SMART Training –Shifting the Paradigm on Corporate Training

GearsCorporate training continues to be a difficult topic to describe, mainly because everyone seems to “know” what training is, but cannot understand what it is not, even when receiving inferior corporate training. As an adult educator, schooled and experienced in corporate training, let’s discuss corporate training, the principles, the need, and the student.

One aspect of organizational development needs to be considered at the outset, the difference between active and reflective listening. In active listening, the person not currently speaking pays attention to content and intent, engages in emotional meaning, focuses on removing barriers, and remains non-judgmental and empathetic. In reflective listening, the speaker and the listener take active listening and employ two-directional messaging to ensure mutual understanding. The central aim in reflective listening will always be the desire to achieve mutual understanding in communication.

The importance of understanding listening in training remains the utmost concern as the process of engaged, reflective listening producing the environment for the most potential positive training results. The needed 360-degree or two-directional communication to safely and more efficiently operate is critical in training and necessary in communication. Trainers must be able to gather anecdotal evidence and hard data to check for validity and veracity in training operations. Without a quality control mechanism that includes open and honest feedback, the trainer is operating in a vacuum and wasting corporate resources.

The majority of adult educators in the US today, and possibly much of the world, have become convinced of several untruths because the colleges teaching adult education seem fixated on teaching misleading concepts that ultimately do more harm than good. For example, ADDIE, as a methodology tool used to govern training, is useless without a quality control and a return and report function, both of which must be added to the basic ADDIE model; thus changing the design and interposing more personal opinion and bias into what became, with the addition of quality control and two-directional communication, an untested model. Colleges continue to press the ADDIE methodology as the only proper method for instructing adults, without changing or testing the basic ADDIE model. Other untruths include Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” which has been researched and found not entirely accurate, nor does it explain the natural needs and the current model of the world; thus, remaining just Maslow’s opinion.

By teaching untruths to the soon-to-be-adult educators, the adult educators go forth professionally to train other adults, using the same untruths. Thus fulfilling the axiom of GIGO, programmer’s aphorism meaning, “Garbage In results in Garbage Out.” Hence, the untruths are disseminated into future classrooms, and the company and the adult students lack proper training, resources are wasted, and the potential in training is lost.

Putting the value of training in dollars and cents is difficult, but the following will give an idea of the problem. Two kinds of money govern business, blue and green. Blue money is all about the potentblue-moneyial for good or ill to the bottom line of an action, process, tool, employee, etc. Green money is cold, hard, cash, and the food of bottom line health. What is the potential of cross-training employees? If done properly, incalculable positive results and consequences are forthcoming. If done incorrectly, immeasurable adverse effects and consequences will abound. Leading to a stunning observation; if enough blue money is burned, green money evaporates, and the business leaders have no idea how or why the bottom line is vanishing, and market share is shrinking. Since training is all about increasing an employee’s potential and runs the risk of the employee leaving the company, the potential costs and benefits remain difficult to quantify in dollars and cents.

As a newly hired operations manager, I made three expensive presumptions: 1. All the production employees were cross-trained. 2. The machine maintenance had been done properly, and the production machines were in top order. 3. The production employees knew the jobs they were being paid to accomplish. The presumptions cost a lot of blue and green money until rectified, which cost the plant valuable production time, temporary staff increased costs, and the need to perform the production floor manager’s position as well as the operations manager’s role until these three presumptions were corrected. Total cost from my hire date until resolved, 3-months of 50-hour weeks, and more than triple my annual salary in green money. With the total savings from higher potential after addressing the deficiencies, the annual salary of every employee in the plant multiplied by five.

Leading to how to increase potential, decrease blue money evaporation, and develop SMART Training, I have found the following ideas helpful to consider in creating hybrid solutions:

