Does Your CEO Really Value Employee Development?

CFO to CEOToo 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.

Your Training Efforts Are Pointless!

Pointless Training CoverI hated to be the barer of bad news this past week, but after completing a full Training Physical for a client, I was searching for something positive to report.  While I entered this work agreement with the client telling me that he had little faith that I would find anything that training was doing that made a difference, I was convinced that no training effort was without some redeeming quality.

Well, after performing countless Training Physicals on organizations of all shapes and sizes, I was forced to agree completely with the client.  Absolutely nothing they were training had any impact or return on investment.  Their training efforts were pointless and needed to stop.  Not only were they wasting money, the lack of quality and purpose in their efforts was clouding the future of any training effort.

So while I didn’t have to stress over how the client was going to take the news, I have been concerned about what to recommend doing from now on.  How should I direct this turn around?

First it may be helpful to know that their “Training Manager” had resigned 2 months ago, coincidentally I’m sure when the contract was signed to conduct the Training Physical .  This has afforded me complete access to the operation with nothing diverting my attention from known problem areas.  So now I am recommending they approach the redesign of the training function before they hire a new training manager.

I am suggesting the design first, so they can interview with expectations.  The design is something I can facilitate with management in a few weeks, where a new training manager could easily take 90-days before they begin implementation.  Now a new training manager can start implementation within their first week on the job.

I know I will start with an annual training plan that matches the existing strategic plan, and then begin a general clean up.  This will mean tossing what doesn’t work and replacing it with better solutions.  My biggest concern is how to demonstrate a new training function to the masses quickly.  I believe I have a topic that could benefit the entire organization, and my pitch will be to engage all employees in a new learning process at the same time.

Getting everyone engaged at the same time creates that positive buzz that moves around the population within days.  Once we have people being wowed by the new way to learn, we can begin implementing other training solutions one after another.

It is my sincere hope that this time next year we can say that training is running with a purpose, and no one is saying anything remotely like the word “Pointless” ever again.

Condition of Training Function Clue

thumbnailCA4Z1XR6How can I tell if our training department is functioning well?

Probably the number one question I get from senior management when I ask them if their training department is functioning the way it should is this question in return.  How can I tell?

My biggest concern when I evaluate a training function is how reactive versus proactive are they operating.  There must be a balance, but unless they are operating from a strategic training plan, that links their activities and projects to the goals and objectives of the company, they are living only as a reactive function.

So I always ask if they are using a strategic training plan?  Then I will ask, when was the last time it was reviewed with you?  So, two indicators here.  First is there a plan, and how often is the progress being communicated?

In all honesty, if your training function is running off a training plan that shows productivity toward the stated goals, they are halfway toward being a great training function.  If they are not, then there is little hope that they can be functioning well now or in the future.  My next recommendation is to schedule a Training Physical ASAP!


In an effort to bring this blog back to the origins of The Training Physical, I am now going to devote it to Questions from YOU and my best Answers to your concerns.  You can continue to email your questions to me at and I will continue to respond to you directly.  When I start to see a common trend, I will bring it up in this blog without mentioning anyone, to help all readers learn.



Training Tied To Company Failure

no trainingHow would you like to be the training leader responsible for your company’s failure to achieve their goals next year?  What would you do today if you could see into the future and your company’s failure was tied to your training function?

I’ve seen it more times than I care to admit.  A company that has avoided any serious employee development lands up failing and is forced to merge with another company or close the doors themselves.  Employees are motivated to learn, but many are unsure of what skills they will need to perform their jobs in the future.

One of the fastest growing companies in the country is running without a training function that knows how to do their job.  Their “training leader” is without any background in human resources, let alone training development, and corporate senior leadership is allowing this function to blow in the wind accomplishing nothing of consequence.

So like so many other organizations that fail, they are not preparing for changes that have not yet been identified, the unknown.  Good training functions prepare employees for the challenges facing them today.  Great training functions work on today’s needs and the strategic needs of the unknown future.  When training either doesn’t exist, or is being run by unskilled individuals, the company is not getting prepared to succeed.  They are actually getting prepared to fail.

If you want to know if your company has a future, look to the quality of the learning function.  Are they building the future, or are they sitting on their hands waiting for tomorrow to arrive?

If you are the CEO, it is time to get your hands dirty and find out what your training function is accomplishing.  It may sound tricky, but ask your training leader what they have done this past year that has prepared employees for next year.  Either they will give you some measurable events, or they will give you a bunch of numbers that equates to people trained.

Realize that you are talking with the person responsible for growing the skills of your employees.  If this person is out to lunch, let’s talk about what you need to do to put things in order next year!

