What is “Pointless Training”?

Pointless Training CoverI was speaking with a new publisher the other day who wanted to know more about the book I wrote on the consequences of inadequate training strategies call “Pointless Training”. He asked me, what makes training ever pointless?

Without even knowing what he said, he encapsulated the whole premise of why I wrote this book as a follow up to “The Training Physical”. The very idea that all training is worth something and never pointless is why I wrote this guide.  For idealists who believe all learning is valuable, even if it dissipates rapidly afterwards is why so much of the training that goes on in corporate America today is pointless.

Training needs to produce results, and not just space in your work day.  If you want a meeting to have donuts included, don’t call it training.  Although even a meeting should provide results, training is too expensive not to return on the investment.  Yet every day somewhere in America someone is designing, facilitating or attending a training event that will fall flat soon after it finishes.

My book guides the training manager through the typical training subjects that they are asked to address and lays out processes to avoid and where to insert processes to make sure learning sticks, performance changes and a return on investment is possible.  There is nothing else like it on the market and only $15 from the publisher or online bookstores.

Read more about both of my books at www.TheTrainingPhysical.com

Coaching The Training Manager

285671_D1L1_01Back when this guy began his training career some 30 years ago I was surrounded by highly skilled facilitators, instructional designers, organizational development consultants and training leaders.  I had some of the best mentors and coaches for the first 10 years of my career and it is why I know how to lead a learning function.

I still remember my first training manager, and to this day still the most skilled of everyone, ask me why I asked so many questions about being a trainer.  I really couldn’t answer her well, and she said “it is more than how to do the job with you but more of why certain things are done certain ways.”  I agreed and she said if I was serious she would train me in the craft of adult learning.

Unfortunately today too many of the people managing training really don’t know enough to perform their jobs well.  In fact they do more damage than they should because they have not been able to learn their craft.  Formal training to be a training professional is not the same as having a mentor/coach to guide you.  It is why every person I have ever managed got my time and attention in their development if this was a career they wanted to pursue.

I’ve also on occasion been hired to mentor/coach valued employees that companies want to retain, and realize they lack the skills and need support.  Maybe you have that kind of a person running your learning function.  You call them a training manager, but their results never return on the investment.  If you need an experienced learning professional, but want the person that has the job to become that person, let’s evaluate the possibilities.  If they have a Trainer’s Heart, I can train the skills they are missing.


Training Managers Should Step Up To Leadership


If you are a training manager that once upon a time began your career as a facilitator, but somehow still does a lot of the day to day training for your organization, its time you step up your game and become a leader.

While I’m the guy who coined the phrase “a trainer’s heart” as the core of any solid learning development professional, I never intended that to imply that the head of training should be a full time facilitator. Granted many of you have the title of Training Manager because it looks good on the resume, but what happens when someone wants to hire you to actually lead a training function? You have the title, but none of the implied experience.


I place the blame equally between HR Recruiting, the Hiring Manager, and the Applicant for any job where the title doesn’t match the job description.

Let’s begin by stating, any title with the word “manager” should include staff or projects to manage. If you are a sole contributor that takes directions from others and does not set your own agenda, consider a title without manager or director in the name.

At the same time, and this applies to HR Recruiting and the Hiring Manager, don’t expect Leadership and Vision from someone and title the role as a “Training Specialist” or “Training Officer” as the match will be difficult, and expectations will often be unmet.


However, my main point is that if you are the “Director of Training” and you have a staff, why on earth are you hosting webinars as the administrative function? Why are you always front and center delivering a majority of the training events? Why do you let the Senior Leadership Team tell you “it has to be you” and no one else is as qualified? Why are you avoiding your responsibilities of Leadership?

In my 30 years in training, I dearly loved my time in the trainer chair. I loved the live audience and I was told by some talented L&D people that I was really good at facilitation. However, as a leader, I knew that adults will learn best from a variety of talents, and that I serve others best by putting as many different people in the trainer chair as I could. While I never gave up facilitation completely, even when I was a Chief Learning Officer, I learned I could choose the programs I most wanted to train, and I often became Master Certified so I could be involved in my staff’s certification process.

Becoming a great leader involves letting go. I would highly encourage any Training Manager that is not learning to lead their function that they need to let go quickly and become the leader their organization needed the day they were hired.


Time for Training Managers to Learn Themselves


If I read one more blog, or post from a Training Manager encouraging the employees they serve to take this time at home to “learn more about YOUR job” I’m going to explode. What is that expression, “Physician, Heal Thyself?” Yes, I’m talking to at least half of the corporate training managers in America that have not learned how to do their own job any better since the day they got it but enjoy preaching to others the value of learning.

