Are You Training Too Late?

Pointless Training Cover In most companies training to prevent workplace harassment occurs as a preventative measure to reduce incidents, and to reduce liability to lawsuits when harassment does happen. In my state of California, we legislated to require companies to train all employees, and even went as far as requiring managers to take a 2-hour minimum training every two years in this topic.

It is sad that we had to make it a law, but too many organizations where not taking the problem seriously enough to train employees to prevent a problem. The state had to make it a law with penalties for not training to motivate employers. But just because it is a law doesn’t mean that management still doesn’t skip training.

What really gets under my skin is the company that will wait to see if a harassment complaint comes forward before they train. Is that too late to train? My answer would be yes to prevent this current issue, but no if you want to prevent future ones from popping up.

But what do you say when the management team is wrestling with several charges of harassment for different reasons with the same employee complaining to everyone and it appears the management team is clueless about what all the fuss is about. Then when the EEOC and the State employment departments get involved the management team starts to take notice. The HR Director signs everyone up for workplace harassment training and updates the policy to create awareness. Too Little, Too Late?

There are three reasons to conduct any kind of training:

  1. To build missing skills needed to perform the job function
  2. To refresh skills once learned and yet forgotten with a lack of use
  3. And to reinforce awareness of required behaviors

If you ask most managers if it okay to harass employees they are going to say no. These same managers probably have a good idea of what to do if an employee makes a complaint. Yet putting everyone through the same training at the same time creates discussions and longer retention. This is why harassment training is taught every 1-2 years.

When it comes to preventing workplace harassment all three reasons are used. A new manager must learn their new responsibilities. Training every 1-2 years keeps awareness fresh. And when someone messes up, part of their corrective action should be another round of training.

My preference is that you train on a schedule. Training some topics after a problem occurs is a reason to review the learning process because something slipped through the crack on the first round in the actual learning process.

But only training when the bottom falls out is a symptom of incompetency. Who is in charge of your training function, HR or a Training Director? If they wait too late to train, then they are incompetent. If they are incompetent you need to cover your flank because the enemy will win the war.  #trainingphysical, #pointlesstraining




Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch


This quote, by Peter Drucker, has been on my bulletin board for years as a reminder that a company’s strategy can be as clear as a bell, including the training strategy I’m so fond of reminding people to design before training people, but it all goes to waste if we forget the impact of culture.

In many job descriptions for training managers, we see that they are responsible for culture too. This can be misinterpreted as to how much impact training has on culture that is already in place. Training can reinforce culture if it is the kind of culture you want in your organization, but it cannot change culture all by itself. A good question for applicants is to find out of the culture in question is a good one, or one that needs changing.

All too often I watch companies that are failing in some area that is in direct conflict with the lofty phrases within their vision and mission statements. Once the realization of the disconnect becomes apparent enough for management to agree, I want to cry openly when the knee jerk reaction is to offer up a training program to solve the problem. If there is an internal training function it is dumped in their lap along with the responsibility to change performance to match the desired culture.

Now when a training department takes this on all by themselves stand back and watch time and money disappear with no real change. However, when training says they will be glad to partner with management to introduce, reinforce and measure the results of training, now you have a plan that might work.

Now anytime you try to wrangle culture back in line with strategy you are in for a fight, as long as it is an all hands on deck initiative you have a fighting chance. But if you think an eLearning class, or a fiery presentation will change a culture of harassment all by itself, I have good reason to lose hope in your recovery.

Every single training course you offer should be tied into a process that changes performance. If it does not, then you hired training and human resource employees that lack the skills to do their job. If you need proof, and help delivering the bad news, give me a call and will make the needed changes together.

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.

Adults Enjoy Training When They Need It

homeworkWhen 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!

When You Don’t Want to Delay Training

waitIn the Learning Development space, most of us understand the list of what are called “Adult Learning Principles” as kind of the rules we live by in the design, facilitation and implementation of training solutions. I learned a long time ago to ignore these principles at my own risk.

One of these principles is that adults learn best when they have a need and/or a desire to learn. When an adult learner is ready to learn it is never wise to delay their training. In fact, delaying the learning process only tends to frustrate the adult learner and your window of opportunity to make training stick closes each day you delay.

Now while I have always understood this principle, I have recently become impatient with a delay in my own learning process. While the experience of being asked to wait is frustrating, it has also allowed me to personally feel the aggravation of being an adult learner that is being delayed from learning. I am ready to learn and so therefore I should be allowed to learn now.