  1. Quantify and Qualify blue money loss. This sounds technical but is quite easy to implement.   I suggest the following principles for review and application:
    1. Respect those around you as potential superstars. Respecting includes employees or customers, vendors or shareholders, deemed less useful. Respect first, last, and always. People will always rise to the level of respect shown.
    2. Change your perception. How valuable or costly is a hammer when directly proportionate to the amount of training in the hands of the operator? If you, as the business leader, are not willing to change how you see the hammer, then it will be impossible to see the worker differently.
    3. Focus on people. Processes are how work is accomplished. Products and services support the company, but the people remain the variable requiring attention. Get out of the office, get onto the production floor, interact, ask questions, and know people.
    4. Freedom to act is a blue money saving principle. If the actions taken by individuals are rigidly controlled, the customer is not served, the problems multiply, and the result is wasted potential. Remember, for every dollar in potential money spent, five dollars in cash evaporates.
  2. Believe in cross training. It is said that Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines love to train. They might grumble, moan, and complain, but the training helps lift the morale, empowers the individual, and enhances the individual self-image and self-worth. The same is true in business and every other human endeavor; embrace a love for training.
  3. In accordance with item two above, make sure that the training is valuable and SMART. Relevant training is a knowledge object that can be used immediately, often, and is easily recognized by other employees as something to aspire to obtain.
    1. SMART training is specific; if the employee is to be a cashier, do not include forklift training with cashier training.
    2. Measurable, can the employee feel they learned a job-ready skill. Attainable training is training that can be achieved. For example, not everyone needs to be a nuclear physicist to perform well in customer interactions. Scale the training to meet the tasks at hand. Yes, training should be tough, but attainable.
    3. Realistic training is directly applicable to daily tasks, not trying to cover 20-years of hypothetical nuance, but realistic to daily production goals.
    4. Timely training means to train the employee to the job standard, as it is designed currently, not 5-10 months down the road.
  4. Training has a shelf life; thus training must adapt and change as the business changes. Allow training to live and die as needed to meet the business needs. This also requires cognizant and purposeful planning for strategic and tactical goal realization. Nothing is worse than receiving training in a classroom, then needing to receive different training on the floor because the trainers do not know current operations.
  5. Organizational design. This topic seems peculiar to mention in an article regarding training, but please note, many times, the disconnect between training and operations is not the training or operations, but how the organization is designed. An example, during a project recently concluded, I saw this principle first hand; a common theme on the production floor was a feeling of disconnect between higher levels, e.g. director level and up leadership and senior manager level direction and down. Because of the perceived disconnect, e.g. front-line employees thinking and feeling the higher level leaders are not interested and engaged, and the real disconnect, e.g. the leaders changing methods of work without understanding the processes, procedures, and technology in the work performed, many problems on the floor were never discussed and resolved, simply Band-Aid solutions applied with the hope the core problem goes away, while complaining that the leaders did not have a clue. Use the following to improve organizational design concerns:
    1. Problems in organizational design are easy to spot and discern during process reviews; this is a valuable time; use it well. Thus, never let a process age beyond 18-months and always ensure each process has a single individual responsible for the shelf life of the process.
    2. Use the quarterly, semi-annual, and annual employee events to listen to employees, talk with staff, and take these thoughts back to strategic and tactical planning meetings to direct resources to qualify and quantify the comments from employees, then act promptly, and keep the employees in the communication loop.
    3. Stop the Band-Aid solutions. If the problem needs a Band-Aid, the problem is bad enough to invest actual time and resources in fixing properly. Communicate using reflective listening to achieve two-directional communication with mutual understanding.blue-money-burning
  6. The student in corporate training can be the customer, a shareholder, a vendor, another employee, etc. Training should be an ongoing topic looked forward to as an enabling event. Want to quickly see if the training is SMART? Listen to the comments made by employees when annual compliance training is announced. If there remains a monumental lack of enthusiasm, training is not SMART, not valuable, and blue money fire pits are raging, burning potential directly and green money by remote. Hence, the following tips should help in understanding the student more completely:
    1. Regardless of mode, make sure the student is known before training occurs. Knowing the student ensures the proper language is employed in offering training, and the trainer and the student can relate to each other and the topic under discussion.
    2. Know what the student expects to receive from the training and then adapt the training to meet the expectation. Even if the student does not know what they desire in post training, allow the student to vocalize and establish expectations.
    3. Confidence in training comes from trainers knowing who they are and what they offer. If teachers are not confident, students will never be confident and will have been taught how not to be confident in acting upon the training principles.
    4. “Enthusiasm,” per Henry Chester, “is the greatest asset in the world. Enthusiasm “beats money, power, and influence.” Enthusiasm is sourced in confidence and trust. Faith in the topic is acquired by being trained and trusting in the application and organizational design to support the issue being taught. Enthusiasm is easily taught; teach by example and others will follow!

