CEO Talks to Training Manager

When I meet a new CEO, I will ask them if their Training Function reports to them on how they benefit the company.  Since I work with small to mid-sized organization, it is very rare to hear a yes answer to this question.  So I usually suggest they personally go ask the training manager.

This might sound like a setup, but any training manager that has read my book, The Training Physical, knows that I encourage them to be ready for this impromptu conversation.  Even if they regularly report to senior management on what is happening, they should always be willing and able to update their CEO.

This past week I was following up with a CEO by email to see if he had been able to talk with his training manager.  Oh he had, and to say this guy was a little irritated would be an understatement.  He was appalled at the lack of connection to what was said and how it benefited the organization.  “She hasn’t a clue” began his feedback to me.  I stepped it back and asked what he had said, and it was one of the best non confrontational questions I had heard.  The training manager just simply didn’t know how to quantify what they were doing to make a connection.

I suggested we talk further about conducting a Training Physical for this department, because he is ready to close down the whole department as a loss.  Throwing the baby out with the bath water is never the best action, and I hope he considers his options.

So are you ready for your CEO to ask you how your training functions benefits the organization?  If not, is your resume current?

Why Training Managers Should Want an Audit

When I first set out to write The Training Physical, it was for the intent and purpose of improving the operations of small to mid-sized training functions.  The larger organization are in great health, but the others struggle with lack of resources, money, staff and focus.  So I wrote with the training manager in mind as my primary audience.

After the book was published, I learned that very few training managers wanted anything to do with a Training Physical.  Although they liked the ideas the book gave them they bristled at the thought of someone coming in to document what was not working in their department.  And yet, this is one of the best features of a Training Physical.

While the intent of a Training Physical is to document what is going well, and discover gaps that could improve the operation, it is also a time to document tasks that have no place in the training world.  Every time I have conducted a Training Physical the training manager has never held back on the stuff they wish was not on their to do list.  At the same time, they usually have a separate list that includes things they wish they could be doing.

The findings report will often support these two lists, and the result is a 3rd party is telling senior management that the odd stuff needs to go so that the right stuff can be accomplished.  Although for years the training manager has been trying to convince management of these issues, in a few pages, an external consultant can reverse trends quickly.

Use the Training Physical to document and celebrate what you are doing well, and use it to document another point of view that supports the direction you want to take your training function.  Audits are not always a bad thing.

Benefits of a Training Physical

Most of us that are into preventative health care, engage in an annual process know as the human physical.  Now while this experience is not one that we often look forward to, it does reduce anxiety when we find out we are in good shape.  It also gives us the chance to change certain behaviors that could cause us harm, and it often catches issues before they become major health impediments.

In the corporate environment, most departments are subject to annual reviews for fiscal and operational standards.  Yet I discovered that one department hardly ever is reviewed unless there is a problem.  That department is the training function, and if attached to human resources, will usually go without any external review.  Tons of money is spent in the HR/Training functions of any organization, and yet senior management rarely takes the time to evaluate the health of these departments before things really go south.

If you think about every major illness that can afflict a human being, would you tell yourself that there is no reaon to pre-screen for these illnesses before they are too far gone to cure?  No you would not.  Men and Women often go through annual blood tests, scans and other tests to detect illness in the early stages so there is a better chance to cure it.

I was asked this week what could be so bad in the training function that they would need an annual physical.  I simply said “anything small that can grow into something big.”

  • Take a trainer that doesn’t know how to train adults, but has trained a number of employees this past year, in a number of different workshops.  If these employees didn’t learn what they needed to, then money was wasted on the training materials, facilities, the participants and trainer salaries and you are no farther ahead in building skills.  Thousands of dollars are wasted every year because of unskilled facilitators.
  • Take a training manager that is reactive and doesn’t know how to plan.  Things appear busy, a lot of things are going on, but they are unable to quantify what results training brought to the company that year.  That salary was wasted, and again skill building progress was hampered because of an unskilled training manager.
  • Take a designer that creates a workshop, that is super interactive and engaging, but forgets to analysis the intended audience.  While the training is good, the audience already knows what is being taught.  Wasted time and dollars again.

A recent client of mine put is very succinctly to me.  “Jim, I want to know what is working in our training, what is not, and where to go from here.”  (Notice the similarity to what you might ask your Doctor prior to a physical?)  And the answers to his questions boil down to the benefits of conducting a Training Physical.

Don’t operate a training function without knowing if it is running on all cylinders, and don’t take the training manager’s word that everything is fine.  Either conduct an internal review yourself, or call me and we can set up a time to assess the condition of this department for you.

Jim Hopkins is the author of the process and book called “The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat and Cure Your Training Department.”

Why is this not a problem?

In the October edition of Talent Management magazine, there is an article called “Getting Ahead of the Silver Tsunami” and it talks about the wave of baby boomer retirements that began in late 2010.  Statistics are showing that 10,000 people will reach the age of 65 every day for the next two decades!

In companies that are paying attention to this tsunami, they are “fending off the massive knowledge exodus by bolstering succession strategies.”  Which of course they should be doing, as should even the companies that are not paying attention.

But since many companies fail to train basic management development skills, let along “bolster succession strategies”, I have to ask why this is not a problem to so many organizations?  Why are they not concerned about losing their talent, their knowledge sources to retirement?

In the world of training, we lean on Subject Matter Experts to train new people.  Whether they facilitate a workshop, mentor, or do on-the-job training, people who know how are the ones that train those that need to learn.  What am I missing if we are willing to allow so many people to retire without transferring their knowledge and abilities to someone else?

The author’s use of the word Tsunami is a perfect visual of the results once the wave hits.  A total wipe out of what is left, and a total rebuild after the destruction.  While Japan is rebuilding the structures that were removed from the Tsunami that hit their coast a few years back, they are also building reinforcement walls to minimize any future waves.  Hum, sounds like succession planning.

As a consultant I read articles like this one, that describes the current reality, the cause and effect of doing something or not, and then I wonder what motivates so many to shake their heads and do nothing.  I guess if you have zero baby boomers working for you, there is no wave coming.  But what do you think is going on for the other companies that have baby boomer employees and still don’t see the need to act?

CEO Learns About Human Resources

I am helping a CEO learn what Human Resources should be providing his company.  Like many CEOs, he is well versed in the financial and operational sides of the business, but the HR world is a little mysterious.  Yet this CEO realized that not knowing what HR should be doing has left him to wonder if they are doing what he needs for the company to be successful.

This particular company doesn’t have a training function, and HR has no desire to add one to their list of responsibilities.  “If they want training some other senior leader needs to take it on” was the response I got when I asked why training was absent.  So I went to the CEO to discover who would be the best champion for the building of a training function.  He said, “Human Resources.”

There are days I just want to scream, but this time I simply replied, “they are not interested in taking on the responsibility and suggested that if the company wants training some other senior leader should be responsible.”  I then suggested we talk on the phone for 15 minutes.

While this CEO claimed not to really understand the HR function, he knows so much more than he realized.  Yet in fairness, he was not holding HR responsible for much.  As we build his confidence, I am noticing that he is getting more involved in the workings of his HR.  He noticed that the recruiting process seemed long.  He noticed that entry-level jobs don’t retain employees and they were leaving for other companies.  He noticed that HR spent a lot of time dealing with performance problems.  This guy is a quick study!

Now while training can prevent a lot of issues, he realized that there was more to the problem then just the absence of training.  He has a very competent HR Director, but she was feeling under appreciated.  This is why she had no desire to take on additional responsibilities.  In time this will change, and in no small part because this CEO learned what Human Resources was all about.