Thursday, October 7, 2010

I gotta train them on WHAT???? WHEN???

Okay, I've written enough over the past couple of's your turn now. I want you to ask ME a question....

Below is a "Linky Tool" that will let you ask a question. Put your question(s) about HR, training or employee motivation into a post on your blog, then link to that post here using the tool.

I'll follow the links, go to your site, read your questions about employee training, and then post the answers here. Simple, right? Just like asking a question over the cubicle wall...except not because there are electrons and screens and get the idea!

Ready to play?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A training must for marketing departments: customers DO talk about your company!

Okay, maybe it's just me. But it seems that there is a blissful ignorance in marketing departments across the country. It goes something like this....

Marketer 1: Do you think customers will notice if we double the prices and start using much cheaper materials in our products?

Marketer 2: Nah. They're all too busy talking on Facebook and Twitter to care.

Why do I think that? And what in the heck does this have to do with company training? Let me tell you.

I just read a rant on a site called "Search Insider: The inside line on Search Marketing"... here's a little taste of what author Gord Hotchkiss had to say:

"...where do hotels get off charging exorbitant rates for WiFi access and then give you a thin dribble of bandwidth that shuts on and off like a bad neon light? Multiply 13 bucks a night by 200 or 300 rooms for an average-sized hotel. That's about $3,000 every day, or a million dollars a year. This isn't rocket science, people. For that money, I should have a data pipe the size of a Volvo plugged into my laptop."

Conversations like this, albeit maybe without Gord's style, are going on, online, every single day!

And yes, they happen on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter... (and maybe even on MySpace, although I think most of those are limited to random posts from non-existent Scandanavian models looking for cash, I mean American husbands...) but most marketing departments seem to be blissfully unaware of what's being said.

And the people in the big offices upstairs? Even more unaware.

So here is the training part:

  • Make sure everyone in your company knows how to use social media.

  • Teach everyone in your company how to monitor social media.

  • Get people in the habit of using it by creating company blogs, Facebook pages for employees, in-house Twitter accounts and other social tools. As a plus, not only will you be training people on the how-to's, you'll be increasing employee retention because connection=retention.

Not sure about the online world yourself? Look for webinars on social media, listening to buzz online and social marketing, then share the webinars and your new-found knowledge with the rest of the company.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Putting out the fires for employee burnout

We all know the story. More work, less people, no extra money for raises, costs going up for everything else...put it all together, and what do you get?

Nope, not the hokey-pokey. You get employee burnout. Not your problem, you think? After all, lots of people would be happy to have a job, right?


Employee burnout is very much your problem as an employer or a manager or an HR specialist. Did you know:
  • Employees most susceptible to burnout tend to be your best employees. Yes, these are your star performers, your idea-machines, your "nothing is too hard for me" champions. So when they go get the picture.

  • Burnt out employees tend to self-treat by working harder. Which makes them burn out even faster. And deeper. Sounds counter intuitive, but it's true. They push and work and try to get through their burnout by giving more. And if you're like most employers, you encourage that. Reward it, even. Until they crash or quit or make some dangerous mistake...which brings us to our next point

  • Burnt out employees make mistakes.
    Lots of them and bigger ones. and because these tend to be your stars, odds are they have the access and the authority to do a lot of damage when they mess up. And those mistakes can cost you a lot of money.

  • Employees suffering from burn out at work usually start messing up other aspects of their life. Now, I'm not saying they're going to go postal or anything, but it is pretty well documented that employee burn out leads to marital and family problems, and is apparently correlated with increased auto accidents, family abuse issues and illness (including serious illness.)

So what can you do?

  • First, know the symptoms. Sudden increases in work hours, projects accepted and deadlines set can be a sign. But it's tricky. Another sign can be when a developed employee starts spending hours surfing the web or talking on the phone. Basically, it's a big change in behavior. Work behavior.

