Ah, it’s the fourth quarter. In what has now become one of America’s great sporting traditions, football players and their fans hold up four fingers to the sky - often eight, counting the digits on both their hands in the air. The goal of raising all of these hands with their fingers extended in the air: It is to let everyone in the stadium know exactly what time it is. In short, it’s time to get serious - damn serious - whether you are ahead, or behind, in the game. If you’re winning, the coaches, the players, and the fans know how important it is to “close things out” and win the game. On the other hand, if you’re losing, it’s time to “mount a comeback” and try to put your team in a position to win. Either way, everyone knows that the fourth quarter is “crunch time.” It’s where the game is one or lost, and with everything on the line, careers can be decided in an instant.
And the fourth quarter in business is no less important than in all those football games. The fourth quarter can be the whole game for select categories of businesses - think all those turkey farmers, Christmas stores and Christmas tree lots, most retailers, and pumpkin farmers (and don’t forget about all those pumpkin spice farmers!). But for the rest of us who work in the majority of all businesses, the fourth quarter is when our years are won or lost. That fourth quarter is when we have the chance to maybe get into the black and make money - or make even more money - both as a company collectively and yes, for ourselves individually! Alternatively, having a bad fourth quarter - or even one that is less than optimal - could mean that we will fall into the red - or even deeper into it, which could threaten the entire enterprise's collective existence. This holds true whether we are talking about a small business, a growing midsize company, or even a Fortune 500 firm. And while there is no “profit” or “loss” for those of us employed in the public sector or even the non-profit sector, like this college professor is, the fourth quarter is also of tremendous importance - and it can be just as determinative of organizational success for the year, whether that “year” begins on January 1, or July 1, or October 1.
In short, the fourth quarter is when the ballgame is on the line for all of us in organizations anywhere! This is because, in reality, our organizations are always on the line - no matter what time of year the calendar says it is! And so to overemphasize the fourth quarter is a management fai. Sure, it is good to - at least metaphorically - have managers hold up their four fingers to remind their employees of just how critical performing well in the fourth quarter is for everyone on the organizational team and for all to focus upon. As the great pro football coach Bill Belichick always emphasizes to his players, year after year, namely one simple thing: “Doing your job!”
So, if the fourth quarter is so important to businesses and organizations, why do many of them do their darndest to muck it up - an academic term there - for their employees? Why do they try to do everything in their power to fill up the fourth quarter with a year’s worth of training and/or professional development? Why do they put all the mandatory HR (Human Resource) “stuff” off until the end of the year, making it all rain down on workers at a time when people are “holiday stressed” already and don’t need one more thing - or a half dozen things - to have to do to keep them from being able to focus on the true work at hand, and oh yeah, just by the way, their - and your - most important asset - the customer?
And so in this article, this management consultant and professor wants to pose a simple question for managers and administrators everywhere: Do you really know what you are requiring your employees to do when it comes to mandatory training and/or professional development activities? And are you being honest - or at least getting honest information and feedback - about the true value of these training activities? Do you know how long it really takes for your employees to complete these required activities - and the corollary of course, are you really doing them too? If your job title begins with a “C” and you have an entire human resources department operating under a VP or today, some cool title like a “Chief People Officer” (making him or her a “fellow ‘C-level executive”), are you getting the right information from them about the costs and benefits of such training and professional development programs?
For many organizations, anecdotally at least, the answer to almost all of these questions for many, if not most, executives is sadly “no” pretty much across the board. And that, my friends, is dangerous! This is because training CAN run amok, training that makes “Training Day” (a great movie for a “snow day” by the way!), turn into training days and days and days and maybe even weeks, can become not just a drag on individual employee performance and collectively, on overall sales and profitability goals in the private sector and for mission accomplishment in the public and nonprofit sectors. And “training run amok” is something that all too often, employees grumble about to one another across cubicles, around the water cooler, and at happy hour after hours.
