Who is Hiring Your Training Manager?

I marvel at the process of hiring a training manager in some organizations.  When this role is not reporting to human resources, but rather administration or operations, why is the recruiting process being screened entirely by human resources?

I go back to the basic role of training as a support function that enables the skills that employees need to perform their job.  So when a training manager is being hired to align with an operational line function, doesn’t it make sense that these are the same folks that should be interviewing candidates before they are eliminated?

I am a strong supporter of human resources when it functions as part of the team, and that team is defined as the entire organization.  I strongly oppose human resources when it thinks it knows better how to select good matches for the company and screens out qualified applicants without letting the hiring manager have a say in the process.

Recently I read that a serious mistake that many companies make in the process is to have the outgoing manager interview their replacement.  I recently took part in an interview like that, and thought about what an awesome opportunity it was to meet the outgoing manager and gain their perspective on the role and challenges.  That was until she said something that didn’t resonate until later that day.  On my way out the door, she commented, “you could sure bring a wealth of new life to our company, and yet you would also make me look bad.”  I knew then that I would not be getting a call back because the wrong individual was interviewing.

A friend of mine that is also looking for work was called after applying for a job online, and the first comment was “you are really too qualified for this job.”  My friend wanted to say, “so why are you calling me?” but thankfully resisted that temptation.  She instead asked if that was a barrier to being hired?  Good question, huh?

The response was that they were fearful she would get bored quickly and quit.  She responded with something I have used before and said. “finding someone who just fits the requirements will be difficult.  And while you don’t want to hire someone who is underqualified, do you really want someone who is only good to go for the job requirements today, and unable to show the experience to take on greater responsibilities?”

While this was a solid response, she was not asked to interview.  Why call her in the first place?  Were they hoping to find out that she was underqualified?  I read of a similar story online this morning, and the applicant called the recruiter “a twit”.  But that is not fair, as they are obviously just not understanding their role in the hiring process.  They see their job as one that needs to reduce the number of applications in the pipeline by using check-marks.  Not enough check-marks and they don’t get an interview, and too many check-marks and they also get eliminated for being too qualified.

My advise for anyone that has training reporting to them is that you want to see all applications and judge for yourself.  These people need to support your efforts if they are running training, and I would never leave that up to anyone else to do for me.

When You are Not a Good Trainer

I define a trainer as someone who know how to help another person learn how to do something they know how to do.  All of us know how to do stuff, but not everyone is capable of enabling others to learn.

Some people are born trainers.  The have a natural instinct that I believe comes from a natural desire to help other people.  So they can explain and show and enable others to learn how to perform a task.  I have often referred to these people as having a trainer’s heart.  And yet most subject matter experts can develop a trainer’s heart by learning how adults learn best and following the rules.

But what do you do if you find a trainer that is not any good?  I was asked this question recently and nearly opened my mouth with a solution that sounded a bit customized to the role of a trainer, when in fact we were discussing performance.  So is there any difference between a trainer not performing their job and any other employee not performing to standards and what a manager needs to do?

Most good trainers follow a set of facilitation rules we learned as “Adult Learning Principles” and found success in learning transfer when we followed the playbook.  We have also struggled with success when we leave the playbook behind and start talking too much, or cutting the experiential components out of the learning process.  In other words we stopped being a good trainer.

In my book and process of assessing the training function (The Training Physical) I talk about the need to train and routinely monitor your trainers.  Observing trainers on a regular basis, and debriefing them on your observations allow you to reinforce good behaviors and reduce bad behaviors.  When behaviors don’t change, and standards are not being met, managers must treat this as a performance issue.

When I observe trainers that I manage, and I note behaviors that I don’t want to see, I begin with a very clear debrief and a written feedback sheet to document our conversation.  I also follow-up rather quickly with another observation to see if the behaviors have changed.  If they have not, than learning for a number of participants has been affected and it must stop and be turned around quickly.

When you discover that you have a person who is not a good trainer, and refuses to change behaviors to become a good trainer, then you have found an employee that needs to be removed from this role.  Do it correctly by your HR policies, but do it quickly to minimize the negative learning environment.

Temporary Training

Wanted: “Temporary Training Assistant”.  Not “assistance” but rather they are hiring a temporary position, which begs to wonder why they are recruiting a full-time hire instead of a 1099 contractor?

I get it.  At times you need a little help on a project, or the work load suddenly became too much for the staff you have and you need a temporary person to come in and bail you out of a situation.  Hello!  This is why and when you hire a contract person.  Talented, ready to work, and you need only agree on the scope of the project and a fee.  In, out and you pay the bill.