  • Look for the causes. Has this employee been charged with the work of several? Are expectations rising faster than any one can meet? Has there been a recent or radical restructuring of tasks or roles? Is there a constant threat of job loss?

  • Do something. Sure, it's great if you're saving the cost of two employees. But if that means your star employees are going down, the risk isn't worth it.

  • Provide training for managers and supervisors to help them avoid overloading staff. Teach them about the symptoms and the risks of employee burnout. Teach them why it matters.

  • Offer relaxation options like yoga or meditation or just a quiet room to sit and think.

  • Discourage working late and coming in early, as well as taking work home. Insist that vacations days are used, even if it's just for staycations. Make it a company policy, if you need to. Employee burnout is both caused by and symptomatic of an imbalance in work/life time. The few extra hours of work you may "lose" will be more than balanced by keeping your best and brightest employees happy and productive.

Are you seeing burn out at your company? Are you experiencing it? Leave a comment and let me know what you are doing about it, what caused it, or what you wish could be done. Let's share and see if someone has a way that works.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We're back!

For the past several months, changes in priorities and roles have left this blog hanging out there somewhere in the netherworld. But I am happy to say, we are back, and I am excited about bringing you more information about employee training, motivation and performance improvement.

There are a few changes I'll be making. One is that I will be actively seeking guest posters to share their expertise. I will be adding a "Contact us to suggest a guest post" button, but in the meantime (like for the next day or two!) jsut click on the hot link in this post, and drop me an e-mail. Let me know what you'd like to write about, and tell me a bit about your area of expertise.

Looking forward to getting back in the conversation! :-) See y'all soon!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How many lines on a labor law poster can your employees read?

In almost any kind of workplace, there are at least few "official" posters. There might be an industry-specific safety poster. Odds are there's a minimum wage poster. And most businesses will have a number of small posters or one combination labor law poster covering relevant federal laws, regulations and guidelines. State labor law posters and even local labor law information posters may be posted in some areas, too.

That means that the average employee is presented with at least 2, and as many as a dozen posters at work.

Now for the big many of them have they read? How often do they notice when the posters change to reflect new rules and laws?

Odds are, the answer is none. And never.

When most employees are questioned, they say they either just know that something is on the wall (or in the poster display case) or they've never really noticed the posters at all!

So we need to do some training! Why? Training employees on the how and what of labor law posters could:
  • Prevent injuries to the employees, to co-workers or to customers
  • Reduce the likelihood of lawsuits for missed or misunderstood benefits like FMLA or ADA accommodation
  • Reduce the amount of time HR staff has to spend explaining protections and obligations covered in the posters

Some tips and suggestions for good labor law poster training

Focus on:

The reason the posters are there
The reason reading them is important to employees (they may miss a benefit until it's too late, etc)
The locations for the posters
An overview of the content

Do not:

Read the entire poster set to employees, unless reading skills are an issue. The focus should remain on the employee's obligation to see and read this material. Reading it may also set you up for a future lawsuit if an employee claims "that's not what so-and-so said when they read it to us!"

This little training could yield big results for your employees and for your company.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is it sexual harassment to teach about sexual harassment?

Awhile back I read about a woman who refused to attend the mandatory diversity training sessions at her company because the content violated her religious beliefs (she did not believe all people were equal -- specifically gay people.) The case went to court, and last I heard was being appealed.

But seeing a note to myself about that training issue made me think. What if the very nature of sexual harassment training, with all its talk of unwanted advances and inappropriate touching was deemed a form of sexual harassment by some employees? It could be seen by some, I suppose, as creating a "sexually charged atmosphere" while others might view the training content and.or images as offensive.

I'm wondering if any of our readers have encountered a situation like this. Has anyone at your company, or anyone you've known of, ever sought an exemption from sexual harassment training because of the content? And if so, how was it handled?

Friday, February 19, 2010

OOPS! Missed something in training and now the bank is on fire!

