Getting Along Without Training

It occurred to me recently that I have spent the past 24 years in the corporate learning function, and there are days like yesterday that really make me wonder why.  Speaking to a Human Resource Manager for a bank with about 4000 employees and no corporate training function, AT ALL, I stepped right in it when I asked why?

The answer was another question to me.  “Why do we need one?  Everyone learns what they need from each other.  When it comes time to promote we hire from the outside most of the time because we get hundreds of applicants that come with experience.”

Now while I would normally launch into a discussion about the value of consistent learning processes, and engaging people with different experience levels I didn’t say anything.  I was at a loss for words.  Either that or I finally realized a lost cause when I heard it and just shut up and moved on.  There was no turning around this mindset, and honestly these folks will learn best by experiencing failure someday.  Failure I might add, on a grand scale!

Now while the stockholder will realize short-term gains through the control of expenses not being spent on learning development, their long-term investment is at risk.  Customers are the ones that are getting the substandard experience, but if they don’t mind who am I to argue with them?  Employees are working there for paychecks, not careers.  So eventually they will move on to another bank, probably one with a training function since they want to grow and get promoted.

Most banks don’t operate this way, thank goodness!  I personally only bank with ones that have robust learning environments, that constantly engage employees to be better skilled.  I know the value that learning brings to the employee and thus to my experience as a customer.

You can “get along without training”, but that is all you can do.  You can’t thrive, grow, and become all your customer needs.  But if you are not into what is best for your employees and customers, then I guess you don’t need to worry about training either.

What’s Wrong with your Training Function?

I’m often asked what’s wrong with our training function?  To which I often reply, “what makes you think something is wrong?”  You see it is important to begin with what is bringing up the concern and start there when you being to evaluate all the possible issue that are causing pain.

Training by definition is supposed to be supporting and developing the learning needs of an organization’s people.  The people need to perform certain duties and functions well in order for the company to also do well.  And while it is never a single issue that causes poor performance in a training function, there are two that come to the surface in most cases.

The first is the lack of competencies in adult learning within the ranks of the training department personnel.  Too often we promote a trainer into the role of manager, and stand back and watch.  They either make it work, or flounder for months and years before they are let go.  And yet, what happens when we have trainers, designers, consultants and managers all with minimal skills creating training?  We have a lot of busy work with little productivity.

Take a bank I’m watching right now that is about to acquire through a merger a similar size bank.  They are in the process of “training” the new employees.  They have created five new 1-day workshops for managers, supervisors, bankers and tellers.  Yet not a single one of these workshops were created (designed) with the intended audience in mind.  So time is being spent training people in skills they already have!  And worse, not training skills that they will need on day one of the merger.  This has been allowed because the training manager is incompetent.  He lacks the skills to design a workshop, and yet is being paid to waste a lot of time and resources moving the ball, uh, in place.

Yet, the second cause I run into more often than not is that the management team is “assuming” that the folks they have in training are competent.  They allow this poor performance to continue and they pay these people to under perform their jobs.

In the same example above, the bank training manager reports to someone who doesn’t understand the competencies their training department needs, and so they are oblivious to the problem.  They are also not taking the time to read any of the workshop descriptions and questioning the topics and learning objectives.  Thus, they are also part of the problem.  But let’s add the head of retail banking to the list.  He too is not reading the course descriptions for the people that will report to him on day one, and need to be able to perform their job.  And while we are adding to the list, the CEO is expecting a smooth transition, and his lack of involvement will challenge the smooth transition.

It is time that management gets involved with the outcomes of the training department.  If you want to talk about what is bothering you about your training department, email me at and let’s set up a time to talk.