Our “Wing-It” Training Manager


If there is one thing a real trainer hates to hear it’s, “Wing It”. To a trainer, this means little to no time to prepare, your best will have to do, but all hell will break out if you fail.

As a Training Manager, I never wanted my team to have to wing anything, but sometimes things pop up and we do have to pull things together at the last minute and pray it all works. Real professionals with the right skill sets and competencies can make it happen. Brand new learning professionals without prior experience to draw on will struggle and fall short in the end.

So tell me if you see any reason to have to wing it on any project where you have enough time to prepare? When the entire company knows about an upcoming acquisition of another company 10 months in advance, why are you operating without a training plan?

The new training manager was an excellent trainer at his last job, but lacks strategic experience, and is letting the COO decide when training should happen. Adult Learning Principles tell us that we learn best when we can immediately apply our new skills, so why would you train all the new people 6 months before they use a new system?

From my discussions, “training just needs to happen, it doesn’t matter when.” Even the training manager gave me a blank stare, when I asked them what the learning objectives for each role are, so I asked to see the training plan. A written training plan does not exist. So it is apparent they plan to “Wing-It” on purpose.

The CEO loves to give speeches about the future, and yet the poor guy is clueless as to how dysfunctional his teams are that will impact this acquisition. I’d love a board member to ask him for a copy of all the strategic plans for this acquisition. I’d also love to be a fly on the wall when he is unable to produce any plan for any process.

Will the acquisition go on as planned? Sure it will, because there is no plan! Will employees struggle and suffer? Yes they will, but management does not care, so why do I?



You Saved Money and Hired a Dud!

md.pngYou spent countless hours drafting a job posting with everything a human could possibly do in the role you need to fill, and listed every kind of experience known to man; all in the hopes of finding the perfect match of applicant to opportunity. You go several rounds with your recruiting staff about how unrealistic your search has become, but you convince them that this is the person they need to find.

Against all odds they find you someone that can fill your wish list; you interview them, and find that this perfect person expects to be compensated. Yes, you are the person that emphatically said you need all these skills and experience and recruiting found the perfect fit. Now you decide to go with someone who is younger (less experience) and without a proven track record but are so excited about the job title. The bonus is that they will accept the job for half the amount you would need to pay the perfect fit.

You hire them, they appear to be working and 90-days later you check in. You find they have accomplished next to nothing. So much for a self-starter! But is this the problem or do they even have a clue what they need to be doing. Bingo! Remember how you passed on experience to save money? Now you realize why this person was cheaper. You saved money and hired a Dud! Maybe they have potential, but until that potential is realized you still are paying a dud to do very little each month.

As an experienced learning development professional, I look for roles that are challenging and often include the building of a learning function from scratch.  90-days ago a bank wanted to build a new learning function and hired a facilitator (trainer) to build it.  In the mean time they announced an acquisition of another bank to be completed in a few months.  What do you think this training manager has done in 3 months?  Do you hear the crickets?

This happens a lot to us old farts that have the brains and experience to do the job, but employers prefer to hire duds to save money. While this plan rarely works if ever, I do wish they would realize that the saying “you get what you pay for” is usually true!


Is Your Bank Ready for a Merger?


Your bank has just announced that it is being acquired by another bank, and you wonder if this is going to be a smooth transition, or an experience in financial services hell. Maybe your bank just announced they are acquiring another bank and taking over the operation and you wonder if it will be better or worse than the last time they acquired a bank.

You see, when two banks merge they affect the lives of employees and customers on both sides of the transaction. Yet unless it is a major acquisition, very little attention is given to the human elements of a transaction. The big banks seem to realize the impact more so they do a better job of transitioning.

In my corporate life, I experienced a lot of bank mergers. Only twice was I working for the acquiring bank, while the rest of those experiences were from the side closing down. When your side is being acquired, you are at the mercy of the buyer and how well they want this merger to go. If they are focused as a management team on making the experience easy for employees and customers then everyone will get through this with a minimum of heartache. But if they have their head in the clouds, assuming someone on the team is watching the ball, this is going to be a cluster of mistakes.