I recently purchased a travel franchise, and while I know a lot about the travel industry, I have a lot to learn about the back office and booking side of the business. Because I am on a different time table from the training function, I find it kind of funny to be sitting on the other side of the fence this time waiting on getting the training I need. Even though I am not working in training this time, I am still learning about the results of poor implementation. I guess I will never get completely away from the world of learning development.

For those reading that come from the training world, you may have picked up on another adult learning principle that has always been one I remember, and that is that adults learn best through experiential learning activities. They can learn from lectures, discussions, group work and research, but getting into the role is still the best way to lock down the learning. By having to wait for my own training when I want it now, I have experienced a frustration that reading about never locked down as well as feeling it has to this point.

While I appreciate learning more about the importance of implementing training when the adult learner wants to learn, I still want my training to begin now.

So Why Do Franchises Spend Time On Training?


The past few weeks I’ve been exploring different franchise businesses that are from different industries and several different business models. But the one thing they all have had in common is a very robust training plan for new franchise owners.

Built into the franchise fee are in-depth online courses, webinars, and weeklong classroom training. Everyone had a plan for keeping the skill development alive even after the initial training had been completed.

Coming from the corporate world where only a handful of organizations spend this much time with new hires, I have not only been impressed at the support, but started to wonder why franchises spend so much time on training?

  • The first reason is that franchise owners are often new to owning a business and often industry experience is not a requirement to own a franchise. So the potential franchise owner is desperate to learn and won’t sign up unless the company can provide thorough training.
  • The second reason is the company realizes that these new franchise owners are almost certain to fail without a comprehensive training process.

Both are excellent reasons for franchises to spend time on training!


Now this is where I get a little steamed when it comes to comparing the corporate world that spends so little time on their onboarding process and comprehensive training plan.

Just like a franchise owner, a new employee also wants to be able to perform their job quickly and is looking for the right training support to fill in the gaps. But the difference seems to be that too many companies are not as vested in their employees being successful or they would provide better training processes. Ouch! The truth can hurt at times.

Having now reviewed several franchise fees that need to be paid to own a franchise, they are not that different than the average compensation package for the first year of an employee’s time on the job. So one might ask does it matter who is paying this money.

In a franchise scenario it is the owner of the franchise who is risking the investment and wants the training. Yet in a corporate setting it is the employer who is risking the investment and passes on providing the training. It makes no sense, but happens daily in companies all over the country!

Is it time to invest in our employees, or is it time for companies to shore up their investments with comprehensive training? Maybe it is time for both!

When Training Will Not Work

no training

Many training professionals believe in their heart that training can fix any performance challenge. If at first you don’t succeed train them again. Unfortunately training will not work all of the time, and all training professionals would do themselves and our profession a great deal of service to wake up to this reality.

When I first began learning performance management consulting, the instructor began by saying, “training only fixes performance issues about 50% of the time.” I remember not even being able to complete my notes when my brain was struck with complete shock over that statement. I was perplexed over even hearing that we trainers couldn’t fix everything. I was working for a company that had me in the classroom 3-4 days a week, so how was it possible that I wasn’t fixing every performance problem.

It was when he started listing out the other things that get in the way of correct performance that I began to realize training couldn’t fix everything.

To understand what training can fix most of the time, it is important to know when training should be used as a performance solution.

  1. Training should be used when a person does not have the skills needed to perform the job. Often new hire training will build the necessary skill for operations, product knowledge, sales and compliance. When I need to learn something new training will help.
  2. Training is also used to update people on changes in products, procedures, maybe a new software system.   I may know how to do my job, but enough changes have been made that I need training to understand what is different.
  3. Training is used to create a common focus, or a refocus on a particular skill set that has gone stale. Everyone in the room knows how to perform a particular task, but for one reason or another, no one is performing well. Customer Service training is refreshed annually in a lot of organizations to put new life into the service experience, or to energize the masses.

When I find people wanting to use training when the skills exist, I will ask a series of questions to determine what else is blocking performance. Often this is tricky with management that just wants the problem to go away and believes training over and over will change the outcome. It won’t, and we need to do a better job of getting to the root of performance problems before we prescribe another training cure.

