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 Training Function Returning on Investment?

diceFor seven years I’ve had the honor of being a judge for the CLO LearningElite awards. Applications from all over the country and every industry compete for the honor of reaching an Elite status for their work in their company. Some should never have bothered to apply, and some just want to make you tear up with joy over the kind of impact they are making.

Now having said that, whether you are Elite, Best, Standard or Under-Developed, each of these companies think they deserve to win. I mean some should, hands down, not a reason they shouldn’t. But many are under the idea they are much more than they are in reality. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

It happens every single time that the HR Management and the Learning Management are inexperienced. They may have a few years with the appropriate title, but they lack the right competencies. Senior Management allows these people to pretend they are doing a good job because it is cheaper to hire them.

Okay I said it. Experienced people cost more. They often produce more and make fewer mistakes and return on the investment, but dang it they cost more!

So if your training function is not returning on investment it is time to evaluate if your current learning leader can be mentored or needs to be replaced. Give me 30 minutes with them on the phone and I’ll tell you which way you should go. Jim@jkhopkinsconsulting.com

Where Have All The Trainers Gone?


I have been in the learning profession for over 25 years spending time as a facilitator, instructional designer, performance & organizational development consultant, manager, director and Chief Learning Officer. I’ve been selected by Chief Learning Officer magazine as a judge in their annual Learning Elite awards for the past 6 years evaluating some of the most talented learning organizations in the country. One might think that I’d have no trouble landing a job in my chosen field, but you would be wrong.

At one time you had to demonstrate your competencies to get a promotion and/or a new job. Now you are measured on what you say you can do and how long you have hung on to a title. At other times it is predicated on being in the right place and the right time. A happy go lucky person or someone strong in their field are made into a trainer without learning a minute of what it takes to transfer adult learning and maintaining engagement. Perform that job for a while and you become a manager. Hang on to that role a few years and you become a director. It doesn’t matter what you did, only that you have been and/or currently are in the role.

If you look at the quality of training in your organization it either doesn’t existent, or is window dressing or learning lite versions, unless you happen to work for a large corporation. Unless your company has a healthy and engaged learning function the training provided to you is never going to be good. And I say that because trainers like me are tired of expecting things to improve with the current staffing.

The real trainers, the ones that worked in training before the great recession have moved on to careers in consulting, or entirely different fields. My personal story is much the same with one caveat. I saw this coming in early 2010 when I wrote my first book on fixing these broken training departments, and 5 years later when I published the follow up book on training solutions that benefit the organization and are accountable for results. I spent 12 years trying to help organization improve results, and for those that wanted to improve we did, but for many we never connected.

Where have all the trainers gone that knew how adults learn and matched learning needs with business objectives? A few found roles in large organizations. Some found a life as a consultant doing the ad hoc work for clients annually while the internal staff remained incompetent to assume the roles. And most of us have moved on to completely different careers.

I realized late last year that my first love in a career was not going to pay the bills anymore. I chose reluctantly my second love of travel to launch a third career (first was in retail banking) and became a travel consultant. I’m currently giving away or selling my training materials, books and effectively retiring 20 years before I had expected to. Someone told me to dumb down my resume to land a job, but I have not been able to interview as a novice. I guess sometimes you must give in to society’s wishes even if it means they get less than they need.

Where have all the trainers gone? There’re just gone.

Succeeding Without Employee Development

no training

While the old saying “that everything is possible” could be applied to a company succeeding without taking the effort of developing the skills of their employees, it is probably easier to win a million dollar lottery jackpot. Whether you call them employees, team members, talent, or warm bodies, the bottom line is that the human factor of your business is what makes your company successful.

Avoiding the effort, and yes money, to develop your employees will be the Achilles Heel that brings you down in the end. I cannot remember a single organization that has failed that had a focused and engaging learning function. And yet, there are a ton of organizations trotting right along today without anything but tired old eLearning modules being ushered out annually and called training.

To be sure, the regulatory world we live in requires some training for all members in most organizations, but as my book Pointless Training illustrates, these efforts are often no more effective than window dressing. So while technically your company offers “training” it is also pointless.

Eight years ago when I published my first book, The Training Physical, about a process of auditing and fixing the corporate training function, companies were a lot more involved in employee development that met the needs of their workforce. Today you would be hard pressed to find an organization that would invest in an audit of the training function, or the human resources function (beyond compliance requirements) for that matter. And yet these functions if they do exist are also staffed with weak talent lacking necessary competencies.

Human Resource and Learning Development talent has over the last 5 years become administrative lacking proactive people willing to challenge the status quo. You can see this by people in their first jobs as recruiters, that don’t even know what a skill or competency is, and yet just screened out experienced talent because a key word wasn’t on their resume.

If stockholders want their companies to succeed, then they must insist that management take employee development seriously. Personally I never invest in any company that avoids proactive and continual learning. Why would I invest in an organization that will fail someday?

Dear Ms. HR Director,

Pointless Training CoverHow 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.

OMG – What Passes for “Training”


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.

This is Why Your Employees are Struggling

thumbnailCA4Z1XR6If 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.