Okay, maybe not the whole bank, but at least the ATM!

That's what happened to a fellow HR pro in a previous job. Just one missed element in his training, and boom! The ATM is in flames!

When you're training your new employees, have you covered all the bases? Sure, you know all the little do's and do not's, but are all of those in your training program?

Take a step back, and review every element of a task. Is there something you do, (or the person who is skilled in that job does) that is missing from the training, but matters? Maybe missing that step won't set an ATM on fire, but it might shut down a product line, accidentally cancel a critical order or cause your company to miss an important deadline.

So while you read about Ben's flaming ATM experience, think about your company training? Are there fires you could prevent now with the right training?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The blurry facts about sexual harassment training

I guess it all depends where you look.

One study says sexual harassment in the workplace is down. Another one says it's up.

And then there are the stats on who exactly is being harassed. Used to be assumed that it was all women. Then gay, lesbian and transgendered employees moved up on the list. Now straight men are filing an increasing number of sexual harassment complaints, usually aimed at their female bosses.

As if all of this wasn't confusing enough, there are questions about what to do to stop, or at least reduce sexual harassment at work. Heck, most of us can't even agree on what is really is. Some things are easy to define as sexual harassment, like when sexual favors are a condition of promotion or even hiring (think the proverbial "director's couch.")

But other things are trickier. When does a compliment become sexual harassment? Or a hug or a pat on the back? Is it only the big things that count, or is everything potentially open to interpretation as harassment?

Amid this maelstrom of uncertainty, there are a few things employers can do to reduce the likelihood of sexual harassment at work. And as you probably expect on this blog, I'm going to list training first. So here goes...


Yup, this is yet another case of what we don't know CAN hurt us. If your employees and your managers can't even come up with a clear definition of sexual harassment, how are they supposed to:

A) Recognize it
B) Prevent it
C) Deal with it when it happens

Now for the good news. Sexual harassment training does NOT have to be boring. In fact, it probably won't do a heck of a lot of good if it is boring. People who are falling asleep, daydreaming or doodling probably are not learning very much.

Look for a sexual harassment training program that gets people involved in the process. Something with role playing, humor or an interactive component will be much more effective than a lecture (remember that earlier post about why lectures are a bad way to teach? Well, here's your chance to apply that knowledge!)

2) Create a culture that doesn't enable sexual harassment

It can be as simple as open door policies for small meetings. You can also make sure spouses and partners are invited to social events on a regular basis. Let your employees, from senior management on down, know that any instance of sexual harassment will be investigated and dealt with promptly. No exceptions.

3) Remain observant

It's estimated that up to 70% of sexual harassment events are never reported, so it's up to you to be aware of the mood and tone of employee interactions. If meetings often include off-color jokes or references, it's time to pull in the reins and get that behavior under control.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Management needs training too!

There is no nice way to put this...

Lots of managers are terrible at being managers.

Some are manipulative, some are glory-hogs taking credit for staff accomplishments, some hide behind rules instead of taking the lead, some are know-it-all's, and some are control freaks who micromanage employees to death.

If you're in the HR department, you know I'm telling the truth. You see it, hear about, and all too often, try to clean up the messes bad management leaves behind. So what is HR doing about it?

Are you training your managers? Odds are, the answer is no.

Somewhere, somehow, we got the idea that training was for the rank and file. Managers occupied a glorified, exempt realm where they were free from all training needs except for the odd time-management seminar or maybe an intro to the newest corporate initiative to reorganize the rank and file.

And that's sad. Because the right training at the right time could transform those rule-huggers and glory hogs into leaders. A properly designed workshop could teach managers why their success depends upon letting their staff do what they do best without the pressure of micro-management. Good management training can introduce an emotionally-distant manager to the idea of collaborative success through listening, engagement and participation.

No, it is not a cure all. Some managers are just wrong for the job, and will spend the rest of their tenure exemplifying the Peter Principle, as they continue at their level of incompetence.

But with training, the majority of bad managers can become, at the very least, less bad. Lots can become pretty good. And a few, with the right tools and training, will become leaders.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The very un-glamourous training hardworking employees need

There was a time, not too long ago, when employees who worked in hazardous areas or at hazardous job had to supply their own Personal Protective Equipment, also known as PPE.

I guess that seemed like a good policy at the time. It saved the company money, because the cost came out of the employees pocket. And in theory, since the employee was protecting themselves, they would be extra careful and make sure all the bases (or the fingers or whatever) were covered.

In theory.

But in reality? Let's take the case of Pat. A good name that could apply to a woman or a man, so no one will be offended...or everyone will. Especially the Pats. But I digress...

OKAY....Pat comes to work. Pat is a machine operator who also has to use caustic chemicals from time to time. By industry standards and OSHA guidelines, Pat is supposed to use:

Protective goggles
A hard hat
Steel-toed boots
Heavy-duty, extra long gloves
Long sleeved shirts and long pants
A lab coat or smock over street clothes
A dust mask or respirator
Ear plugs

Now Pat only makes $9.75 an hour. And PPE can get expensive. The boots alone are well over $100. So Pat skimps. Regular workboots from the discount store, no steel toes, go for $22.95. Heat and chemical resistant gloves? A pair of garden gloves instead. When it's hot, Pat wears a t-shirt. There haven't been any lab coats around the plant in years, so that's out. The rest of the stuff? Pat just doesn't have the money -- $9.75/hour only goes so far.

This went on for years. Then the rules changed.

In Rule 72:64341-64430, enacted in late 2007, OSHA declared that an

employer must pay for required PPE, except in the limited cases specified in the standard. Safety-toe protective footwear and prescription safety glasses were excepted from the employer payment requirement, in large part because these items were considered to be very personal in nature and were often worn off the jobsite.

Unfortunately, years of ignoring the standards for PPE have made employees lazy. And years of not having to pay for PPE has made employers lazy, too. But with OSHA stepping up enforcement, and industrial accidents rising, employers need to train their workers -- and themselves in safe PPE practices.

With the increased attention OSHA is paying to violations these days, training Pat -- and providing all the necessary PPE could save your company thousands.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting training out of the box, Part 3 --- Finally!

Okay, okay, so it wasn't the next day. But hey, it was New Year's Eve. And if you're like most of us here, that first week back after the winter holiday madness was, well, more madness!

But now we're a week into 2010 and it's time to get back on track. So where was I? Oh yes, your objections to opening the box on training.

Number 1

It costs too much.

This one had the most hands waving in the air, I'm sure. Budgets are tight. Got it. But how many people at your company are now expected to pick up the slack for those who have left -- or were let go?

When you eliminate a position or leave one vacant, you've not only cut costs, you've cut expertise and experience. Aside from the question of whether that saves you any money, there is the issue of keeping the business going.

So you need to, got to, have to, MUST train the remaining people so they can do their jobs AND the new job, too.

Hoping they'll "catch on" or figure it out is not a valid game plan. Too much risk for mistakes, and in today's sue-happy climate, that could cost BIG $$$$$.

And looking ahead, what happens when someone leaves unexpectedly, taking their expertise with them? People are still moving on, taking other jobs. Are your employees cross-trained well enough to pick up that now-vacant job, even for a short time if you do hire someone new?


Good training doesn't really cost that much. But you already knew that, didn't you. So on to the next excuse....

Number 2

It takes too much time away from work

Did I hear you right? Training people to do their jobs better, or to feel better about their jobs is a waste of time???

We live in a world where nearly half of all employees DO NOT LIKE THEIR JOBS. And we all know that people who are happy at work perform better, work harder, and make less mistakes.

And yet people are waving those hands in the air claiming that training is a waste of time? That means one of three things:

1) You have bad training, and no one should be going. So you need to fix what's broken rather than consider it a plus that you're forcing only a small number of your employees to suffer through miserable training.

