How do I tell one of my favorite HR Directors that she is headed in the wrong direction for building a learning function for the third straight time? She has tried this approach at the past two companies she has run HR for and failed big time in achieving the goal. And NO, my friend, the third time doesn’t mean a charmed success this time.
The fact that she is headstrong, tough, and holds management to the rules of the road is the main reasons she is one of my favorites. However, it is for the same reason that she feels her approach to building a learning function is correct and cannot see any other approach as better.
She likes to build a training function by hiring an instructional designer, that will create manuals and train frontline employees first. This is her entire strategic plan in a single sentence that will take 2-3 years to fulfill a project completion. Not exactly how you demonstrate a real ROI for the client, but a sure fire way to demonstrate that training is a low hanging fruit not worthy of any further advancement. Hence, when she tries to build off this foundation, the client is resistant because they have not been prepped to want more.
I’ve given her copies of both of my books (www.thetrainingphysical.com) to help her design a full strategy, and of course have offered to consult with her. No she is perfectly fine with her approach even though everything else she builds in HR is top notch. She is not a trainer, and does not have my catch phrase a “trainer’s heart” so she is unable to empathize with the learner. While she has no intention of harming her company and the employees from growing, she is non the less doing just that.
If history is any mirror, she is on her way to building a support system for another failed company. Imagine leading the HR function in 3 companies that fail. And they all failed because of human interactions and management; key areas she was responsible for keeping healthy.
While I’m semi-retired from the HR and Training worlds now, about to launch a new career in the travel industry, I stand ready to help my friend from failing again. Too bad I have a better chance of winning millions at Lotto than getting her ego to ask for help.
When an adult learner needs to learn a skill or acquire information, there is very little that can be done to squash that enthusiasm. Which is why training professionals are tasked with having training available and specific enough for their employee’s immediate needs.
Having recently purchased a travel franchise, I am more than eager to learn everything I need to know to open my doors in just a couple more weeks. And while the actual classroom training is the last task prior to getting the green light to open the doors, we are currently going through some online training to prepare for the hands on experiences in the classroom training environment.
I was given access to the required eLearning courses last week, and in very short order I devoured the content, and took to see what else I could enroll in right now. I found the course catalog, and in some ways I feel like a kid in a candy shop.
Normally, giving me access to a catalog of courses would solicit a cordial thank you, but would honestly not engage me at all. I may look at the titles, but would not enroll in anything much less complete a course. What a difference this time. Every course looks interesting, and I am taking 1-2 a day and may even get through most of what is currently unlocked for pre-training. It is like I am starved for information and eating it up.
I’ve always said that training professionals would do themselves a big favor and test adult learning principles on their own experiences to validate the rules. In this case, I can personally say that I am into training right now, because I feel a personal urgent need to learn this content.
What we need to do every time we launch training for employees, is to set that same expectation prior to launch. Then we are guaranteed better buy in and engagement!
After 27 years in the Learning Development Profession you would think I have seen it all. However, a local financial institution sunk to a new low when it came to what they called training. In a hurry to get this training completed before a regulatory audit, they called an all employee conference call for 20 minutes to cover “Robbery Procedures” and “Identity Theft Actions.”
Never mind that this was a talking head spewing words into a speaker phone, and that no actual training happened, the management team were pleased as punch that they could check off a completed training task for when the auditors ask when the training had been covered. The fact that no actual learning occurred was not important, in fact it wasn’t even a consideration. Only that this task had been completed before the auditors arrive. And to add insult to injury, over two thirds of those listening into the call are not even responsible for this information in their jobs. This means for those people the 20 minutes was a chance to check out and do something different.
Too many bankers think they are superior intellects compared to their regulators. It is a battle of wills that I personally love to watch the regulators win. And the ironic thing given how often this type of sloppy training effort is attempted is the regulators usually find out. They ask employees about the training and before you know it the façade is torn down and the management team looks like fools.
My first job as a training director was with a bank that had been in business for 30 years, and yet for most of that time had only focused on commercial real estate loans. A year before I came on board they started a home loan division and the first FDIC audit “discovered” that the bank had not trained ANY compliance related topics under the home loan banner. The bank was inches away from a cease and desist order to stop home loan lending. Upon hearing of my first major training initiative, I stood there with my mouth wide open unable to comprehend such a lack of stupidity and what I later learned was more defiance toward the regulator’s requirement for training.
But back to the wing ding group this week covering two important topics in 20 minutes; OMG I don’t think it could have been delivered in a worse manner. I am at a loss as to what these people were thinking when they actually decided to count this event as training. Have we stooped to such a low point that a return to quality training is impossible? Their idea of what passes training hurts the employee, the customer and ultimately the company. Personally I hope the auditors nail them good for fraud.
If your organization does not have an active and competent training professional on staff, then I guarantee your employees are struggling to perform their jobs. While job skill training is the primary purpose of internal training functions, it is also the responsibility of that same department to help identify and solve performance problems.
A friend shared with me recently how their brand new head of operations is becoming overwhelmed with all of the things that keep getting assigned to his department. Prior to his hiring, the role was vacant for a while and all of these things had been farmed out to various people so the job responsibilities would get covered. He thought if he delegated many of these things out to other people he would find relief, yet he is finding that some people are ignoring his requests.
As a performance consultant, I saw a few things here that needed to be addressed:
- Assuming because other people are not getting his requests done means they are ignoring him could be true, but may also mean they don’t know how to perform and are scared to say anything to the new boss.
