Creating a Pointless Training Function

Pointless Training Cover

If you have the choice of not having a corporate training function and setting up a Pointless training function, may I suggest you take a big pass on employee development and minimize the damage to your organization? Let me repeat that again. If you are going to implement pointless solutions you will do more damage than skipping it all together.

I have an organization sitting in my back yard that announced in January that they would be establishing a corporate training function. Since I knew whose lap this was dropped into, I reached out with a free copy of both of my books and an offer to help. I received a nice thank you and never heard back again. This week I noticed a job posting and the title (Corporate Training Officer) gave away what I knew I would be reading in the description (one person, does everything, failure guaranteed).

Now contrary to popular opinion, not every village idiot can run a training department. And while the smaller the department the more cross functional abilities are needed by the team, listing out everything a training department should do under one person is just plain ignorant. While they will find someone who can do everything on the list, nobody can do everything at the same time! This means a lot more of these tasks will not get done over the few that can get done. This kind of job description and organizational setup will not attract experienced learning professionals because they are doomed to fail under unrealistic expectations. They will read this description and take a pass.


Let’s take a different perspective so you can see the insanity and open a restaurant. The owner wants to hire a manager and the job description seeks people who should be able to:

  • Setup the dining room, kitchen and exterior design.
  • They should be able to work with all the vendors that supply materials and labor.
  • They should also establish a menu, source food vendors, supplies, equipment and food.
  • They should be able to prep all menu items, plate and serve.
  • Don’t forget administrative functions like reservations, seating, cash register, and accounting.
  • They should have a complete working knowledge of IT since everything we do is on our own private servers.
  • They should be outgoing and converse with customers, and do all the marketing, promotions and community involvement.

Just like a restaurant, a training function has a lot going on all at the same time. So why on earth would you seek to hire one person and expect everything to get done?

Mark my words. This company will find a “trainer” who wants to be a “manager.” They will not have enough practical let alone strategic experience to lean on for this role. After a year they will have designed a couple of programs and delivered a few workshops. Management will be stunned that all 90 items on their list were not accomplished and seek to run this individual out of the company and hire another employee. This too shall fail because no one will stand up in the first place and tell management the truth. The truth being that this function requires several employees and a lot more money than anyone has budgeted.

Management is blowing this initiative big time. Yet the only people that will lose their job because the project flops are the ones that accepted the job of Corporate Training Officer. If my friend’s career was tied into the success of the training function, she would be setting this whole thing up differently. But what do I know?



Snake Oil Salesmen Dressed as Trainers


Nothing gets under my skin faster than the trainer that promises the world once participants complete their one day miracle workshop. Well, except maybe the idiot manager that writes a check for this workshop and actually believes the sales pitch.

Training should always be about outcomes. You must be able to answer the question of “What will the participant be able to do after the training ends” or you have no idea or assurances of what the training will accomplish.

My favorite oversold workshop is management training in a day. Lordy, there is no way to prepare people to manage a team of people in a single day, yet there is no shortage of workshops and gullible people paying money to attend. You may walk away with an “understanding” (a low level objective) but you will never be capable of communicating well after a day of lecture.

I once was losing the argument of hiring a trainer that was over promising on a workshop for her team that she desperately felt would help her group. I had looked at the materials, activities and talked with the trainer pitching the program and saw nothing that assured me learning was going to occur. I began by asking the trainer for a money back guarantee and was laughed at. I then gathered up a jar and counted out $5000 in play money and put it in the jar. This represented the cost of the one day workshop that was purchased.

A day after the training I approached the manager and asked how she felt the workshop went and did it meet the stated expectations. She said it was a good seminar, but she was a bit underwhelmed. I asked her if the $5000 fee was worth it, and she said it should have been a maximum of $4000. So I opened the jar and counted out $1000 and handed it to her and asked her to go shred it. In other words, I wanted her to feel the pain of wasting $1000.

We went through this same drill 30 days later and she shredded another $1000. So inside a month it was clear that ROI was not good. But since learning is supposed to stick longer than a month I approached her with my jar 60 days later. She had been dealing with fallout from things that shouldn’t have happened if skills had been learned. She took by jar and dumped the entire $3000 into the shredder and said, “Next time I will listen to you.” We then created a learning program that helped her team.

As training professionals you will find that not everyone in our field is as professional as they should be and are focused on making money, not on learners learning. I do recommend that you keep a little black book of these folks and make it public for your management team to see. Block in advance the outsiders that will do harm to your employees, financials and your real efforts to improve employee performance.