Corporate Growth Without Training


Can a company continue to grow without any training function?  Can an organization be successful without any kind of learning and professional development strategy?  Good questions, that several companies are not taking the time to ask.

Start up companies especially, view the learning function as something that is built farther down the road.  “We have all this talent on board, and they already know how to do their jobs, so we don’t need training yet.”  Wrong!  Waiting until “you need training” is too late to prevent the problems that are now present and begging you to start training.

Training and/or learning is not a simple light switch, if anything it is more of a dimmer switch that takes time to crank up to full power.  Yet this is where I miss the mark most of the time.  I believe in preventing issues, and waiting to begin training, and then waiting for training to take hold is reactive and something that many companies are willing to deal with later.

So when is the time right to begin training if a company wants to wait?

A local bank just hired a trainer to begin building a training function, and this bank has around 1000 employees now.  Not only is this too late, the strategy is one that will not work even after 10 years.  The person hired is used to training workshops, not building infrastructure.  The bank is still growing and will always be ahead of this training manager.  Eventually the perception will be that training didn’t live up to expectations and will be shut down.

I have had the honor of judging the CLO Learning Elite Awards for the past 3 years, and have witnessed some outstanding learning strategies.  What they all have in common are very competent learning professionals and senior leadership that understands how training impacts the organization’s ability to succeed.  When leaders don’t understand the value of a learning organization, training is doomed to fail.  And if the wrong people are hired to lead training initiatives little impact results from their efforts.

Any senior leader that is not focusing on the human aspect of their company’s strengths, might as well ignore the financial results too.  Companies can grow without training, but they never live up to their potential.

Copyright Infringement IS Illegal

Just when I think that the training world understands a simple concept within the instructional design process, I discover another company that has made someone else’s copyright their own property.  Hello?  Copyright Infringement is illegal!

Let’s begin with the understanding that when you create a training program for your company, they own the copyright as their intellectual property.  You work for them and therefore do not own any part of the content.  This means that without the expressed written permission, no one but this company owns the intellectual property and can use it again.

While it is a little less of an issue that you can’t take a training vendor’s program and copy and paste it into your own design, somehow it becomes a little more of a murky issue when it is custom work created by and for a company.  Unless a company was dissolved without consideration of their intellectual property, it is taboo to reuse it again.  Most companies that are dissolved are purchased by another company, and it would be extremely rare that the attorneys failed to not include intellectual property in that buy out agreement.

And that is the case this week.  Company A created a series of custom courses for their employee training.  Company A later went out of business and was purchased by Company B.  Yet employees that worked for Company A are now working for Company C and magically the same training materials are being used.  The brief consideration of copyright was that it was okay since Company A was no longer in business.  Wrong!  Company B now owns the copyright and never gave Company C permission to use their intellectual content.

Multi-million dollar lawsuits can result in copyright infringement cases, and yet inexperienced training managers use these shortcuts in developing training programs because they don’t think they will be caught.  And ignorance of the law is not an excuse, so companies should be concerned if their training departments are plagiarizing and stealing content from other organizations.

Company C above also felt that since they only inserted the company’s name on the training materials, without any reference to claiming copyright that somehow it avoided copyright infringement.  Wrong again!  You don’t have to steal an entire series of modules like they did to be guilty of copyright infringement, a single exercise can be enough to lose that argument.  And gee, it would seem they did think about who owned the content at one point.

I’m in the process of trying to help Company C discover the error of their ways.  Associates of mine have suggested that I should go directly to Company B and turn them in.  I think there must be a middle ground.  The longer this goes on the worse it becomes.  What I think should happen is an immediate cease and desist of using the materials, and holding the training manager responsible, up to and including termination.

I’m open to suggestions here with your comments.

Building Excellence In A Day


thI4ELL3RJ“Welcome to our 1-day workshop that began magically transforming you the moment you passed through the doorway of this room!  By the end of today, we are going to dramatically change the way you have been managing your people and environment and Build Excellence into everything you do from now on!”

If this sounds better than possible, it is, but it never stops training and senior management from having the expectation of a one day miracle workshop.

Building Excellence could be the title of your next management development, sales, service or operations workshop.  One size will fit all when you inflate expectations.  Ignoring how adults learn, practice and are supported is secondary to a proper marketing scheme AND when training goes along with the farce, I want to drum them out of the training development profession.

Back in the day, I used to keep a rather audacious looking Magic Wand in a jar on my desk.  It was 2 feet long, bright pink, with glitter and feathers attached.  While it was a reminder to me that training is not magic, but rather a science, it also was a great conversation starter when people would demand a training solution that had no chance of working.  I would write down all the request ideas, grab the wand and wave it over the paper.  I would then declare it would work now since we applied magic to the solution.

People never want to hear that a one-day workshop has limitations.  They want to hear that if people are going to be away from work all day in training that great things will happen.  Training Managers that care more about keeping their jobs than performing well, go along with solutions that have little chance of making a difference.  They keep quiet to avoid rocking the boat.

I didn’t get into the training profession some 25 years ago to kill time.  I wanted everything I did to advance the learner forward and achieve business goals because the employee could perform better.  This often means that what is requested from management is not the best solution and needs to be revised.

It also means that training personnel need to have a clue what a learner needs to perform so they are equipped to challenge ineffective processes and offer alternative solutions.

If you are about to go off an attend a Building Excellence Whatever workshop, read the learning objectives, and when the day is over, complete the evaluation against your readiness to perform to those objectives.  And if you are not ready, say so!

Is It Time For A Chief Talent Officer?

One of the most frustrating parts of running a learning function can be when the focus is always on entry-level skills for new employees.  While this is perfectly acceptable if your organization is growing, it is not a good sign if you are always training replacement players.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the Chief Talent Officer role, and how Talent Acquisition and Talent Retention are blended with Talent Development.  The more I understand how these functions are separated from other HR functions like payroll, benefits, employee relations, performance management and compliance I see the value of the split focus between two dedicated leaders within the company.

Not every company has the two functions, so what happens is that the head of HR must try to focus on all of these areas at the same time, and that rarely happens.  If, and I say a very big if, each function as a very competent manager that works well with the other HR managers, there is essentially a working model without the fancy titles.  Yet most of the time, HR spends its time on the urgent areas mentioned above that do not fall into the talent model.

So learning is substandard, recruiting is a revolving door because retention is never a focus.  Maybe it is time for a better way to manage the people side of the business.  Maybe it is time for the Chief Talent Officer role.

What are your thoughts?