Why Does Your Training Fall Flat?

th12Does the training in your company seem to lack what it takes to engage learning?  Do you wonder what is causing your training efforts to fall flat?  After conducting several Training Physicals with companies of all shapes and sizes, there are some common areas you may want to evaluate sooner than later.

I would have to point 90% of the time to the individual that is leading the training effort within your company.  If your training falls flat, it is most likely that the training leader lacks the competencies to manage your training function.  They may have all of the best intentions, but they simply lack the skills.  If you want to keep this person, AND they want to learn how to perform their job correctly, then hire an Executive Coach to train them on the job.  Training Leaders must know how to evaluate needs, match good performance solutions and engage management and the learner into applying what they learn.  These are all skills that can be developed over time.

The next groups to look at are your facilitators and if you are designing your own training programs, the instructional designers.  Again, lack of the right competencies can make your training fall flat.  The difference here is probably the quality of your facilitator.  A great facilitator can take a well designed course and make it sing.  A great facilitator can also take a poorly designed course and pull out a win by modifying the activities to engage adult learners.

A poor facilitator can screw up a well designed course by not following the design, and if the design is also poor, well you have a major disaster on your hands if your facilitator is also unskilled.

The next item on my list will be in the support that management gives to the training efforts.  If the training is not supported, or worse, discounted by management, it was a total waste of time to even attend the event.  I’ve seen some of the best training programs, designed and trained by some of the best facilitators, fall flat when management says something brilliant like, “well we don’t do it that way in our office” after someone returns from training.

While there is a list a mile long for what can cause training to fall flat, fixing only one area will not make your problems go away.  You must conduct and audit (Training Physical) and list what isn’t working along with what is, and then make the appropriate changes to improve your training results.  It is not hard, but it does require effort!


The Magic Wand of Training

thI4ELL3RJSpeaking to another training manager this week that is running around like a chicken with her head cut off, we laughed at how often training is seen as the magical solution to performance issues.  Now while everyone in the training function should know in their heart that training cannot fix every performance problem, it doesn’t stop many training managers from trying.

I’ve spoken of it many times in this blog, and in my book The Training Physical, about the gaudy looking pink plastic wand I used to have sitting on my desk at work.  It was a subtle reminder to me and often used as a visual for others that training skills and improving performance is not something we can accomplish by waiving a magic wand.

Yet once again I am listening to another training manager that is frantic about solving another problem for a senior manager in the next 45 minutes.  I asked her how long ago she had been notified of the issue, she checked the email and said, 12 minutes ago!

In the scope of things that go on in this type of organization, what she was being asked to solve was no where on the high important, and high urgency list.  However, by not setting expectations with the senior manager, the assumption is that this training manager will drop everything and everybody else’s project and work on this issue first.

In fairness to the senior manager, if you can get everyone to jump the minute you ask, and meet your every need, why should you care how it cascades across the organization?  Or should you care?

In trying to help, I suggested that the training manager needs to incorporate new projects into her annual training plan and negotiate priority each and every time a new project comes along.  Training Plan?  Oops, there I go again assuming that there was such an illusive document.  No wonder she is losing her mind trying to track all her projects.  Even the one we had planned to discuss today,  I had to recap the project to jog her memory.  I felt so sorry for her, and yet she is creating this havoc in the workplace herself.

I’d love to help this organization, and especially this training manager because she has the right heart for the learning function.  What we need to shore up is her spine and her ability to put the training wand back in the drawer.



An Overly Honest HR Manager

I asked an HR Manager, “why don’t you have a training function?”  And bless her heart she answered with a whole-hearted honesty that left me speechless!

She said, “Training is one of those things that costs money and prevents performance problems.  Not only will it cost me money out of my budget, but I might have to reduce HR staff because we aren’t handling performance issues, terminations and we would have fewer people to recruit.”

Like I said, I was speechless, which is probably good since what I was thinking to myself was Duh!

Now while she was honest with me, I doubt she would ever be this stupid to tell her CEO this same reason.  So I asked her how she defends the lack of professional development to the senior managers at the company.  She explained that none of them have ever had a personal experience with training that they saw returned on the investment.  Sad, huh?

So yes, if no one has ever personally experienced a positive result from training themselves, there is not going to be any sponsor willing to promote the cause of spending time and money on developing employees.  With an HR Manager that feels well-trained employees will result in her having less work, which means less purpose in her mind, who is there to fight for the cause?

I love a challenge, so I am setting out to meet the CEO.  I want to educate him on the value of skilled employees.  I want him to see that training is a strategic partner that will help the company achieve their stated goals.  What I am still not prepared to answer is why HR is not driving this initiative.  I guess I might have to be honest.

What do you think?