Here at FELTG, we are very fortunate to work with some of the best trainers in the business. The following guest article is written by one of them and is reprinted with the permission of the author.

By Michael Vandergriff, May 16, 2018

After training managers, supervisors, and employees for four decades, I think I may have seen it all.  This may not be the top ten tactics for delivering bad training, but they are contenders.

To provide bad training:

Do Not Parse Your Employees by Level or Function

Missile Shots and Garbage Disposals.  In a class on Project Management in the ’90s, a participant on the left said that my prescription was at the heart of the rescheduling of missile shots.  Five minutes later, a participant on the right expressed his challenges around gathering his tools to repair in-sink garbage disposals.

Contract with a “Memorex” Trainer

Rookie Mistake.  “Green” trainers lack breadth and depth of knowledge and experience.  A linear delivery can be highly polished, smoothly delivered, and have all the impact of a senior presentation in a business school.  Also, questions might be a problem.

Do Not Promote Your Training

How does it Play in Peoria?  About 20 years ago, I was contracted to deliver a day of training for the City of Peoria. Arriving for the training, I introduced myself to the new Director of Training.  He replied, “Who are you, and what training?”  The prior occupant of the job had left hastily to take an opportunity in Chicago, leaving a non-class in his wake.  No announcements.  I asked the new training director what he knew about training and he replied that he knew nothing.  Inviting him to take a seat, I delivered an overview of employee training and development.  When I am asked about the smallest class I have ever addressed, I reply, “Half a day for zero participants.”

Allow Critical Decisions to Be Made by the Powerful and Ignorant

Training Killer.  It was the early 1980s and I had developed a reputation as a competent multi-topic presenter at the California State Training Center in Sacramento.  The center was not in Sacramento, as such, but was across the Sacramento River, in Bryte.  A lot of residents were elderly Russian immigrants whose yards were being overrun by prostitutes the Sac Police officers were chasing out of downtown.  Also, the entry to the center was often blocked in the morning by someone sleeping it off.  My “halo effect” was not fueled by competence as much as adrenaline. To borrow from NASA, failure was not an option.  I was proud that, in my mid-twenties, I was invited to take the lead on the state’s newest $80,000 program: Planning Problem Solving, and Decision Making (and “situation evaluation” – a section not in the title).  The design was very intense with a heavy case focus, a lot of interaction, and a maximum number of ten students. I opened the door of the classroom to meet my first ten students and was greeted by thirty state analysts. Some doofus with the authority saw the class size and reasoned that adding twenty students was more cost-effective.  Four days later, I crawled out without a failure (never acceptable) and, within a year, was living in New Mexico.  California has not fared well in many ways since that time.

Build a Class Around Your Problem Employee

Get a Grip.  Years ago, I delivered a conflict class to an organization hoping they could fix their problem employee by placing him in a class. Essentially, all the coworkers were there as window dressing; a behavior change of Arnold (one might call him “Ahhnold”) was the goal. Arnold sat at the back table for the entire session and grimaced.  Proud of his physique, he would exercise his forearms under the table with a wrist grip. A quick read of Arnold led me to deliver “straight up” training, ignoring the barely audible noise of the grip.  The nonverbals indicated he needed a long-term relationship with someone in a helping role.  He also needed to know that his cheap exerciser would soon deliver him to carpal tunnel damage and the inability to pick up a pencil.

Send a Soon-to-Retire Employee to Class

Shameful Sendoff.  Over the years, I have interacted with seminar participants who have revealed they are within a month or two of retirement.  I try my best to hide my reaction.  With tuitions as high as $5,000, this allocation of training funds is wrong.  To get a return on the investment, I would recommend that the trainee be at least three to four years away from retirement, unless it is skill training that is essential to completion of work.

Allow a Small Segment of Your Organization to Burn All Your Training Funds

No Goofy Training.  A Director of Training, David, was under intense pressure to spend the years’ training budget for a specific level to train one person.  The generals’ secretary wanted to get customer service training from a vendor that was famous for their outstanding customer service program.  David labelled it “goofy” and held the line.  He had an entire organization to serve.

Get a Trainer Who Can’t Handle an Unhappy Participant

Unhappy Camper.  I entered a classroom early and spoke with the Program Director, John, who told me we had a malcontent in the seminar, Dobie, who hated every presenter.  Rookie presenters usually avoid the malcontent and work the other side of the room.  I looked at Dobie’s nameplate and was familiar with his organization.  When he entered, I spoke briefly with him, asking him if he knew the people I had met while speaking at his national conference.  He smiled, and we discussed our mutual contacts.  In an opening example, I walked up to Dobie and gave a hypothetical in which Dobie and I had experienced a disagreement. At the first break, Dobie approached John and said, “This guy is pretty good.”  He simply needed a bit of attention…

Don’t Prepare for the Upcoming Training

Totally Unprepared.  I delivered three years of training on Team Facilitation and Team Tools to a huge organization under intense pressure.  Unprecedented, I had two Friday cancellations for classes to begin the following Monday, within two months!  I gained more insight into this location when USA Today printed a two-page story about the mayhem at this facility.  After that, I travelled to a “flagship” location on the west coast to train.  Arriving early, I walked into the training room.  No tables.  No chairs.  No flipcharts.  No materials.  Wondering if I was in the wrong place, I walked back into the hallway to see that someone had placed a sticky flipchart page adjacent to the door.  In a very pale pastel, it announced, “Team Faccion.”  In contrast, I trained later at a sister facility in New Orleans.  In my four decades of training, I have rarely experienced a facility as prepared on all fronts. The training coordinator was boo-coo. The Boy Scout motto?  Be prepared.

Use a Middleman to Acquire a Trainer

Not Worth a Dime.  Middlemen take a cut.  Sometimes they take an arm and a leg.  A prominent training vendor carves out 90% for overhead, leaving 10% for the trainer. I am relaxed about the opportunity for newcomers finding a path to break in. The question is, are you open to hiring a ten-percenter who owns a fresh diploma with wet ink?  The non-value-added aspect of the overhead is a topic for another day.  Also, piercing the veil to determine that your training dollars are well spent is problematic.  The only path may be more work for you as you seriously evaluate the presenter being offered.  It is important for you, though, to avoid being fleeced.  Some training-vendor emperors have no clothes. [email protected]

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