This kind of excessive training can have many, often subtle or even hidden, damaging effects on the organization and individual employees, including:
- Dampening worker morale,
- Weakening the corporate culture,
- Hampering customer service and client relations by focusing on inward organizational needs rather than external constituencies,
- Worsening the “general population’s” perception of and regard for HR in the organization,
- Leading workers to question whether management has their back or is “getting in their way,” and finally, and no doubt most importantly,
- Being the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” (as the saying goes), spurring your best employees to leave the organization or at the very least, question their continuing “want” to be a part of it.
And so let my story of my own, personal “Training Days” here in this fourth quarter be a case study for you to ponder. In doing so, I think that managers, administrators, and executives everywhere should ask themselves one question - and be prepared to answer it honestly, no matter the consequences: “Do I know what my employees are really having to do when it comes to training and professional development?” If you can’t answer “yes,” or worse, if you have to genuinely say, “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know,” then it’s high time to find out!
The Fourth Quarter: A Case Study from the World of Higher Education
Okay, I’ve got a gooooooood gig! I’m a college professor by day, and when I’m not “professing,” I’m working days and nights to be the best management consultant and writer about all things business that I can be. One great thing about being a professor is that other than a few “mandatory” times, like class times, office hours, and yes, office hours and meeting times (well, at least some meetings), we have a great deal of flexibility in our jobs.
As a professor, you basically are largely entrusted to manage your own time ninety percent of the time. Some of my colleagues do it too well, managing their days down to the microsecond for efficiency, while others, well, as you can imagine, not so much. Yes, I have friends at work who basically have to schedule their bathroom breaks on their calendar app or that simply won’t happen! The majority of my colleagues seem to do a good - to at least, adequate - job of doing so, else they ultimately wouldn’t be professors anymore. Now granted, there are some of us who have graduated into tenure who do measure their daily success by their golf scores, their savings - and, of course, the number of free samples consumed - at Costco, or the number of views their videos and/posts generated on social media. But for the most part, and in a way that would pleasantly shock both students and the taxpayers that fund, in one way or another, much of the higher education industrial complex, my fellow college faculty are a surprisingly hard-working bunch!
Now, with that being said, at my “unnamed regional university in the Southeastern United States” (yeah, you can’t find out which one, well, unless you skip down to my bio!), the fourth quarter of the year is always a fun one for faculty and staff. Sure, throughout the year, various offices across the university offer professional development opportunities. If one wanted to, one could attend a session (in person or virtually) and learn something about something each and every day basically, from how to better use all the tech tools we have, to the sadly all-important today topics of suicide prevention and workplace violence, and oh yes, how to reach today’s “yutes” more effectively in and outside of the classroom.
But here in this state, we have a state government mandate - enacted by the state legislature, no less - that all who work for the state, in any capacity, have to take several required training courses. These include separate courses on Sexual Harassment, Power-based Violence, Ethics, and Title IX (for those of you outside the world of education and don’t follow ESPN pretty closely, this is the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities).
Now, let me make it perfectly clear that all of these are hugely important topics, all highly worthy of wanting all employees who work for any university or educational institution to be trained in - full stop! These same topics are likely - and should be - included in any training package that is put together for all K-12 school employees and, absent Title IX since it doesn’t apply to them, for workers in any state agency. And in the same way, these are topics that should be the subject of any good corporate training and development package. We want our organizations to not have employees doing sexual harassment, doing power-based violence (anywhere!!), or doing unethical things (yes, simply because all of these are wrong, but also, because they can also generate instant bad publicity for the organization in today’s social media world!).
So, this article is not making the case - in any way - for management to eliminate or even reduce the amount of training employees should be exposed to on such matters today. The author is not making an argument to “lower the bar” on what should be required of employees in terms of training, or ultimately, the better behaviors that are based - at least in part - on that training. If anything, organizations need to do more training and development today, starting with things like the importance of mental health, personal financial management matters, and even addictions of one kind or another (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.) - all of which contribute to having employees who are less-effective - and happy - individuals within the four walls of our organizations, no matter how large or small they may be.