2) Your training is not useful to your business. Sure, it might be fun. Or it might be your trainer's favorite topic. But if it isn't really useful to your business and your employees, it's time to replace it with something that does matter. And then invite more people to share in the wealth.

3) You are too focused on the short-term, at the expense of the long-term. Sure, maybe Sally in IT isn't a manager yet. But she wants to be. And she's a good employee. So let her go to the management training class. It will benefit the company in the long run, whether she moves into management, or just learns some new skills to apply to her current job. Or even gains a better understanding of what managers do. It's ALL good.

The Big Number 3

There's one more excuse, but this one is usually not accompanied by waving hands. It might be whispered. But usually it's not even spoken.

We are afraid that if "they" know too much, "they" will think they have a right to make choices. To think for themselves. Maybe...and this is the scariest part...shoot for OUR jobs. Gasp! I said it! I broke the code of silence!

It's nothing new. It's the reason so many cultures through-out history have clamped down on education. The more the masses know, the more dangerous they are. Or could be.

But as an excuse, even a silent one, for holding back on training in 2010, it stinks. If managers are so insecure in their skills, they need to get better at what they do, instead of acting as roadblocks to improving the skills of their teams.

Worst of all, if this is the real reason and it's coming down from the top, your organization is in a heap of trouble. And at that point, training is the least of your worries.

So which is it? And why are those gates still closed? Are there reasons I haven't covered? Let me know. Post your thoughts or drop me an e-mail at trainingtimeblog at

And while you're at it, I'd love to hear your thoughts for topics I should cover. (BTW, MLM, discount pharmaceuticals, or the latest gadget you're selling are NOT open topics, so skip those e-mails and comments please.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In case you needed some more reasons

Okay, I promise, this is the last post (for awhile!) on why you have to, must, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY need to train your employees!

I was on Facebook, and came across a post from Milton Corsey, linking to a truly awesome article by Bill Bartmann over at Entrepreneur.

Bill listed the six myths about training employees (including the all-time fave "It costs too much" that I just dealt with in my last three posts.

If my rants and tantrums haven't convinced you that training is a non-negotiable MUST for the very top of your professional to-do list, check out his 6 points, then let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting training out of the black box - Part 2

Now that you know what training is wanted/needed, it's time to share the news.

In chatting with other HR pros, and even through my own observation, I hear a lot about training being available only to a select few.

Excuse me??

We are talking about something that will create a better informed, more productive, more motivated, and more committed workforce, and you are keeping it a secret from most of your employees?

All I can say is you are nuts! (headwag and finger shaking to be imagined here!)

You have someone working on the factory floor who has aspirations of becoming a supervisor and wants to be able to do it well from Day 1 when the opportunity arises, and you are only letting people who are already supervisors in the door to that class?

You have a clerical employee who writes code on the side at home and you are NOT going to tell her about the database application class because it is not in her job description -- yet! Are you kidding me?

Stop thinking of training as a limited resource!

I will say it again! Training increases productivity, improves morale, and boost employee commitment. It is a tool like almost none other you have in your HR toolbox. So open up the box, and take it out!


Publish a training schedule and let people pick the classes they want to attend. If there are a few people who NEED to attend a given class, put their names down first. Then let ANYONE sign up for the rest of the slots. ANYONE!

Send out in-house e-mails about upcoming training. Post signs on walls. PUBLICIZE IT! Think school dance -- the more signs, the more excitement, the more people attend. Same principle here, except your company benefits from all the people showing up and getting training! Pretty cool, huh? And you don't even need someone to watch the punchbowl!

Reward people for attending, reward improvement in areas that had been lacking, reward new ideas that came from the training. Pay attention to the after-affects of the training. When people do good things because of it, reward them. Chocolate bars, gift certificates, plaques, whatever you choose. Just follow through.

