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 ( 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.

What If Your Training Function is Deficient?


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.”


Jim Hopkins

Author of:

“The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat & Cure Your Training Department”

The Training Physical   “Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies”  Pointless Training Cover


Attention Training – All Hands On Deck!


Have you notice that the business world is starting to talk more about growth? New factories, new offices, new businesses popping up everywhere, with new hiring to follow soon!

Any company that is planning to grow without the assistance of an internal training function is gambling with the company’s future. Any Board of Directors and/or Management Team that is avoiding hiring skilled training talent to build competencies is in for a real surprise when their plans fall flat.

Most, if not all companies, need to train specific skills in their employees in order for them to learn how to perform certain tasks. Leaving aside the obvious lack of interpersonal communications, productivity and leadership training, employees need to learn how to function in their work environment. Systems, Compliance, even Culture are just the tip of the iceberg of skills that new employees need to learn quickly to function.

Yet too many companies operate off the concept of learning on the job, which works when you are hiring a couple of employees at a time. Growth that has you amazed at how many new employees you need requires something a lot more strategic.

For you CEOs that define everything told to an employee as “training”, I need to burst your bubble. Talking at people, or reminding people of a topic is NOT Training. It is nothing more that information. Training is about changing behaviors, and talking at people rarely changes behaviors. If you don’t have a real training function, you are living on some shaky soil.

In most companies, the training function is both under staffed and lacking the competencies to make a difference. This is 100% the fault of the organization and the management team! You hired people that were willing to do the job, but didn’t know how. Then you failed to provide these people the training they needed to perform well for you. All that money you saved in compensation from not hiring experienced learning professionals is about to come back and bite you!

All hands on deck will require everyone in training to be on top of their game. You will need quality designers, trainers and strategic managers. If you are not capable today, then hire the talent to up your game before you step out on the field. Otherwise you are going to lose and lose big!

Is Your Training Function Lacking Awards?

lastplaceIf your training efforts are not winning awards, than you are either shy or realize your training function lacks what it takes to compete. If you know what it takes to improve the quality of your training results than make the necessary fixes and make a difference. If you have no idea as to what comes next, it is time for a Training Physical.

Often with new clients of the Training Physical, I ask them to read my book before we decide what areas and to what degree we will evaluate their whole training effort. While my experience tells me the hot spots that are probably the neediest, I want some self-discovery to occur before I interject.

Reading the book will prepare you to understand that the training function is a lot of moving parts. For the folks that think a workshop can solve any performance issue, these chapters can really open up their minds to how adult learning can and should be working. There are often many different issues collaborating against each other creating chaos for the organization.

But if you are like most organizations with a weak training function, not only does is it happen because senior leaders are unaware of what training should be doing, so are the current training management and team members. The training manager, the trainers and the instructional designers are trying to do their best even though they lack the skills to recognize issues, let alone fix them.

Training seems to be the one department in an organization that allows people to go without the necessary skills to perform their job, while at the same time management moans and groans about results. Why do we continually hire inexperienced people to work in the training function? That would be like hiring me to run your IT function. Within weeks my complete lack of an IT background would grind your operation to a halt, so duh, you wouldn’t hire someone with my background to run IT, and yet you hire people without a training background to manage training.

A strong training function produces employees that are able to perform their jobs well all over your organization, and a weak training function produces little. So honestly, if you are part of the senior management team in your company, why do you want a training function that is unable to produce results? Doesn’t it make more sense to make it a function capable of winning you awards for excellence?

285671_D1L1_01  Pointless Training Cover

“Can Your Business Grow with a New Economy?”


While your company may have a solid foundation and all the pillars of a strong infrastructure to grow the business, most small and mid-sized companies are missing one essential function. Even in larger companies this function may exist, but the employees you have in place are in way over their heads for being a growth oriented business partner.

No matter what you do, you hire human beings as employees. These human beings come from different generations with different skill sets and different interpretations of how to work toward common goals. To make this more of a challenge most organizations have managers and leaders that lack good communication skills. And lately more organizations are operating with supervisors and managers that don’t understand how their own employee policies work and are putting the company in serious legal peril.

If you have a robust Human Resource function, with qualified talent, AND management follows their directions you have a fighting chance. But if you have a clueless management team as it relates to basics like Wage & Hour laws, what Harassment Free Workplaces look like, or Discrimination, you leave your HR function in a state of perpetual firefighting instead of being strategic.


The Primary Essential Function for Growth

Within human resources lies the one essential function that can either partner with the organization for growth or in most cases hinder the ability to grow. That function is Talent (AKA) Training Development. The very folks that need to develop all of the skills in others to perform work; rarely if ever do their own job well. Sadly it is not for a lack of will as I have discovered over the years, but a simply lack of knowing how. They don’t have the skills to act strategically. Many trainers and training managers focus only on a workshop or online class at a time. Few are able to prepare an influx of new employees because of a hiring surge, or and acquisition.

In the banking industry as an example, only the big banks spend time and money developing their training team members, and so when the bank decides to open new locations or acquire another bank, they pull it off in grand style. But most of the growth that is going on this way is coming from mid-size to small banks, and if they even have a training function, it is understaffed and those in charge don’t know how to do their jobs to the full extent necessary.


Qualified VS Experienced

In order to be Qualified, you know both about and have the ability to perform tasks. Now while being experienced may mean you are qualified, it also means that you have held the title of a function for a long time. Many training development people are experienced in only “time in the chair”. They have been the manager for 10 years, and are thought to be both qualified and experienced. But in reality they don’t know how to do everything they should be able to do after 10 years on the job.


Can Your Company Grow?

I cringe every time I speak with a senior leader that is looking forward to growing their business, and I know that their training function cannot help them. At best they will design a workshop and make it look like they are participating in the growth process. At worse they clog up the process and drag out what could have been a smooth transition.

Once I get these same senior leaders to investigate the capabilities of their training function, they realize that they are not as ready to grow as they first thought. I usually begin by having them request a copy of the annual training plan, which if it exists at all, is light and fluffy and lacks any tie back to the corporate goals. If a training function is this reactive it cannot possibly partner effectively with organizational growth goals.

I designed a process (and even published two books) on how to evaluate the corporate training function with the goals of making it work properly. But it takes some tough love from management to look at the results and make changes to the training operation.

In too many companies there is a lack of basic skills in all of their employee population causing a revolving door of new employees. Yet until companies start to staff Human Resources and Training with Qualified employees and not just experienced people, the problems will never disappear.