- Delegating does not mean you as the delegator are off the hook for accomplishing a task, so you need to build into your process a follow up plan.
- While this new operations person might be able to perform all of these things, he is failing at basic time management. Make a list, prioritize each task, and set a date for each task to be worked on so it is completed on time. He should also use a paper or electronic tool to track everything.
If I was working for this company in my normal capacity of leading training, I would have been able to spot and advise this new employee so things get under control for not only him, but everyone else on his team. Currently there is a lot of confusion with who is doing what.
Training is more than a workshop or online course. Yet to many CEOs, they are smiling happy because they think they have this learning thing all covered. The HR Director could do this work in smaller organizations, and yet they are not because they are barely competent enough to get their primary duties done. So every employee must struggle to figure it out on their own.
When I started consulting 12 years ago I thought I could change the way organizations thought about the training function. I wrote two books to help educate management as to the value of a well-run training function, and yet I’ve lost too many battles and I am afraid when it comes to small and mid-sized organizations the war is lost too for most of them.
Large organizations see the value of the learning function and it is why they continue to remain in business. No matter the size of the company, they all employ human beings, and human beings need to be supported to be successful.
I watched an online advertising video recently where the Sales Consultant said to a CEO, “I’m sure you are aware that your sales process is broken, so when you want to fix it give me a call.” I chuckled at that approach because it began with such a big assumption that the CEO already knew about a problem and was doing nothing to fix it. And then I began to wonder how many CEOs would really be in the dark about operational problems. The more I think about this, the more I doubt that any CEO is completely clueless about areas of deficiency within their organizations.
I have spent the better part of the past decade helping organizations improve the return on investment in their employee development functions. In every case I have approached these organizations with the assumption that they had no idea what a healthy training function should look like, because otherwise wouldn’t they have fixed their own training function?
Most of my clients have either felt it was easier to go along with my assumption or not argue the point to save face. Either way, I am now questioning my entire approach and really wonder if most CEOs don’t already know their training functions are deficient. They simply don’t have the internal resources to fix it and don’t know who to call for help.
The advertisement approach I saw makes the assumption that the CEO knows about a problem in a way that allows them to simply answer, “Yes I do, I will be in touch soon.” It allows them to save face for whatever reason they haven’t fixed the problem and simply contact the consultant for help.
So as a way to kick start my new approach to fixing deficient training functions, I would like to say to all those reading:
“I am sure you are aware that your training function is not producing a return on the investment you are making each year. When you are ready to fix your training function, Contact me.”
“The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat & Cure Your Training Department”
“Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies”
Many organizations have made a conscience decision to remove all forms of employee development from the workplace unless it is a compliance requirement to operate. This means that each and every employee within that company is responsible to figure it out on their own.
The savings that would have been spent to develop people can now be directed toward the recruiting process and the ever revolving door that a company of under skilled employees creates. Arrogant management that finds it digestible to pass on development, and recycle employees is outright disgusting, and yet very few have the backbone to push for change.
There are many organizations that have top rated talent development processes, and I applaud every effort they make to remain vibrant and a true business partner. Yet these same organizations are also staffed with enlightened senior and executive management that fight for their employees and personally are involved in the learning culture. They want both their employees and their company to be successful.
There are even more organizations that have a training function that is so incompetent that they often do more harm than good as they create facades that management are fooled by, because who wants to take the time to evaluate the training function for any kind of return on investment. They make for great window dressing, but very little change to the overall operation. Honestly, the company would do better to close up these ineffective operations if they are unwilling to fix them.
So if your organization has decided to make training obsolete, have you figured out where the money saved is being spent? Does it go to profits that are passed on to shareholders? Does it go toward parties, bonuses, salaries and other perks for the bosses? Maybe it is invested in research & development, or marketing & advertising
A company that operates without regular talent development is also operating with a short term mentality. This means that there are no long term career options, and the company itself is a short term player in the market. Personally I would not work for or invest in any company that has made training obsolete.
Too many training managers tie the value of employee development (AKA) training, to the simple fact that the company pays for it. And while it is obvious that a lack of funding is a sure fire connection to a lack of value, it is but only one indication that this function adds to the organization’s benefit.
In fact, many companies cannot articulate why they have a training function, expect to list what the negative impression it would bring on to the company if they lacked training. “It would be harder to recruit if we didn’t have a training function, and it adds to our efforts for employee retention if we can list training as a perk.”
Yet if you really want to know if your CEO values employee development, I would suggest you look for these signs:
- There is a training department or at the very least is a job responsibility assigned to a senior manager like the HR Director.
- The CEO talks with the training manager at least quarterly as to what have been the target development projects and their results. Also the CEO wants an update on future projects coming down the pipeline.
- The company requires a strategic vision for training, and an annual training project plan.
- The training function is part of the initial discussions when system changes, new products & services, acquisitions/mergers or policy & procedure changes are coming soon.
- The CEO and other executive managers regularly discuss why particular training events are needed and how the organization will benefit.
- A majority of management wants to participate in the learning process themselves, as participants and facilitators.
In organizations that have leadership that understand the value of employee development, it is so much more involved than a cheerleading HR Director and/or Training Manager. It is part of the culture and embraced by a majority of the management team in tangible actions. It really is more important to “walk the talk” but at the very least “talk the talk.”
If your organization does not seem to value training, it is time to schedule a Training Physical and find out what can be done to save the function before it becomes terminal.