tasks so the company can achieve results.  Good training has a positive impact and poor training will produce negative results.  The only way to be certain of how good your training is doing is to conduct a 3rd party review, and find out what is working well, what is not, and then fix the problems.

If you are wondering if a Training Physical is something you should schedule, email me at to set a time for a complimentary chat by phone.

Missing Trainer Passion

I coined a phrase year’s ago for someone who has a lot of passion for employee learning and development as a “Trainer’s Heart.”  I even use that as my Twitter account to promote good learning practices.  In my opinion, the root source for success of anyone in the learning profession is about having enough passion for the job.  As many will tell you we didn’t get in it for the money, but for the impact we can make on lives and careers.  This mindset requires and demands a high level of passion.

I’ve had the honor of being a mentor to a wonderful person in Australia for several years now.  While initially we worked on her career in training, over the past year it has been more of a coaching role to support and encourage her path.  She is so full of passion for learning and understands the power and influence she carries that it is frustrating for her to work with unmotivated training people who see their work only as a job.

Way back, when I was a new trainer, I remember feeling anxious about a new workshop I was going to facilitate.  A training manager walked over to my desk and asked me if I was okay, as I was looking kind of pale.  I laughed and said I was just dealing with butterflies over an upcoming workshop.  She sat down, and looked directly at me and said, “remember what this feels like, and when you no longer have these feelings before a new workshop, it is time to find another career.”

Her point was that my butterflies came from a desire to do the very best I could, and she realized that I was driven by the passion of a trainer who needs to do their job well.  She also wanted me to understand that if and when this passion ever left me that it was time to move on to a different job.  One that no longer supported employee development.

This week I exchanged an email with my Australian friend who has been frustrated with feeling like she is the only one that has any passion for the role they play in training.  She actually has enough passion to share with three others, but the point is that she is surrounded with people who lack any passion.  I know the feeling, as I speak with one person after another, week in and week out, that don’t share any sense of urgency to develop staff, or even see training as a needed resource.  And yet in my efforts to help my friend focus, I found myself getting my own mojo back.

Do you feel that you have lost or are losing your passion as a trainer?  Maybe it is missing, or on vacation?  All I know for sure is that if you ever had a trainer’s heart, it is still in there.  Find a way to recharge it, because you are a rare breed of trainer.  The world of employee development cannot do it without your passion, and we cannot afford to lose good trainer hearts.

Training To Expectations

One of my most favorite vacations is on a cruise.  Aside from Alaska, the destination is not what draws me to a cruise but rather the ship experience.  The level of service, the quality for the price paid is unmatched in my experience with other forms of travel.  And what I realized recently is that it comes from training to expectations.  While this is normally a good process, it has recently occurred to me to wonder what happens when maybe the expectations are incorrect?

Now while cruise staff are trained to perform their functions in a way that matches the big picture down to the smallest detail, they also develop interpersonal skills in all staff to individual personalities.

Take the dinning experience as an example.  A formal dinning room with waiters, proper dishes and utensils are all a part of the experience, so is the cleanliness.  I have witnessed, especially when they are setting tables for the next sitting, at the examination of each utensil and plate for cleanliness.  And yet, they also flip the plates to look at the bottom too!  While most guests don’t check out the bottom of each plate and bowl, it is part of setting a clean table.  The kicker is that they all do it too!

Customer service is a bit trickier as they set larger tasks like smiling, conversing, and the use of appropriate responses as part of what makes the experience.  Yet no two employees are the same.  Each is encouraged to be themselves and make their own personalities meet the service expectations.  Lot’s of coaching, feedback and one-on-one training going on and what was first learned is reinforced all day, everyday.

If there is one thing I dislike about cruising it is that they love repetition in everything.  What worked as activities in the 80’s are expected to still work today.  What seems to work for the Caribbean and Mexico, should work for New England and Alaska cold weather cruises.  I’m sorry, but hairy chest contests are not appropriate in the coolness of Alaska!

So while staff training works well on cruises when it comes to service quality, training staff to perform tasks without regard to age groups and climate does not work.  How hard would it be to set different expectations depending on the geography and age groups?  Does it make sense to believe that in everything we do in our company works with a “one size fits all” mentality?

So while I believe training should train employees to meet expectations, I also think that training might be the best group to question why some skills are being taught to everyone.  You can bet that staff leading activities are trained on how to facilitate each activity since they are run exactly the same on every cruise.  If I was running cruise line training, I would be asking why we are not training different activities for different cruises?