Employ voice-of-the-customer (VoC) surveys more completely. Make a team of highly professional, and soon to be promoted to team leader, employees and have them administer the VoC program. Employ the VoC as a tool to improve the business processes, procedures, and organizational design. Possessing inputs for training topics, directing customer interaction resources for marketing, and understanding the role of potential (blue money) inherent in the business products and services, as well as the employees delivering on the company promise for customer interaction, improves the business processes, procedures, and organizational design. By employing seasoned employees, the VoC becomes an organizational tool worthy of the customer and the cost of collecting the customer’s input.

There remains a great need in business for SMART training, which includes realizing the potential in people and processes to influence for good or ill. Tooblue-money-burning-2 often the problem in lost bottom-line or dropping market share is not found in green money costs but in blue money waste. When costs need cutting, always look first for lost potential and save the potential first. If the potential waste is not stopped first, the blue money will continue to burn and will morph into different budget areas because the potential lost is a raging forest fire untended and burning green money.

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
Copyright for images used is retained by the original creator and used under fair use.

Shifting the Employment Paradigm – Or an Open Letter to the Politician’s of America

Pournelle and Sterling wrote an amazing Military Sci-Fi series of books under the banner of ‘Falkenberg’s Legion’ (1990) collected into a single title called ‘The Prince’ (2002).  In this series an interesting quote appears.

Every soul in his earliest stages of untutored awareness feels that the center of the universe resides within himself [or herself].  To learn that we exist and move for the most part in orbits, rather than preside at the focal point of even a minor cosmic system is a painful and difficult process for most of us…

So far in this series of writing, the origins of the current employment system has been uncovered and commented upon.  During this period of writing, the United States of America, a previously free Republic, has moved inexorably onwards in the path of less freedom, more chains of debt, and further into the dark abyss of history’s failed experiments.  This does not mean that hope is lost; it simply states for the record that leadership is needed very soon.  Toward this end, this missive is given.

The citizenry of the United States is comparable to a herd of anxious cows.  Let me explain.  No offense is intended; please do not choose to take offense.

Fear makes cowherds anxious.  Loud sounds, changes in temperature, atmospheric pressure changes, and even the simple desire to run have spooked entire herds into running, mostly into dangerous territory and always to the disgruntlement of the cow herders, ranchers, and farmers.  Ranchers have learned to make fences stronger, read the lay of the land, and place the herd into as tight an enclosed position as possible when the herd is put to sleep at night to protect the cows from harm.  Just before a herd breaks into a run, the signs of anxiousness are observed; the emptying of bladders and the evacuation of bowels makes quite a mess.  Other signs are apparent; the shaking of heads, the shifting of feet, the eyes roll back in the head, and restlessness or the shuffling of feet in every direction begins.  Finally, the most important sign is a refusal to listen to external leadership, i.e., cowboys/girls tasked to watch the herd.  The final straw before the herd breaks is usually not a major action but a minor inconvenience, which if it had occurred earlier would have been brushed off as nothing; but in the agitated state, the herd sees the minor as major and the herd breaks loose.  Once the herd begins running, those tasked with the herd’s care are forced into running beside the herd to try to turn the leading cows away from danger.  However, herd mentality has taken over.

The citizens of America are as restless as a herd of thunder struck cows right now.  Recent events in Hurricane Sandy, tornadoes in Alabama, the massacre in Newtown, the regulatory nightmare from Washington D.C., Libya, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Israel, China, etc., all are culminating into a nameless fear.  The leaders of the herd, or the politicians at every level, have been entrusted to care for the herd, to take limited resources and spend wisely on that which provides the best for American interests.  The pathways the Federal Government have lead us down are filled with enough good intentions and self interests to pave a four-lane highway from Maine to London and Seattle to Tokyo.  Yet, these same leaders are causing the people to err.  Herein lies the problem.

America was founded upon, has lived upon, and rests upon a single principle, confidence.  The US Dollar is strong because those people, who possess it, trade in it, and bet futures upon it, have confidence in the dollar.  America’s military is strong because the US Soldier/Airman/Marine/Sailor are all possessing confidence individually, in their leaders, and in the political establishment.  The American voter goes to the polls from an overabundance of confidence that the person they have selected is the best choice, but even in a loss, that same voter and nonvoter instills the winner with their confidence.  This confidence forms a sacred trust, an unbreakable vow, an eternal contract, between the politician and the voters.  Breaking this sacred trust hurts every institution in America at the core of confidence.