But now, I will go on what I do know will sound like a rant, but presented in a scholarly, objective way - or at least I will try to do so! You see, what makes the situation so bad and perplexing for all of us public sector employees in this unnamed Southeastern state is that we have to take each of these training modules each and every year! Our state legislature mandates it. So, until the law is changed, we will be required to do this training - all of it - annually! And yes, you guessed it, year after year, they are the same training modules - unchanged, un-updated, and yes, no more entertaining than what they were last year!
To say that our “mandatory training season” here in the fourth quarter of the year engenders sneers, sly comments, and downright anger among the rank and file is to severely understate the case. And yes, there is an underground network of those who will cheat (yes, there is an underground trade in the right “answers” to training quizzes - and even paying students/freelancers to cheat - on their annual training, including the ethics training [God Bless America!]) And no, if you put me under the hot lights and Detective Olivia Benson's interrogation, I still won’t reveal my sources (yeah, in America also, no one likes “snitches” - an unwritten policy, I know!).
What makes “our” training so consistently, objectively “bad?” Well, it is because of the characteristics that these training modules share across the board:
- They are boring,
- They are of poor quality production-wise,
- They have no creative “flair,” nor do they make any attempt at bringing even a bit of levity to what are, yes, weighty matters,
- They are repetitive - driving home points not just 2-3 times, but many times, all in the same way,
- They are far longer and more complicated than they need to be,
- They frustrate even employees who are the most diligent about taking the training subjects with “tricky” ways of making the subject redo large portions of each course due to one having to pass a series of “review” questions or even a quiz to progress through modules (more on that in a minute),
- They force workers to try and “game” the system, in order to either shorten their actual time in training - by either simply playing audio/video in the background or trying to forward through such material (although the training developers have gotten much better at preventing this from not allowing the screen to be minimized and putting in tasks that must be done to advance through pages/sections in these program packages), and
- They take away “time on task” from tasks that, while maybe not more important than the subject matters of these trainings (yes, preventing sexual harassment is vital), are far more directly linked to the successful performance of one’s job and tied to one’s personal reward structure.
It’s easy, especially for folks with three letters behind his or her name, those who are in the education and consulting fields myself, to say: “Jeesh, I could have put together something to do all of this training in a far better way!” And when you work with a highly educated group of people from diverse fields, all with three letters behind their names as well - and the admittedly considerable egos that it takes to stand in front of people and say, effectively, “Hey, I’m smarter than you and here’s why…,” for a living, let’s just say that each and every year for the past few years, “a lively discussion has ensued…” about all of this training! Why is it so repetitive, frustrating, time-consuming, etc? Why does the training have to be done in the busiest time of the year (for academics, the end of the semester can be “fun” - to say the least! In short, why can’t the training be better and more meaningful - not a dreaded drudgery that is a right of fall? And, of course, there’s that one other big question: Do the big-wigs really have to do this, too? And if so, why the hell - pardon my French - are we still doing “it” (the training) this way each and every year?
Okay, this has been a cathartic exercise for me, as I have said the quiet part out loud here. I have merely put down in writing what most, well, all of us inside our little part of the ivory tower business have been saying for some time now. Our state’s current training regimen is a terribly wasteful, counterproductive exercise in its present form and practice. And yet, it can’t be changed - literally - without an act of our legislature!
So, what should those in charge of state agencies do at this point? What steps should state administrators take, absent the option to discontinue at least the annual portion of the mandated annual training program - because, it’s well, mandated to be annual, in order to make sure that training days…for days and days and days don’t really hamper the ability to service customers (i.e. the taxpayers and students) to prevent very some important work from being done in our “fourth quarter?” What can one do when literally, training has “run amok?”
