What Skills Need Developed?

285671_D1L1_01  If you want a single question that can assess the healthiness of your training function, ask Senior Management “What Skills Need to be Developed in their Employees?” If they can answer with a list of things then management is being kept informed and is aware of skill deficiencies. If they cannot answer, or give broad answers like leadership, compliance or operations, then they are trying to fake it.

My next favorite question is, “How do employees learn?” Or you could ask, “How do you train employees?” Either question will get to the root of how much on the job training, or show and tell training is trying to replace more formal methods that have better sticking power.

But in every type of training, you can do it so poorly that it is a waste of time and money. In my latest book, “Pointless Training” I talk about how any form of training can be implemented poorly and thus yield weak results.

CLASSROOM: Have you ever been in a workshop where the instructor is a talking machine that never stops? They feel they are the source of all information and so all the participants need to do is be quiet and listen.

WEBINAR: While it could be the same talking instructor who runs off at the mouth for the whole hour, it could be that there is also no way for the participants to interact, ask questions, or add value. It could be the wrong instructor and/or platform for training.

ELEARNING: Good old self-paced. Some are good and are interactive, but if you need to include no doze or extra caffeine to participate then maybe not. Or is it all reading with a quiz?

ON-THE-JOB: The cheapest and least reliable. No consistency unless there are deliverables, demonstrations, practice and accountability for objectives.

JOB AIDES: My favorite cheap training. Solves everything and solves nothing, as it all depends on the quality of the design and depth of content.

READING: If you have a Policy & Procedures Manual and assign it as reading, and then hold people accountable to everything, you are a cruel person. Reading opens up a topic as an introduction or is a resource after training.

CONFERENCES: A bunch of seminars, with nuggets of information, which generally are lost and forgotten days after the event. Unless you have accountability and deliverables built in for after the event, you just spent a bunch of money for nothing. But they had fun!


These two areas of training must be led in the right direction or your training function is unhealthy. Management must be part of the learning process and every learning event must be implemented correctly or things do not work for the common good.


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.

Do You Train Consequences?

untitled10In the training world we spend countless hours designing and delivering training solutions that build competencies in order to achieve levels of results. If we want managers to communicate better we train the necessary skills that enable managers to converse with people so the message is delivered, and is respectful of others.

Yet any learning development professional that has been in the game for a while will admit, selling a training initiative is never a slam dunk. You may have the perfectly designed solution that will pop out the right results and it still falls on deaf ears when getting an agreement to go forward. This is why many of us have learned that the consequences of NOT training should always be part of the communication.



“What happens if we train our employees and then they leave?”


“What happens if we don’t train our employees and they stay?”


I am sure some trainer came up with this quote as a way to make a point, as I really doubt there is a single CEO or CFO that has ever had this conversation. It does however remind us that not training skills that produce company expectations will produce consequences.

For decades now most of today’s managers have gone without what I call basic communication skills. Very few managers take the time to evaluate the consequences of the words they choose to speak or write and how they will be taken. In a single email, you can instantly kill a good relationship with a fellow employee or staff member that cannot be repaired. Because you spoke unprofessionally, or accused wrongfully, irreparable damage can be afflicted on a fellow human being just because you decided to be a pompous ass at that moment.

I used to train a management development program that began every skill development showing a video demonstration for the wrong way to communicate that topic. I spent more time debriefing the consequences of “the wrong way” to drill in the impact than I did debriefing why the preferred way was better. I found that people understood the right way once they understood why the wrong way didn’t work.

I carried out this process when I managed large groups of people. When I observed inappropriate behavior, or within a string of email noticed a bad choice of words or impression conveyed to another employee, I called out not only what I observed, but the potential consequences of their actions. My staff could expect me to get involved if I saw mistreatment.

At the same time my managers knew I would not accept their bad day being redirected to me. I let them know the consequences of their actions. I’ll never forget one manager who felt it appropriate to misinterpret an email I sent her asking for help with a member of her team that was not doing their job, thus having an impact on me doing my job. She lit me up like a candle in an email, taking “offense” at my choice of words.

Up to this point we had a solid relationship, so I responded that she had interpreted my request for help incorrectly, and that I had not done what she was accusing me of doing. Her reply consisted of a change of tone, immediate help, but absent an apology! No way was she ever going to admit fault and I better get used to it. Two months later I resigned and told her why I was leaving. The consequence of her lack of communication skills was made evident in losing a good employee and keeping a bad one. I’ll never forget the look on her face.  (It still wasn’t her fault)

Bottom line, train the skills to enable the behaviors you seek and need. Yet hold managers accountable, even if they are sitting in the C Suite.

Opening a Pointless Training Department


Everyone was so excited 3 months ago when the announcement was made by senior management that they were going to open a training department. The company has been growing and it will continue to grow and the decision was made that training should be a focus going forward.

So what has happened in the past 3 months?

  • Maybe they hired someone that was a facilitator (trainer) and made them a manager.
  • Maybe they have posted a job and are looking for a training manager
  • Maybe they are knee deep in strategizing the purpose and goals of the training function before the seek to find a manager
  • Maybe they delegated this to an overtasked manager or HR person, neither of which knows much about the learning function, and there it sits.

Sadly, only one of these options would be a good use of the past 90 days, that being setting strategy and goals. Yet for a majority of companies that come up with the realization they need a training function, one of the other options is probably where this project is sitting.


In my first book, The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat and Cure your Training Department, I go into some detail on how to fix a poorly run training function. Yet for readers without a training function, it is also a clear roadmap as to how to setup a function that will return on investment.