Look at the abysmal numbers of people who trust the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the President to do the right, plot a correct course for America, or simply to tell the truth, and it becomes apparent that the core has been shook, people are restless, and the herd is about to run.  People need a paycheck, need to know how big the tax bill is going to be, and need to know that the collected taxes are going to reduce the debt, that the politicians elected will honor the contract America made by electing them to office.

Compensatory spending is wrong now and was wrong back in 1946 when passed into law for the euphemistic purpose of ‘Full Employment.’  No government from Ancient Greece to Modern America can provide ‘Full Employment.’  Going into debt does not bring true prosperity.  The only reason compensatory spending was entered into law was to cover up the pain the Federal Government created through fiscal policy failures accrued during the Great Depression.  It took a globe spanning war, millions of deaths, thousands of mutilated bodies, the complete destruction of every civilization on the planet, along with millions of gallons of tears shed in pain and misery to lift the world from the Great Depression, and no society has recovered since.  Our current society is at best a farce, Kabuki Theater, to what it could be if the government left people alone, followed the law, and had not accrued so much debt.

Not once in all the discussion about spending has a single politician offered to apologize for the laws of 1946 allowing compensatory spending and offered to remove this horror from the legal code.  Not a single politician has said, “No more debt, we will live within our means.”  America is a rich country; we are not alone in this label.  The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, etc., are all rich countries.  Yet all these rich countries share the same problem with Africa, Australia, and New Zealand:  debt, cold, hard, and totally unsustainable.  The politicians tasked with the people’s trust have failed them by running up huge mountains of debt for little or no purpose.  The end result is simple.  More debt equals higher taxes, higher taxes means less freedom to the people and more power to the government.

Another truth, simply expressed; money is power.  Ever since people began forming societies, the need to trade goods and services has required something of value.  Possessing more of that valuable substance automatically equated to power, for the possessor could stop providing the resource valued and the entire economic structure would topple and fall.  A final truth:  actions have consequences.  The creator gave man the unalienable right to choose, whether he chooses right or wrong. While man can choose his thinking and actions, he cannot choose the consequences, and wrong choices cause pain.

Going back to the legislation of 1946, the politicians had chosen to meddle in financial controls.  The consequence was lost value, destroyed confidence, and the crash of the world’s economies.  This brought pain, suffering, despair, and a tremendous backlash.  The answer chosen was to increase the government.  Increasing the government meant more taxes to pay for bigger government.  Bigger government took that which was valuable from those producing valuable tools and gave to others in a vote-buying scheme unparalleled in any society known in history.  Now to retain power, those currently in power have a choice to make:  stop spending at unsustainable levels, reduce the government, and return power to the people where it rightly belongs; or, to try and continue on the unsustainable path and end 200 years of experiment in freedom.  America cannot and will not survive if the debt mountain continues.  The monies must be repaid, the debt satisfied, which will occur in either money or blood.  This is not doomsday scare mongering, but simple truth.

Look to history for this to be unfolded.  A single example:  when Ancient Rome experienced serious debt dilemmas, they conquered their creditors with their armies and navies.  Once Rome could no longer conquer their creditors, fighting began between Roman and Roman, civil war weakened the empire, and external enemies and creditors destroyed that civilization.  This pattern repeats itself time and time again throughout the history of the world.  When a government can no longer conquer their creditors or raise capital to service debt, the debt begins to be serviced by the blood of its citizenry.  The unfunded liabilities must be serviced, the debt must be serviced, and the service of the debt will be painful.  Reducing government to live totally within its means, even during natural disasters and war is the only solution.  This path is difficult, but the more difficult and bitterer pill to swallow is to see civil war break out again in every state of this republic.

By tying employment to economic indicators, the Federal Government placed people in harms way.  Lose your job and suddenly you place the entire country at risk of debt default.  Mass unemployment means fiscal uncertainty for the entire world.  This is not right.  If the government provides more freedom to the electorate, the reward is longer terms in office to keep providing more freedoms to the people.  Be courageous, shift the paradigm, service the debt, and release the power of individuals by untying employment to the economy by annulling the laws of 1946 and 1976 that would free employees to become independent contractors capable of choosing their destiny, choosing those they want to work for, and choosing what they want to do.  Employers should not have by government intervention the ‘Right to Control’ free and independent people.  Employment should be the trading of time for something of value, negotiated between two free and independent parties with the intention of improving both parties.  Act now to rectify a wrong made by previous congresses; free the employee!

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved