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?


Bad Management Behavior = Bad Human Resources


How on earth can inappropriate behavior in the workplace seem to be getting out of hand lately? When you realize that we are only hearing about the tip of the iceberg, you have to ask yourself why it is happening with such frequency.

In California, we mandate workplace harassment training for all management. So what happens when your company skips the “mandatory” training? What happens to bad management behavior if it continues and staff is forced to resign to escape it? It would appear that in too many locations across this country that nothing happens.

Weak in the knees Human Resource “Leadership” won’t stand up to management. In not enough companies, the HR Director that does their job are far and few between. In the past 15 years more and more HR Directors are happy little clams if they are running a recruiting firm, rather than dealing with the issues that create retention of good employees and the termination of bad employees.

I still remember the day I acted as a witness when the SVP of HR dismissed the CEO for regular inappropriate behavior toward other employees. He was none to appropriate with HR that day either, but she stood her ground, stated the cause, handed him his check, and had security escort him out the door. Not only did she do her job, she sent a clear message throughout the company.

I watch another company today with a verbally abusive CEO that must have realized early in her career that HR could challenge her behavior, and so she has assumed the role herself for years. Now if anyone in the company wants to complain about harassment they have to complain to this person. Guess why nothing changes in this organization? People quit all the time to escape, and there is no one to challenge her behavior.


But what about the other reasons employees quit?

Bad management would rather terminate employees, reduce their hours to get them to quit, or a hundred other tricks rather than manage performance. And there in the wings is the same incompetent HR allowing it to happen. Over and over again HR is recruiting for the same roles. People are lasting less than a year and sometimes only a few months, and management is clueless as to why. HR of course blames it on the generation of new hires, and in some cases this is true. The millennials won’t put up with the kind of treatment they get, and just quit. They get zero support from HR, so why should they stay?

For some reason we no longer train managers to manage people, or we slam them through a one-day workshop or 90-minute webinar and call it management training. It is such a joke, and yet hello senior management, the joke is on you for letting HR & Training get away with it. They have convinced you that they are doing everything they can and you fall for it.

The solution is simple. Hold your HR function to a higher standard. Hire experienced HR people and interview them better to find solid competencies and backbones. Ask them hard questions about what they would do if you were the offending employee. See if they will make a difference, or take up space. If there is one thing HR & Training should never be in your company it is window dressing. These folks need to make a difference, or help them move on to a better fitting career.

Your company is made up of human beings. They can make or break you, and you need a competent HR & Training Team you can count on 100%.

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.

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!

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