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?

OMG – What Passes for “Training”


omg

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.

Making Training Obsolete


no training

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.

Would you?

Do You?

Even Pointless Training Costs Money!


Pointless Training Cover

I would bet that every single person reading this posting has walked out of a training session, or signed off an online or eLearning event and said something like, “That was pointless.” Either the content was not relevant, or you didn’t connect the reason for the training to your job. In any case, it does not matter if you felt it was pointless, it still cost the company money to provide it.

Both good training and bad training comes with a fee, so if you are going to spend the money on training then demand that it returns on the investment. If a company spends money on training that does not return on an investment, it is like burning cash. But I have an even better idea.

If you have no desire to implement purposeful training that returns appropriate skills and value to the learners and the company, then don’t train. Yes, I said it. Save the money, pay larger salaries, or throw a party. Pointless training is more damaging than no training at all, so if you are going to waste the company budget on pointless training, don’t and defer it to other line items in the budget that will be appreciated.

And while we are on the subject, if your training department cannot seem to implement training that returns on the investment, and aligns with the strategic goals of the company, save even more money and close that department completely. While every company should have a strong learning function, once again, a weak training function does more harm than good. It is time to trim the waste and improve the bottom line by closing training until you find more competent employees to run it.

285671_D1L1_01Six years ago I wrote a book that outlines what it takes to have a healthy and productive training function. It is called “The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat and Cure Your Training Department.” The idea was through a self-audit process or better yet by hiring a 3rd party that is objective, you could identify what is working and fix what is not working.

Pointless Training CoverLast year I wrote the sequel, “Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies to emphasize by content areas how easy training could become pointless to employees and the company, and with a bit more effort how it could become purposeful instead.

I wrote these books to help organizations provide good learning environments and solid learning events for their employees. Each book is less than $15 from the publisher, and provides the necessary information for training departments to be genuine business partners. Some companies have invested $30 to become healthier, and some have chosen to remain ineffective while wasting thousands of dollars a year. Honestly, does that make any sense?

For more information go to www.TheTrainingPhysical.com

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.

Zero Skill Deficiencies?


no trainingI discovered another company this week that does not see the need to train staff.  There is no training department, and Human Resources have been told by the CEO that there is no need to focus on training.  As it turns out, the CEO and I are connected in LinkedIn, so I sent her an email and asked:

What are your employee skill deficiencies?

Much to my surprise she responded with an honest answer, that she didn’t know off-hand, and wanted to know the purpose of my question.

So I continued the email conversation with an appreciation for her honesty, and that I had heard that training was not on the agenda anymore.  In my mind this means there are zero skill deficiencies, and I was excited to hear how this company had pulled this off.  In 25 plus years I had not found a single company that had perfectly aligned skill sets and was eager to learn how their process could be duplicated.

Well, as you can imagine, there was a pause.  In fact for over a week, and just when I was about to follow-up, she replied and told me that in fact there were quite a few skill deficiencies, many common ones, and that it may be the reason certain projects and objectives may not be getting accomplished.  Dumbstruck once again with her honesty, I asked her if she wants to change this situation.  I’m currently waiting on her response.

You see, not training employees was going to be the way forward, until someone bothered to question that decision.  Yes, HR should have done it, but she was uncomfortable doing it so I did it for her.  If we are going to serve the companies we work for than we need to do our jobs well.  And at times that means questioning a decision, process or in this case a missing component for employees to perform well.

I will admit that this CEO is an open-minded leader, and you may not be working with that kind of mindset currently.  If you need help communicating your concerns to senior management, let’s brain-storm on the phone and come up with a strategy.  It may or may not work, but never walk away from a bad processes because you fear trying.

Why Don’t You Train Your Employees?


thumbnailCA4Z1XR6Most management retention surveys will tell you that employee development ranks very high on the reason your employees stay with you year to year, and that compensation is actually near the bottom of the list.  While every company pays their employees to work, not every company provides training development.

Why Don’t You Train Your Employees?

I made a friend this past week by asking this question.  Not really a friend at first since he was beyond ticked off that I had the audacity to ask the question, but eventually he warmed up to understanding the value he was missing by not providing his employees with professional development.  Let’s say we parted as friends.

You see this company has a great reputation, and very good employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, and if they were only looking at training as a retention tool, I can see why it was never prioritized very high.  Yet, when I discovered that most of their recruiting efforts required HR to go outside the company, I realized it was because they were not building competencies in-house.

There was also zero succession plans on the books for any position in this company of 150+ employees and they continued plans to grow would be hampered if they continually need to source external applicants.

You may wonder why your company trains management and leadership competencies.  If subject matter experts are trained in management communications they can assume supervisory and manager roles in their units.  If you don’t train these skills then you are hard pressed to promote people.  You have to go outside.