Tomorrow...your objections to this idea. Yeah, I can see those hands waving out there. And the "But...but..." excuse pouring out. Share yours. I'll share the ones I've heard. And tomorrow, we'll deal with them all.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Taking training and rewards out of the black box -Part 1

In my previous post, I talked about making training into a reward. One of the biggest obstacles to doing that is getting the word out about:

1) Training needed/wanted
2) Training available

Without opening up these two things, your training program -- along with all the good it could do your company -- will remain in a black box. And we all know that the only time someone actually looks into the black box is after a disaster.

Here are some tips to open that box, and get training out where it belongs:

1) Find out what kind of training your employees want.

Oh, this sounds sooooo simple. Starting with the employees. Asking questions. But in reality, it is almost never done!

Training is fed to people, top down. With a "We who sit off in our offices and never do the daily work..." directive behind the training choices, is it any wonder that most training has little or no impact on learning, and is in fact dreaded by employees? Where did we forget that employees are grown-ups, and are perfectly capable of knowing what interests them, what would make their jobs easier and what questions they need answered!

2) When in doubt, ask why.

OK, let's say you asked what kind of training people want and you got the following list:
  • Chinese language (from a salesperson)
  • How to be a good manager (from a machine operator on the factory floor)
  • Microsoft Office skills (from the Art Director)
Wondering why a machine operator wants a management class? Or the Art Director wants training in office? And the Chinese language training? You have no idea!

Traditional black box thinking would be to say no to all of them.

But if you ask, you may discover that the machine operator is taking night classes, and hopes to become a manager or supervisor some day, the Art Director needs help setting up spreadsheets to track projects, and that salesperson just noticed a growing demand for products like yours from Chinese buyers, and wants to be able to open that market.

3) Take away the stigma of asking for training

In tooooo many companies, asking for training in anything directly related to your job is seen as an admission of incompetence. So even employees who really need the information, and who would benefit from the training are afraid to ask for it.

Letting employees know it's a strength to ASK for training in your field will open the door to a better trained, better performing, and (incidentally), more committed workforce. And what employer wouldn't want that!

Tomorrow, I'll talk about getting the word out about training.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Training and rewards, Santa style

The connection between behavior and rewards is simple, if you're talking about Santa. You behave, you get toys. You misbehave? You can look forward to a stocking full of coal. Nasty.

The really cool thing about that plan is that it is clear and up front. No mysterious stockings full of coal because some bean counter said there where too many good children. The terms are clear...clean your room, help out mom and dad around the house, brush your teeth, and you're pretty much guaranteed that old Saint Nick won't leave you lumps of fossil fuel instead of a candy cane and toys.

Wouldn't it be great if corporate training worked that way? Or heck, corporate life in general.

Imagine this:

You come into work every day, you work hard. You do your reports and track your products. So when training opportunities come around, you can pretty much count on a sweet opportunity to learn something new, improve your skills, maybe get set for a promotion when a position opens up.

Sorry. The reality is far from the Santa-based system. We treat employee training like some secret formula we need to protect from the masses.

First, we limit the number of people who hear about the training being offered. It becomes something more like an invitation to a secret society than a chance to create a better educated workforce.

Then, we have an approval process for people who "heard" about the training and want to go. We screen them to make sure we only allow in those who already have jobs related to the training. The idea that others in the organization might benefit from diverse training is about as accepted as the idea of little green men -- we all know about the stories, but no one in their right mind would admit to believing them.

Finally, we make it hard to people to attend the training. In many organizations, salaried employees attending training are expected to do their normal job on their own time, outside of the training time. Now there's a big incentive, right?

There are literally millions of pages of research showing that a better trained and cross trained workforce is more productive, more committed and more successful. And yet, and yet...the stocking full of coal continue.

Can we take a page from Santa in 2010? If your employees are on the nice list, make training one of their rewards? At the very least, it beats vacuuming up all that coal dust.

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