10 years ago I began noticing how poorly so many corporate training functions were run and wrote my first book “The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat & Cure Your Training Department as a way to introduce a quick audit process that can improve this vital function. Large corporations don’t need this because they never waste money hiring inexperienced talent passing themselves off as learning professionals and hold them accountable for results. Yet mid to small companies do hire the wrong people all the time.

When I was hired to conduct a Training Physical, I often found pages of issues, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. I also often found training leadership that had what I referred to as having a Trainer’s Heart, or someone that cared whether others learned. These were teachable people who with the right training, coaching and mentoring often turned into great training managers. They lacked direction and motivation but not heart.

5 years ago I wrote a follow up book called “Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies. I looked at common topics trained and how they are often done so poorly they become pointless and what changes are needed to make them purposeful. Senior Management especially gave the highest feedback to the content because it explained why their training was not working.

The biggest rub in my 30 + years in training development have been that my peer group has seen me as a threat to the status quo. Training evaluation has always been a sore topic with developers, facilitators and managers, but you know what, too bad! We all in this field need to learn to do our job well enough to pay back what it cost to run our departments at the very least. I can still remember years back when the industry tried to convince the world we were just a cost center, and to learn to live with cut backs when times were tough. That was BS then and it is still today.

So if you are a Training Manager, save the cheer leading right now and learn how to do your job better. Start with reading my two books. Audit your own department, and then make a plan for changes. Review each program you train and make adjustments to remove pointless activities and replace them with purposeful learning that yield results. Present your plan to management when you return to work and show how you remained purposeful and focused during this at home time. Now is the time to heal thyself!

285671_D1L1_01 Pointless Training Cover

Your Training Manager Needs Serious Help!


Your New Training Manager is not up to speed, lacks the basic competencies and is feeding you a line of bull that he knows what he is doing. Yet, with big initiatives on the table this year, you are allowing this person to blow everything up to avoid getting them help.

Maybe you were warned not to hire this guy, but you went ahead and did it anyhow. Okay, bad move, but it is done and now you need to fix the mistake and fast. Your pending merger requires a lot of new people to learn how to do things the way your company does it, but this guy still has yet to present a comprehensive plan on what needs to be included in the training. What are you waiting for?

You openly admit that the last merger was rough because people were not trained well, so you expect things to change because you hire a training officer. He has been on the job for a little over 5 months and his lack of experience is showing. These signs point to another disastrous merger that you could have prevented.


With less than 6 months to go, here is what I recommend:


  • Either Hire a Full Time Training Manager to build out the function and design a merger training plan or hire this guy a coach to build up his missing competencies quickly.


  • Demand a complete training plan for the new employees within 2 weeks


  • Set goals with dates that align with the merger goal posts


  • Demand a plan for the building of the corporate training function within 30 days.


  • Create a Training Budget with required resources to implement Training Plans


Hiring a trainer and promoting them to manager might have seemed like a noble venture, but strategically you shot yourself in the foot. You do have time to fix this hiring error, but things must happen soon or you are going to be paying dearly for months to come.

Get help before it is too late!  Contact Me at Jim@jkhopkinsconsulting.com

Fire Your Training Manager, Unless….

no training

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I go on a tear whenever I have been witnessing incompetence too often. Lately it seems that I am finding more and more training managers and directors that are doing harm to their companies while they continue to cash a paycheck every two weeks. Not only are these individuals blackening the eye of good training professionals, they are what gives the industry a bad reputation.

Yet the real fault lies with the senior management team that doesn’t hold their training department to any standards of the profession or even productivity. So I thought it might be helpful to senior management to spell out what their training managers ought to be doing.


Fire Your Training Manager, Unless…….

  • They can produce an annual training plan that maps to the strategic needs of the company and/or the divisions they are responsible to support.


  • They can demonstrate their progress in following the annual training plan


  • They can demonstrate proof of how they benefit the company. How do they save the company money? How do the help the company make money? How do they keep the company in compliance?


  • They can show how they have solved a performance issue in the past year that the company needed to improve.


  • They can show you how they have engaged Senior Management into the learning process, or at least attempted to obtain management’s participation.


If you are not monitoring these items, and yet payroll is generating a paycheck to this training leader, you are probably not getting what you are paying for. And because this training manager no doubt reports to someone on the senior management team, they are making you look incompetent too for your lack of engagement.

I saw one company last year that decided to forgo the annual company catered holiday party because they were cutting expenses and encourage a Potluck lunch instead. Yet they keep the incompetent training manager employed sending a mixed message to staff.   Knowing this training manager, I would terminate them, throw a big apology party for the staff, and then go hire a competent replacement. Then again, I am often accused of walking my talk.


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!