Yet the same goes for skills to perform another person’s job.  If you can train an existing employee to do another job, you retain an employee that already knows your culture and how to get things done.  They “hit the ground running” better than an external hire.

If you currently don’t train your employees beyond the required compliance topics for your industry, then let’s talk for 30 minutes.  The call is free, and I guarantee there are benefits to training that you are not using to your advantage.  Email me at jim@jkhopkinsconsulting.com to set up a time to talk.

 

 

 

 

When Training Comes Too Late


Good training prepares an employee with the skills necessary to do the job at hand.  Along with work experience, well-trained employees can tackle future responsibilities when the need arises.  But what happens if training comes too late in an employee’s journey?  What happens when a company decides “we are doing just fine right now, and we will start training later?”

10 years ago the mortgage industry was a very large employer.  Most banks had large staffs of employees concentrating on home mortgage loans, and there were dozens of large mortgage companies across the country employing thousands of people.  Each of these companies had robust training and learning environments to keep growing their employee populations.  When the housing bubble burst, there where a lot of highly skilled, but unemployed people without work.

Yet over the past couple of years, the mortgage industry is coming back online.  It would seem at first glance all these companies would have to do is rehire from the past and training wouldn’t be necessary.  Yet new laws, compliance changes, and different products are now part of the new mortgage industry.  Likewise, all of those former employees needed to find work and a majority of them found new careers.

So you might imagine that restarting the mortgage industry would be a little like starting from scratch, and with that in mind, include training in the foundation of the company.  Most though are trying to make it without expending money and attention to employee development.  They are waiting.  Waiting for the need to become so obvious that it may be too late to make a difference by that point in time.

Training is not magic.  Rather it is more of a science when it comes to adult learning.  Not only do adults prefer to learn as they see a need, they also want to apply what they learned rather soon after acquiring the skill.  This means that the training function cannot arrive the same day that we want to train a skill.  There is a lot of upfront work to make sure a training initiative is implemented correctly to achieve the desired results.

Now while I chose the mortgage industry as my example in this blog, they are by far not the only industry waiting and postponing the implementation of training.  Some companies wait too long, and fail before they can adjust to change.  If your company employs people, then you should have a training function.  Unless of course your goal is to go out of business someday. And without training, it is just a matter of time before you do.

Is It Time For A Chief Talent Officer?


One of the most frustrating parts of running a learning function can be when the focus is always on entry-level skills for new employees.  While this is perfectly acceptable if your organization is growing, it is not a good sign if you are always training replacement players.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the Chief Talent Officer role, and how Talent Acquisition and Talent Retention are blended with Talent Development.  The more I understand how these functions are separated from other HR functions like payroll, benefits, employee relations, performance management and compliance I see the value of the split focus between two dedicated leaders within the company.

Not every company has the two functions, so what happens is that the head of HR must try to focus on all of these areas at the same time, and that rarely happens.  If, and I say a very big if, each function as a very competent manager that works well with the other HR managers, there is essentially a working model without the fancy titles.  Yet most of the time, HR spends its time on the urgent areas mentioned above that do not fall into the talent model.

So learning is substandard, recruiting is a revolving door because retention is never a focus.  Maybe it is time for a better way to manage the people side of the business.  Maybe it is time for the Chief Talent Officer role.

What are your thoughts?

Dial A Training Manager


If you have a training manager that is unable to perform some of their responsibilities, and yet there is no one in the company to mentor them, how do you provide them support?  You don’t want to replace them, you want them to learn how to do the job better.

You could hire a mentor, or a coach but this is an expensive route to take.  In fact one company compared the cost of having a onsite mentor as more than they were paying the training manager.  When even a part-time person costs more than hiring another full-time person, it becomes a challenge to keep the staff currently in place.

In one company, the decision was made to hire a more experienced training manager, and make the current manager the assistant. The thought was they could learn from this new person on the job, and be a successor to the role (they had) someday down the road.  The problem was this demotion was not taken in the spirit it was meant, and the employee resigned to lead a training function at another company.

As a former Chief Learning Officer, and someone who has performed every role in training for the past 24 years, I can provide a lot of guidance to training managers.  Yet, I know to hire me even part-time is out of range in a lot of budgets, so a client and I came up with a solution that they are able to work with.  I call it “Dial a Training Manager.”

To support their new hire, that has limited experience in training but a lot of the spirit and heart to make a good one, I am now available to talk with any time they need help.  The retention agreement is a flat fee each month for a year, and of course comes with some limitation on my time, but gives anyone in training and HR the ability to reach out to a resource as they rebuild their training function.  Since I am affordable, they have help when needed, and the training manager will learn on the job.

I was lucky enough to be working for Bank of America in my initial days in learning development, where we had many mentors to learn from.  Unless you are working for a large company, mentors are hard to come by in-house, so you have to go to consultants.  “Dial A Training Manager” is just one more way to keep training in your company and make it an effective solution to improve performance.