Is Your Training Function Returning on Investment?

diceFor seven years I’ve had the honor of being a judge for the CLO LearningElite awards. Applications from all over the country and every industry compete for the honor of reaching an Elite status for their work in their company. Some should never have bothered to apply, and some just want to make you tear up with joy over the kind of impact they are making.

Now having said that, whether you are Elite, Best, Standard or Under-Developed, each of these companies think they deserve to win. I mean some should, hands down, not a reason they shouldn’t. But many are under the idea they are much more than they are in reality. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

It happens every single time that the HR Management and the Learning Management are inexperienced. They may have a few years with the appropriate title, but they lack the right competencies. Senior Management allows these people to pretend they are doing a good job because it is cheaper to hire them.

Okay I said it. Experienced people cost more. They often produce more and make fewer mistakes and return on the investment, but dang it they cost more!

So if your training function is not returning on investment it is time to evaluate if your current learning leader can be mentored or needs to be replaced. Give me 30 minutes with them on the phone and I’ll tell you which way you should go.


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




The ROI for NOT Training

CFO to CEOEveryone has read the above conversation between a hypothetical CFO and CEO, and seen the obvious reason for investing in staff skill building.   But every once in awhile, I get to watch an organization that chose to save the training dollar and suffer the consequences.

Too many executives want cheap training, and don’t focus on results.  They are unaffected by their HR and Training leadership when they beg for more accountability in the learning process.  That is until the problems start hitting the fan.

Imagine your management team doesn’t understand these laws & policies:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Act
  • Diversity in the Workplace
  • Harassment Free Work Environment

Now imagine that you hire a sharp senior manager to come to work for you and in less than 6 months your employees manage to obliterate these laws and ignore these policies all with the same senior manager.  You add fuel to the fire by forcing this senior manager’s resignation because you are tired of dealing with their complaints.

√  Enter a full blown EEOC investigation and Lawsuit for personal injuries.

I’m laughing myself silly.  The management team is so full of themselves that they operate in full view anyway they want to, with a complacent and incompetent HR Director allowing their behaviors to go unaddressed for at least the past 5 years.

So our hypothetical CEO is about the get their question answered.  “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

Cha Ching!

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.

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%.