Well, here I am, turning my management consulting stare inward at my own unnamed institution to offer my best advice. However, what I am urging our own leaders to do is being done by me in this venue as an article so that any executive in charge of any organization of any size and consequence - large enough to where there is actually a human resources department, area, or unit that coordinates your own company’s or agency’s version of annual training, as well as ongoing training and development programming, can take proactive, really almost preventative steps, to ensure that your training is effective - and not counterproductive!
This is a guide to most importantly trying to prevent your well-meaning training efforts - and the investment of time and money in it - from running amok in the first place. But if your company’s training program has indeed gone “off the rails” and is likely impacting your people’s ability to perform well in the all-important fourth quarter of the year, when the year can be effectively “won” or “lost” both collectively for the organization and individually for workers, here are some ideas on how to call “time out” and reset your training strategy so that you can win “Training Day” and the fourth quarter!
Here are three things that every leader in an organization with an ongoing training program should - and must - do - and no, this does not involve simply bashing the HR folks!).
1. Take the Training - And Be Seen Doing It
First and foremost, as part of living up to the promise that “all employees” must take any mandatory training, managers and executives must really - really now - take each and every “all hands on deck” training course that the organization requires for all workers themselves. Yes, no matter the size of your office, your staff, or your paycheck, “all” means “all,” and you must not only take the training course(s), but even more importantly, be seen doing it!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a quick pic or a video is worth a thousand percent for instilling - and reinforcing - employee trust in their leaders. Before the memo (the email these days) goes out to give all your workers the “good news” that “Training Days” are indeed here, have a pic or video taken of you sitting down at your desk or in one of the many comfortable chairs - and maybe a sofa - around your 30 x 50-foot office with your laptop or tablet and document that you are actually taking the training!
There is great value in reinforcing the notion that everyone does, in fact, mean everyone! If the training is good enough for you to take the time to take, that sends an unmistakable - and even better, free!!! - message that this training course or courses are good enough for you and that completing it is important to me (your dear leader) and to the organization! And better yet, make sure that not just you are seen taking the training, but over the course of the week or weeks (even a month) that the training course(s) need to be taken by employees, reiterate that message. In our business at the higher education factory, it would be a best practice that when HR inevitably sends out those pesky - and sometimes too numerous “friendly reminders” that you still need to complete the #$%& training course(s), that they be “strongly encouraged” to be a bit creative with it! Include picture(s) and/or video(s) of everyday workers taking the training. Better yet, have a pic of your multimillion-dollar head football coach actually sitting down at his desk and taking a training course. Maybe even inject some levity into those reminder emails so as to reinforce the message that you should all be taking the training course(s) - and have people actually maybe open their emails from HR a tad more frequently! By applying just a little ingenuity here, you can both reinforce the message that “all means all,” and actually improve the chances that you do capture 100% - or close - compliance when training is mandated for everyone in the organization, such as the case at our university.
2. Read It, Watch It, Do it (Yourself), and Assess the Training
One of the things that truly bamboozles me as someone who “does” management education and consulting for a living is that I do not believe that many of the human resource executives, let alone top organizational executives, really, really apply a critical eye to their training courses. All too often I’m afraid, whether we are talking about the corporate world or the public/nonprofit sector, when the organization goes “shopping” for a pre-packaged (or even one customizable to your company/agency) training program or goes to find a firm on the planet that will produce one for your organization, decision-makers fall into the all-too-common and easy to fall into “expert trap.” Do you need a training package on ethics? Well then, let’s just find a law firm and/or production company that hires lawyers (or actors who look a whole lot like “lawyers”) who are well-regarded in the field (i.e. ethics training, sexual harassment training) and pick them. Problem solved, easy-peasy! Now we have time for lunch - preferably on the tab of that company that we’re hiring to produce and take care of our training!