As I narrow down the focus of who is in charge of making a merger successful, you may think I’m now done because I just made the senior management team the star players. But actually, there are two specific individuals that are really the focus; The HR Director and the Training Director. You may have different titles, but you understand the two people I am talking about.

The HR Director of the acquiring bank must reassure all the new folks of their chances of employment, and the roles they are playing as soon as possible, otherwise people you wanted to keep will leave for more stable environments. And of course the folks you wanted to lay off will stay put. Salaries, Benefits, and basically all new employee information need to be discussed before the merger is final so people know where they stand. I realize that this is touchy, but buying future loyalty begins early.

The Training Director is the make it or break it person in a bank merger. This person, given the bank’s goals for this merger, should be able to draft a complete training plan within a week. How many branches are we keeping? Which departments are we merging and which ones will go away on merger day? How many managers need to learn our processes? How many total employees need to go through introductory orientation training? How will we train culture? What was their history on all compliance training and do we need to do catch up or just integrate into our schedule?

The Training Director should be able to present this plan to the senior management team in writing after a week without being asked. Yes you read that correctly. If your training director needs to be asked to create a training plan after a merger has been announced, then you do not have the right person in charge.


Yesterday you made your grand announcement to the world. Today it is time to begin the work if you want a successful outcome! If you need help, let me know.

Only Old Dogs Need Training


Have you noticed that your company doesn’t provide a lot of skills training anymore? It seems that most (not all) companies would rather hire a new external person over training from within for openings. This change in focus comes for a variety of reasons, but these are my favorite two:


First, HR Directors find recruitment the easiest HR discipline and go out of their way to focus time and resources on keeping the recruitment department busy. By not training existing employees to assume promotions, they keep recruitment necessary and eliminate the need for HR to spend resources training employees.   If we don’t train managers in communication skills, we create hostile work environments that force more resignations, thus a need for recruitment again.

Let’s see, if we only know how to terminate employees, or ignore problems in the workplace by skipping employee relation challenges, we again encourage a need for continual recruitment. If we promote people that haven’t managed and let them run amok, we can create more turnovers, and a need for recruitment to keep busy.

If we fail to manage wage and hour laws, benefits, and fair compensation, we once again design resignations into our daily activities. If we allow people, whether management or peers to harass each other without corrective actions, we can get a lot of employees to quit. The more that quit, the more we need recruitment.

If HR Directors focused equally on all HR disciplines there would be better retention, better work environments, happier employees, and unless you are growing, less need for recruitment.  But that also means that Senior Management needs to hold HR to the flame in doing their job.  Now how often does that happen?


Second, is the perception that only old dogs want training and that the X & Y generations find answers on their own. Who needs a training function if all you need is YouTube?

As long as you don’t care where your employees get their answers, and Fred Foot-In-Mouth does management communications on his YouTube channel on any subject is okay with you, yeah, why do you need training?

But if you do want things done a specific way, and you do want your employees to communicate with each other in a respectful way, then you need to establish guidelines and appropriate training. You need to establish required skill competencies, and you need to set requirements based on roles and responsibilities.

If your company is not training employees, it is a sign of a failing organization. Not a single organization has been successful without a robust learning function. And if you have a training function, but the leader is not doing much, maybe it is time to hire one of those old dogs that knows how to run a training function that produces results. Old Dog Training Managers know how to train Old Dogs, Adult Dogs and Puppies. Everyone needs to be a continual learner, from the CEO down.  Go find yourself an Old Dog – Arf!

Limited Training Experience Can Be Costly


So you hired someone with limited training experience because you liked their personality, smile and charm, but they have only worked for one company in their training career thus far. You thought hiring someone with your industry experience was a plus, but you were not thinking about the built-in flaw that is a part of that limited experience.

If you are being tasked with setting up a training function from scratch, initially creating plans and content all by yourself, you are going to naturally yield to what is most familiar as a way to hit the ground running. Most training professionals have a limited understanding of copy write laws and protection, and those that hire them have even less awareness of the need to avoid repurposing content.