Training People to be Trainers

285671_D1L1_01Soon after I first published The Training Physical, I wrote an Article  about Training the Trainers Before Training Others. It became a popular interview topic as it resonated with so many people that had gone to training events with terrible trainers.

Even if someone is being asked to train a single event, spending time with this person so that they make a good training event successful is worth your time.  But I also talked about professional development that is ongoing for the training team members.

Recently I ran into a young man who has been a successful HR Recruiter and has the desire to move into the training field.  After spending time with him working another project I know that he would be a natural for the training field and I really hope he can find the right opportunity.

I did caution him that most training managers today want experience and are not willing to spend time training him on facilitation, instructional design, needs analysis, organizational development and strategic planning.  At the same time I was wishing that I was back running a training function because I would spend the time and effort to build his competencies.

My personal opinion is that not everyone that wants to be a training professional can be great at it.  Just because you know something about a subject does not make a trainer out of you. (I sound like Yoda)  Anyhow, being able to transfer what you know how to do into someone else being able to do the same thing is more about desire that technique.  I can teach you the techniques to transfer learning, but I can’t teach you to want to share it with others.

I wish more training managers would spend the time developing new blood.  I worked at Bank of America in my initial training years and we often had rotational roles in training.  All to often we had people that wanted to stay past the rotational dates, but the idea was to build training competencies into future leaders.  Better presentations, better staff development, better succession planning.  If more companies saw this connection they would never have to go outside to find trainers.

I do have my eye on a full time director role again, so if I get it not only will it be a win for me and the company, but I can hire this talented individual and build another trainer from scratch.  Pray for all of us!


Self-Directed Learning

thAs a human being that wants to know how to do something, not much can get in the way of that objective.  When we want to learn, we seek out the information and most of the time are not willing to wait very long to get it.

This is why a training function needs to realize that they need to release the reins on learning and allow it to be more self-directed.  You can still have your formal workshops scheduled quarterly on the calendar, but you also need to release content in forms that allow adult learners immediate access.

Personal Example:

I love to cook and I am always interested in learning new techniques, or getting a new appliance to make cooking easier or tastier.  I recently received one of the new electric pressure cookers as a gift, but it did not come with a recipe book.  It had instructions on how to operate the machine, but the expectations as to how it differs from a traditional on the stove pressure cooker were missing.

I immediately went to search online for a cookbook, and landed up on one of the most popular websites, YouTube.  After watching several videos for various recipes that I have used a traditional pressure cooker, I discovered that the recipes were the same.  I not only had several cookbooks on the shelf, but I learned rather quickly they would work the same with my new cooker.

It took me a few days to realize that without thinking, I needed to learn something and I used online content to learn it.  In a few minutes I got my questions answered and was able to go to work.  Self-directed learning was available, and without hesitation I used it to obtain the information I needed.

You can expect your employees to do the same thing, and to once again show value in a corporate training function, work related content should be easy to access and readily available.  Is that the case in your company or do you have some work to do to get up to speed?

Some People Reject Learning

rejectionHow do you handle the employees in your organization that reject learning?  Either they reject learning something new, a different way of working, or assistance.

While most people enjoy learning, most of us need to be convinced to open up to any kind of change.  Learning something invites us to possible change, and thus we as adult learners must always be sold on the benefits of learning.  We also need to be sold on the urgency of learning.  Urgency is key to an adult learner because once again we are busy people and learning just to fill in time is not a valid reason.  Learning because something is about to change and I need the information to do my job is a great reason.

I reviewed all this simply to set the stage for another reason people reject learning that needs to be addressed when it is the remaining culprit blocking your efforts to build skills

The reason is Ego.

  • “No I don’t need to learn another way because the way I do it works just fine.”
  • “No I don’t need your help because I am fully capable of doing it myself.”
  • “No I don’t want to learn another method because I am the boss and no longer need anyone.”
  • “No I don’t need your opinion because my way is the only way.”

When you run into Ego as the reason someone doesn’t need help, want to learn, or refuses your efforts to make life easier, I have a simple response that will keep your sanity.

Leave them alone, and let them succeed or fail by themselves.

Sorry if you think that is heartless, but people that are so full of themselves that the only reason for refusing to learn is their ego, there is no changing that from an external process.  You must let them prove to themselves that they were either right or wrong.  And the best teacher that something might have made a difference is failure.  No one is harder on themselves than a person hung up on their ego.

Yes it is hard to watch someone crash and burn, but next time they just might be more open to learning.