Buuuuuuuuuuuttt, there’s one problem with this heuristically-sound, but dangerous way of making decisions on training content. You can encapsulate the issue in 3 words: Is it good? And really, rather than simply wanting “good” - or “good enough” training course content - you should ask for - and really demand - better - especially if the training is going to be mandatory and organization-wide. The standard should be this: Is it exceptional? Remember, if “all” really does mean all employees in an organization, your credibility - yes, not just the “street cred” within the organization of all the HR people, but even that of the top leadership of the company or agency, is really on the line when you mandate such training. You - by mandating it - are saying that this training program is not only on an important topic today that is vital for our business/mission to succeed, but rather, that I - fill in the “Big Wig” blank for your title - believe it to be important enough for you to take the time - and make the investment - to really pay attention to this training course and try to learn everything that you can from it. Eeeeeeeeven if this promise is just made implicitly - but especially if it’s your signature at the bottom of the mandating memo and/or email, the fact that the company or the agency is making all employees take this training means that - well - too put it bluntly, because it’s important to do so, your ass might just be on the line! When employees ask themselves - and talk to one another about the main thing on their minds, namely “Who’s to blame for me having to spend many, many unnecessary hours - and maybe days - doing all of this @#+$-ing training? Well, guess what hot shot? They are almost unanimously not going to look at the HR folks! If you’re the guy or the gal in charge, well, they’re going to be looking at - and pointing angry fingers at - you!
So, my expert advice here is simple: Really read through, really watch, and really turn a critical eye towards any and all of the mandatory training content that you are asking - well, requiring - all of your employees to do. If you’re going to make the employees go through the training, make it good quality, interesting, up-to-date training! And oh yes, make sure that you, “Mr. Big-Time Executive,” do the training, too! Again, just to pound this point home once more, that is non-negotiable - full stop!
And if the training is required annually (yes, your legal counsel would advise this because it sounds wonderful in court when defending someone in your organization for doing - allegedly - something unethical or engaging in sexual harassment), as it is for each and every employee in our state, then you have an additional criterion: Is the training material regularly updated? Again, putting it bluntly, if you are rolling out the same course, year-after-year, with no changes, no updates, no nothing that is new, then you deserve to not have employees really devote 100% of their focus and attention to “a movie that they have seen before!” In every field in 2023, 2024, 2025, and till the end of time (hopefully not 2024, but…), there are new developments - always. Demand that these be incorporated into your training materials and courses. And finally, on a related, fashion-based note, demand that the videos incorporated into the training courses be updated for “style” (nothing screams credibility like a video that shows yesterday’s - or a decade ago's - hairstyle or trendy clothing!).
Finally, there are some very practical concerns that you should express on behalf of your employees when it comes to dealing with training providers and/or evaluating training courses/companies. First, if everyone is taking the same training course(s), you need to be aware - acutely aware - that people will differ greatly in their abilities to read materials and understand/interpret/process training materials. You need materials that are “smart” enough to hold people’s attention, but not be presented at a high reading level that might make them difficult to succeed with for the lesser educated workers within your organization - and for those employees for whom English is their second or even third language. Next, you need to make certain that the readings, videos, and quizzes are all capable of being done by workers who may have intellectual and/or physical disabilities. In 2023, one would expect training providers to do this type of background work, but don’t assume that they have - ask!
And overall, demand excellence from the firms seeking to provide your training content, whether it's customized for your branding and needs or is simply a “stock” training program. Demand that the training and the videos within it be at least entertaining (as much as one can make them, given the subject matters that must be covered in areas such as sexual harassment and ethical matters). Demand that the quizzes and questions used can actually be answered by employees who diligently engage with the training content (I know from our experience here in this Southeastern state that our training on sexual harassment and power-based violence had questions that would challenge law professors and students, much less rank and file corporate or agency employees). And demand that the visal training content and videos have at least a little energy in it. If the training is presented in a dry, boring way, how can anyone involved in the administration of the training - from the organization’s executives and HR staff down to the training material developers and providers - expect that employees taking these courses would be - or rather could be - engaged, truly engaged, with the training!