But let’s say you hired someone from your competition (same industry) to build your training function, and they use anything from their past employer to create plans and content for your company, without expressed written permission, they have violated copy write protections and are subject to being sued. But let’s face it, your new training officer is not where the money is, so they tie you and the company into that lawsuit and those dollars can now be huge!

Big enough that petty cash won’t cover this lawsuit and the Board of Directors will learn of it because of the monetary amounts that need board approval for payment. Guess who all lose their job when it goes this far?  Not only will the charming training officer be out of work but you as the dimwitted hiring manager will be unemployed too!

Bottom line you hired Limited Training Experience because you wanted to save salary dollars over hiring someone that has a diverse background and knows the responsibilities that come with the job. Because you are like most executives that believe any idiot can manage training, you have no idea the risks and don’t bother to monitor activities or question where the content for your training programs was derived.

You saved $40K in salary hiring a pretty face with potential, and paid a million dollars to their former employer for Copy Write Infringement. You don’t have to be a banker to know that was not a good investment.

Where Did All the Value Go?


How can you lead a training function for 15 years, and not show the value to continue this function? Can you even imagine the utter disaster a training department would have to be in for management to eliminate the head of training after 15 years on the job with most of the staff included? I’d want to hang my head in shame if this ever happened to me.

Thankfully it never did, because I insisted that everything we did have an outcome that demonstrated our value. I passed on the party planner role for the company, and wouldn’t have my staff playing the roles of caterer or diplomatic hosts and tour guides. We were always about building skills that made a return on the investment.

This company is a large financial institution that never saw the need to evaluate their training function and the director always kept me at arm’s length from management when it came to The Training Physical. Well, duh, now I know why!

So this guy is out of work, in this late 50’s with a track record that screams never put him in charge of training again. Time for a new career, with less at stake my friend.

Now what boggles my mind even more is that senior management has not changed much in quite some time. I figured that there had to have been some new people that added accountability to the company, and so I was eager to see who had been hired at that level in the past few years and didn’t see anyone that fit that description. That would have at least explained how 15 years seemingly went by without a word until recently. So where did all the value go?

My guess is the bottom line numbers are getting worse or not improving much and it was time to eliminate expenses. First thing to go is usually training because although we know it serves a purpose it is hard to identify how much it saves or earns the company, so hack, it gets removed.

I feel for this guy trying to find work at his age because, hello, age discrimination is alive and well. However, I am not upset that this company finally woke up and took the first steps toward fixing their training function!


Is Your Company’s Training Lousy?


If the training at your company is lousy at best, blame the CEO. The CEO is responsible for running a well-tuned engine, and if your employee training is subpar, then so are the skills of your employees. If the employees are not fully skilled they are producing less, and unable to care for your customers as well as they should. And dare I say, those wonderful company values are not being met either.

Hello CEO! Why are you taking such a lack of interest in the development of your team members? When was the last time you personally evaluated the training at your company? When was the last time you reviewed the annual training plan and objectives?

Sir Richard Branson, of the Virgin Group of 60+ companies, said that each company focuses on the employee. If the employee is happy, then everything else is easier to manage. Southwest Airlines focuses on the employee first too, and they are successful and loved by many passengers. But most companies don’t focus enough energy on employees and they suffer for it.

Too many training departments are led by managers that are weak in learning development, while some are outright incompetent. If you ask the CEO how effective training is, they have nothing tangible to comment about, or have no clue how to answer. It really is a shame.

Even adults that are fully competent are always looking to learn new things that will help them perform their duties. Yet when training is weak, these employees look to other companies when opportunities arise. You then lose a qualified employee, lose time recruiting a replacement, and you lose even more time training the new person. Wow, that was a waste of time, energy and money.

So why do I and many others in the Learning Development space continue to preach this same sermon? We hope to get through to the many out there that there is a better way. If even one of you reads this and calls for help, I have made progress.