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.

Your CEO Has Ordered A Training Physical


Yes, your CEO has decided that the training function has been allowed to operate for too long without any accountability and it is way past time to find out why. While it would be easier to just eliminate the training function and reduce all of the expenses, your CEO actually knows the value of training for employees. So instead of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” your CEO wants to know what is working and what needs to change to improve the operation and results.

In the next few days we will be talking about your training function by phone in preparation for an onsite visit. I will want to learn what you train, and how you train. I want to understand your concerns and frustrations about managing your training function, and what you already wish was different.

You and I will partner to discover, and document, what is working well and what is causing your CEO grief over your operation. We will ultimately talk through your challenges and create alternatives that will make your life easier, the operation run better, and position the training function to be a star player next year.


Now if your CEO has not ordered a Training Physical yet……..

  • Are you ready to live up to your full potential?
  • Are you finding that year after year it becomes harder to meet the needs of the organization?
  • Have you heard rumors that training is on the chopping block?

Then now is the time to set an appointment for a Training Physical. This consultation is free, so email me at to setup a time to discuss your circumstances.


Can Your Company Grow?

thumbnailCA4Z1XR6If the economic climate seems to be shifting in a way that would suggest now is the time to grow your operation, and you decide to bring down the checkered flag and announce growth plans for your company, can your company execute on that strategy?

I ask not because your people don’t desire to grow, but whether they have the necessary skills to make things happen. Is your talent development strategy been one that has regularly been building the competencies people need to perform their current jobs, and does it allow for rapid deployment for growth challenges?

First and foremost, if your training function has been reactive and running programs just to keep the lights on in the training room, you will have problems growing. If your training department operates without a training plan that models the strategy of the company, you have a weak learning organization that will prevent your ability to grow.


The Training Physical: Diagnose, Treat and Cure Your Training Department

So if the health of your training function is in doubt, start by evaluating what is working and what is missing in a functional training department that returns on the current investment. Do not proceed to allocating any additional money to this function until you know how it is working today.


Pointless Training: The Consequences of Inadequate Training Strategies

In the process of your evaluation, take note of the current training strategies and whether they are working for your adult learners. And, are you training everything that your employees need to perform their jobs well? I cannot stress enough that you want to look at what your employees need, not every skill known to man that could be trained. During this process you just may find you are training unnecessary skills just because “we have always done it that way.”


In all of the years I’ve been working with organizations that want to rebuild their learning functions, I have never found a lack of will. People want to provide quality training, and they have the right heart and spirit to work hard to make it happen. What they often lack is the knowledge of how to provide good training and learning transfer.

For companies that simply have not had a learning function, and see no value, there is not much to be done. Oh sure, you can preach the good news of learning, but your audience has no desire to hear your message. I have made it a personal hobby to keep track of these companies, and over time they simply disappear.

You see there is a basic similarity in every company. They all need human beings to make them function. Granted, not every task is performed by a human these days, but no company is without the human element. It boggles my mind when I see a company trying to survive, let alone grow, without training employees. Management in these organizations is focused only on the bottom line, and if someone can’t do the job they are fired and replaced. This process of firing and replacing goes on until the right person is found. Sadly this leadership style is prevalent and is why I see the lack of training in a company as a key indicator for applicants to consider before accepting an employment offer.

So if your company wants to open another location, hire more employees, acquire a competitor, ask yourself if your training function can facilitate this transaction. Do they have processes in place to train quickly and just the missing skills needed. Training an acquired competitor is different than a new hire with very different learning strategies. Does your training leadership know how to do what you need to grow?

Before you can take advantage of a shifting economy, I beg you to check in with the folks that can make your goals come true, or because they are not ready completely screw up your plans. Remember, they want to help you succeed, but they may not know how.

Why Training Needs to be Accountable

judgeIt’s all about metrics in whether money is spent on the training function, and any training manager that is trying to implement training because they “feel” it will benefit the organization is up a creek without a paddle before they begin. While HR used to always be the decision makers that decide if training will occur or not, in many organizations that decision is at the doorstep of the CFO.

When I realized I was talking to a wall this week when discussing the accountability of the training function, that wall being the HR Director, I asked if she was the ultimate decision maker for training, she laughed and said, “oh no that is the CFO. Nothing is spent around here without his blessing.” While I have begun to hear this more and more lately, I decided to test it out since I personally know this CFO.

I called him, and to my surprise he answered the phone, and after a little small talk, I asked him if he really did need to approve all training initiatives. He laughed too, and said he did require all expenses over a certain level to be cleared through him, because “very few people around here want to be accountable for their buying decisions.” Bingo!

I specifically discussed my conversation with the HR Manager, and the CFO understood the challenge of the training function, and has been considering cutting most if not all of training from next year’s budget. Why? Because training has never been accountable for results!

Gads! Could this be true?

But honestly, I was not surprised. Many training functions fail to see the need to be accountable for results until after the chopping block has eliminated their jobs.

Even companies that are making a ton of money don’t like to waste money. Training should be accountable, and if it cannot show a benefit, it probably is not the best performance solution. And while I hate to see the training function get eliminated from any organization, there are too many people in charge of training that cannot justify their existence and need to find new work.

If you feel you are headed to the chopping block, let’s talk before it is too late.


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?

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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.