So why is a company spending dollars and time to hire a single person through the normal recruiting process?  If you need to hire someone to help now, does it make sense waiting months to recruit and hire someone?  And the best part of this transaction is that a professional recruiter was hired to find a temporary instructional designer to complete a single design project.  So the company is paying someone to recruit for a full-time employee for a 3 month project.

My HR friends tell me there is a lot more risk in hiring an employee and then letting them go when a project is over than hiring a 1099 contractor.  Once the employer-employee relationship kicks in, so many more protections are in place, and it really gets challenging if the person is needed past their agreed time.  In this case, if the project goes past the 3 months, the temporary status could easily be interpreted as permanent employee status.  With a 1099 arrangement, you just negotiate additional scope and fee.

So I see no benefit in hiring an employee for a temporary assignment, when you could contract with a 1099 solution.  Does anyone have an idea why this is done, and how it benefits the operation?

It’s Too Hot to Train

After nearly 24 years in the learning profession I had thought I had heard it all, but when I was told that the reason this company was not training employees was because it was too hot, I nearly lost my breath.  Yes, it appears that “Summer is not a good time to train employees, because it is too hot to learn anything.”

In most parts of the country, Summer is but one season of approximately 3 months in length.  Here in Southern California where this particular company is, we see about 6 months of Summer a year and the remaining 6 are shared with Spring, Fall and Winter.  So for nearly half of the year this company swears off training because of the heat.

This is not a seasonal company, it is open all year-long, and yet employees only get trained 6 out of 12 months.  Yet here is my favorite part of the story, the training department is employed ALL YEAR LONG!

Okay, so I found an anomaly in training employees, at least that is the hope I am holding on to for now.  But what it demonstrates is that excuses for not training staff are not limited to lack of money anymore.  If you can afford to employ a full-time training team and yet only provide services to employees half of the time, how could this operation possibly return on the investment?

With modern inventions like air conditioning, I fail to see the reasoning behind this excuse.  The real problem lies in the training leader that has failed to communicate the value of learning and cannot seem to sway the current culture away from “the way it has always been done.”  I am seeking out senior management, but something tells me this will be a very long sales cycle.

For those of you reading, please post a comment about the wildest excuse you have heard for not training employees.


I Cannot Tell A Lie

liarI have a very difficult time telling people a lie.  The truth is so much easier, not to mention a lot more productive.  In training development it does no one any good to lie about someone’s ability to perform their job.  The employee won’t magically be able to perform, and the company is no better off because I say the employee is trained.

So many times I have to tell people what they often don’t want to hear.  I am a reality check that is often not appreciated.  One of my roles as a consultant is to evaluate the training function (The Training Physical) and report back on the health of this vital function.  I list out what is working well, what things could be done differently, and point out any life threatening concerns.  The goal is to create action plans that keep in place their best practices, and shore up other areas and thus end up with a better running training function.

Something that I am often asked to do before I arrive for a site visit, is to overlook a particular area.  I will be told that they are aware of the issues, but would greatly appreciate me “forgetting” to look at it, or better yet, “support” it as the best thing that can be done.  When this happens, I will half joke that I don’t work that way, but if I did it would cost 3 times my normal rate.  Last week I was knocked off my feet by someone taking me up on this absurd offer.  When I said I was only joking, the deal fell completely apart because they needed to keep this issue a secret and unless I could comply it was a no go.

I once talked to my own doctor about how he handles patients that want a particular diagnosis.  He said he would be sued for malpractice if he lied or misled a diagnosis, and on top of that it was unethical.  Of course I asked, but do people ask you to do it anyhow? and he said all the time.

About a month ago I interviewed for a position I thought would be a perfect job, and then during the interview the body language started to sour.  We had been talking about current issues and how I would handle them, and when asked if I could look the other way on things and work on the rest of my job I said that would be difficult for me.  The next few topics were close to checking the same thing, and I could tell that my inability to tell people what they want to hear was shooting me in the foot.  Yet I remained truthful and to date have never heard back from them.  If that was the kind of environment I was going to work in, my career was going to be short anyway.

I watched an online video the other day about how to spot liars.  The topic started by suggesting that everyone lies, white lies as well as bold-faced lies.  It is in our nature to “massage the truth” to make others feel better.  I guess this is true, because I have avoided topics to spare feelings.  However, if you are going to pay me to do a job, you need to understand the truth about the situation.  There might actually be a time for a spare your feelings lie, but when it comes to business I can’t yet support a reason to lie to my employer.