3. Assess the Training - REALLY Assess It!
Okay, here is where my “inner management consultant” is REALLY going to come out! Overall today, organizations of all types and stripes, from the biggest companies and government agencies, just do a poor job at training! It is a documented fact, born out of solid research in the business field, that most organizations simply don’t do their training right (meaning, in a cost-effective way that really engages employees and has an actual impact on performance and behavior. As Steve Glaveski wrote in the Harvard Business Review in 2019:
“Not only is the majority of training in today’s companies ineffective, but the purpose, timing, and content of training is flawed. Want to see eyes glaze over quicker than you can finish this sentence? Mandate that busy employees attend a training session…”
So, given the realities of today that all companies and large organizations simply must do training on both broad issues and issues specific to their industries/fields and to their employee needs, how should one’s training and development strategy “work” - because much of what is being done today simply isn’t working? My state’s case is just a microcosm of the problems with training and development today. And even though those of us “inside the machine” at my unnamed state university in the Southeast may think of our present training “issues” as extreme, ours is probably not really any kind of anomaly or outlier. Rather, our case study in “training run amok” can be seen as not just an issue for our state and our university, but a symptom of the bigger issues with ineffective, time-consuming, not-so-well crafted, and poorly engaging training in organizations - all at a time when resources are scarce - and our attention is even more so!
We now can safely say that management in the private sector and administration in the public sector are really doing a not-so-good job of assessing their training - both the needs for it and the real effectiveness - and impacts - of it! So, what are my “expert” management recommendations then - both for my state and university and for your organization when it comes to training and development? In a nutshell, let’s go through what I would do if I were “King of Training” for a day to get the ball rolling in the right direction and make training more effective across the board.
1. Have an Actual, Well-Thought Out Training Strategy
First, there needs to be a formal strategy for each training program - full stop!
Start with the basics, ask yourself (and those around the conference table with you) the most basic of questions: Why are we doing this? Everything should spring from the answer to this question. Yes, the goal should be to prevent sexual harassment, power-based violence, unethical behaviors, Title IX discrimination, etc. So, you need to develop specific goal statements in relation to each training and development program with yes, numerical targets, not just in relation to who will be trained and how often this will be repeated, but in relation to the behaviors/outcomes that you are trying to either prevent (unethical behavior, criminal charges, harassment cases, etc.) and/or promote (much harder to quantify, but things like positive customer feedback for exceptional employee conduct and simply things not happening - like harassment and legal charges). And like any good strategy in any setting, no matter how large or small the organization might be, top management - not just HR management - direction, leadership, and endorsement is vital!
2. Formally Evaluate - Really Evaluate - Each and Every Training Program
Second, there needs to be a formal evaluation process in place for each training and development program - full stop! This is simply non-negotiable, and it needs to be a staple of all training and development programs, from literally start to finish, and then when you need to start it again (whether the training is to recur every year, 2 years, or 5 years! This is the ‘cost of doing training!” Or better yet, this is assessing the cost of doing training! But it is not really a cost item. Rather, this is an investment in the success not just of the training itself, but in the better outcomes you want to promote by doing it.
The foundation of any such program has to be data! Sure, today’s online training and development packages will provide metrics on who took what, when, where, and how long they spent taking each and every section of a course, even how long they lingered on a page or if they really watched a video (yes, Big Brother is watching you!). Internal, programmatic data is one way to get at the “real” cost of training, as you need to quantify the basic “opportunity cost of training in man- and woman-hours. This can be done by taking the time involved to complete a training program (i.e. the time on task recorded within the online training platform/program) and then multiplying that by the employee’s salary/wage rate per hour (or to get at the real total number, his or her total burden per hour, including fringes and benefits). Then, you will know just how much each training and development program/exercise costs in terms of each employee - at different levels and in different types of jobs with far different educational and even linguistic backgrounds. Per department? Per entity? Even for the entire organization as a whole?