I stress that the company should have in writing a clear sense of purpose for training. Why do you want it? What is the purpose? What are the goals in 6 months and the first year? Knowing the answers prepare you to interview people that can make it happen. Maybe a current trainer could be hired to manage the function, but if they can’t tell you how they will address these goals or push back on incorrect perceptions then they are not ready.


In my second book, Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies, I begin by saying that no company sets out to create Pointless Training programs or a Pointless Training Department, ON PURPOSE. Yet it happens all the time because the wrong strategies are implemented.

If you have delegated the implantation of a new training department to the wrong person, they will hire the wrong people to manage it. Often it is assumed that the HR function should be able to house a training department, sadly many HR Managers never studied Adult Learning Principles and are clueless to the components of a functional training department.


So what do you do if you have been the lucky one assigned the roll out of a new training department? Simply, get help from someone who has done it before successfully. Consultants can be your best resource, and you pay only for the work you contract.

  • Maybe you need help setting strategy and the consultant facilitates those conversations.
  • Maybe you need help designing a first year training plan and goals.
  • Maybe you need help interviewing finalists that say they can implement your plans, and you need someone to see through the jargon into whether a skill set exists.


So if a year from now you would like the employees of your organization to be cheering their new training department versus saying that our training is pointless, build it correctly in the first place. It is so much easier than to fix it later.  www.TheTrainingPhysical.com


Stop The Incompetence in HR!


When is your management going to wake up and realize that their Human Resources function is run by incompetent staff? What will you do as the head of HR when that day comes?

And even though you have skated by for years running your little HR department without anyone in management saying anything negative about how you deliver services, there will come a time when someone new joins your company and points out the obvious to everyone. You can either wait until that day comes and resign in disgrace, or you can get your act together and learn your dam job!

I have a particular bent against incompetency being allowed in performance, which I chalk up to 30 years in the performance improvement field. Yet when it comes to HR, it brings me to a boil instantly when I see employees suffer because the dip stick running HR has no clue what they are doing, but they are so full of themselves they are above the need to improve.

The main reason we have so many incompetent HR leaders running smaller organizations is that the management team wants an administrative function, so they hire people that “have been in HR for years” whether they have anything to show (competencies) or not. Have you been an HR Generalist? Great you can now become an HR Manager. Uh, wait a minute?


How Do You Stop The Incompetence?

First thing to do is recognize as a senior manager, especially if the HR function reports to you, that you should know what an HR Manager should be doing. Are they reactive or proactive a majority of the time? Do they spend too long recruiting, and you still end up with mismatched people and roles? Do they have goals? Do they need outside consultants, attorneys and groups to support their every decision? Do they ever take a stand against a management’s decision and push the norm?

Second is to decide if you replace this person, or get them on an aggressive developmental path with a live coach for independent feedback. And while certifications are nice, they really only mean they can retain information long enough to pass an exam. Spend this money are your top notch people.

Third is to act today and not put this off for months, because your entire people operation suffers when the HR leader is a dud.


The Power of Auditing the HR Function

While many organizations audit the compliance and operational areas of HR, many forget to audit the people. When I audit HR or Training, I spend the bulk of my time assessing how the HR function actually functions. Where is the time and energy spent? Do they understand their role, responsibilities and where they add value? And just because they understand it, I want to see how they are doing it.

I’ve seen HR Managers that brag about having a seat at the table with Senior Management. When I’ve observed them in these meetings, honestly, their lack of participation or value would not be missed. And that is everyone’s fault.

Because even a high tech company runs on the humans working for them, every company in America would be in better shape if their HR functions did their jobs properly. And for those companies with Cracker-Jack HR Leadership, you already know this is true. Your people are engaged. Your Management is engaged. You are achieving goals, growing and your end results improve year after year.

But for those of you with HR duds leading the functions, you will continue to struggle. Replace with more competent leadership and you will see a rapid change. A note to management, you may find yourself challenged to work differently with better HR. Yet, would that be so bad?

Stop Trying to Fix Everything with Training

no training

For most of you reading, you have heard others before throw caution at trying to use training as a solution to everything performance challenge. Statistically, training can only fix about 50% of performance challenges, because it only works when a skill is missing, or so underused that it is stale and needs to be refreshed.


Yet just because training is not an option for your current performance challenge doesn’t mean you ignore the poor performance.


I’d like you to ponder that last thought for a second, because most of the time we either try to slap training on a broken employee or we simply ignore the problem hoping it will go away. Both leave us with a performance challenge that only gets worse overtime.

Think about areas in your organization that probably would lead you to seeking an alternative solution to training:

  • Unethical and/or morally corrupt Senior Management
  • Unethical and/or morally corrupt Board of Directors
  • Fraud, Lying, Spin
  • Mismanagement of Assets
  • Embezzlement
  • Continual Harassment
  • Lying to Auditors and/or Regulators
  • Discrimination in Hiring Practices
  • Discrimination in Promotions, Pay & Benefits

The list goes on, and in many cases when an organization is facing any one of these issues, they are often facing many at the same time. You see what they have in common is the need for Power & Control. Fighting these issues requires a more direct approach. And that approach is Termination of Employment.

Ridding the organization of corrupt people requires surgery to remove the cancer. No amount of treatment will cure the kind of depravity that allows an employee to misbehave in these ways. And before my HR friends start jumping down my throat for such a harsh approach, let me remind them that training rarely can change character traits permanently.

So the next time someone wants you to have Senior Management go through an Ethics Workshop, suggest they talk with HR & an Employment Law Attorney about termination of employment as the solution. And should the Board of Directors be the problem, it is time to get your regulators involved to remove them.