But don’t stop there! Don’t just rely on the hard data from the training program itself and/or the training provider! Sure, you can put together a lot of fancy, great-looking charts and graphs on how effective the training looks through the internal (or vendor-supplied) data, but what you really need to look at and examine is what the folks taking the training thought about the training and how long it took them to complete the training/development package (or even how long they perceived that it took them!). You need to ask questions of every employee taking the training - and assure - and assure them vehemently - anonymity in their responses - such as:
- How long did it take for you to complete the training package - and module-by-module time as well? (You can have them track it - which should correlate with the internal program metrics, and more interestingly, have them recollect times, which may be far off, based on their perceptions of the training itself and how much they were engaged/enjoying it!);
- How many times did you attempt gatekeeping questions to progress in and/or quizzes to pass each training module?;
- Did you multitask while doing the training package - and if so, what were you doing (this gives insights into just how much engaged the person was with the training program)?;
- Did you do the training package in one sitting - and if not, over how many sessions?;
- Did you complete - really complete - the training on your own? And if not, how did you get “assistance” (again, assuring - multiple times - that this info is being collected confidentially!)?;
- How satisfied were you with the training package overall? (Ask both for a numerical score and also ask this in an open-ended way, so as to provide the maximum feedback);
- Do you believe that undergoing the training impacted you personally? Did it actually change your attitudes? Did you actually learn something (and if so, what specifically)? Do you believe that the training will actually change how you conduct yourself going forward (and if so, how so?); and finally
- Did the training impact your ability to do your job positively or negatively? Did the training take away from what you perceive to be more important tasks/work/customer needs? Did the training change your attitude toward your job? Your manager/supervisor? Company/organizational leadership? Did the training make you think of leaving your present job? If so, how so? And yes, you need to really encourage honesty and confidentiality here!
3. Be Willing - And Able - to Make Objective, Tough Calls on All Training
So, in the end, this leads to management and administrators being able to make informed decisions on training. They should ask themselves this question as they start to make such “tough calls:” Do you know the cost - the toll if you will - and the benefits of the training that you require of your employees? Do you really know this - and do you even really want to know? If your data gathering on your training isn’t telling you this, then you don’t necessarily need to do more data gathering but you need to put your organization in a position to - and demand that your training vendor(s) - do it better. With “good” data, even if it’s perhaps not all “good news,” then you can make informed decisions on training and development programs - and yes, they may well be tough ones! No one likes to see “how the sausage gets made!” But you need to be willing to really look at it in this instance so that you can understand just how effective - or ineffective and perhaps even deleterious - any particular training package might be. If you see “red flag” signals, then you need to take action - perhaps even mid-training - so as to minimize the ancillary damage from the training program.
With such an ongoing evaluation program in place for training and development, you can take action, the question then is will you - or will somebody? For that, you need leadership - both in the HR area and at the top of the organization - who are willing to take action to make the training better and more effective, In the end, you have to be willing to change - or even squash - training that is too time-consuming, too boring, too ineffective, and yes, just doesn’t work! On the other hand, you should take pains to celebrate and model training and development that does work, is well-received, and is time and cost-effective. HR does not need to be the scapegoat; It needs to be your partner in organizational success!
And so, we are all now in the fourth quarter of the calendar year, and for many, that means we are in the fourth quarter of your business year as well. It is time to make the decision to at least start formally evaluating the effectiveness - the true effectiveness - of all of your organization’s training programs - especially the “big ones” and the ones that are mandated for all (by your company’s leadership or, in my universities case, by the overseeing body). Only by looking at things objectively can you make truly crucial decisions, and in the fourth quarter, those decisions can - like in football - win or lose the game for you and for all those around you! Can you be your organization’s Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes to lead the drive to win the training game?
About David Wyld
David C. Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at https://authory.com/DavidWyld. You can subscribe to his Medium article feed at: https://davidwyld.medium.com/subscribe.
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