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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Things to be Thankful for . . .

I hope your training dept. has more to be grateful for than its budget

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

It is traditional, in many cultures, to take time after the harvest to give thanks. For my readers outside the United States, let me mention that Thanksgiving (today) is a major family holiday, and the busiest travel time of the entire year, as far-flung families come back together for a huge meal and an opportunity to restore their connections with one another, and presumably to reflect on what they are thankful for.

The power of this family holiday is perhaps best shown by the fact that it has proved highly resistant to commercialization. Try as they might, the retail sector has never made significant inroads on this occasion. Sure, there are a few cards and decorations. Vendors of traditional foods (turkey) associated with the holiday do wonderful business. But beyond grocers and generic sales at many retail establishments, there is very little advertising associated with Thanksgiving.

In short, while a cynic or grouch (who, me?) might suggest that celebrations of Christmas and Mother's Day and several other holidays are now driven more by money matters, sales, profit opportunities, than they are by the original intent associated with them, Thanksgiving remains largely true to its original purpose. Not everyone thinks explicitly about what they are thankful for, or expresses those thoughts openly. But most people still implicitly share the values underlying this holiday, making the extra effort to gather with family and close friends, and focusing on those relationships.

Thanksgiving remains true to its purpose, and its purpose has not been hijacked into making money for greeting card companies or purveyors of gift cards and useless trinkets.

In that same way, it isn't a bad time for the training department to review and renew their purpose with a little "what if?" game. What would your department be like if helping your organization be more successful was more important than getting resources to do that more easily? What would be it like if the head of training walked in and said, "I've decided to cut our budget 10%, to free more resources for the rest of the company, but I still expect us to reach our goals," and said that out of conviction, not reading from a directive received from someone higher up.

What if your training function operated like an entrepreneurial start-up, where resources are tight but energy, determination, and creativity are abundant?

What if it weren't all about the money, the budget?

What kinds of objectives do training departments typically set for each year? I think you'll find a lot of attention to "customers served" and "product introductions". In other words, there are often fairly clear objectives about how many people will participate in the training programs offered, and there will be some focus on new (or revised) courses and services to be offered to the organization. More tickets punched, with more courses, means more money.

But the kinds of objectives we can truly be thankful for, if they are achieved, are the results we obtain for other departments and functions in the organization (or, for the training consultant, results achieved for the client). We should be setting objectives with our partners around the company, and they should talk about "higher ratings in customer satisfaction polls," "reduced error rates in production (or claims processing)," "fewer grievance/legal issues stemming from employee interactions," "reduced losses on loans made," or "higher conversion rate of prospects to customers."

When you go home to your family for Thanksgiving, you are thankful that others are thankful that you are there.

To operate a truly valuable and successful training function, measure your success by how grateful the other areas of the company are that you are there. Get your "seat at the table" not through an executive directive and the size of your budget, but through the individual relationships that you and your staff build upon your commitment to making other staff, in other functions, more successful.

If you forget about your budget for a few minutes, and focus more tightly on what your colleagues in other departments would be grateful for, you will be well on your way to truly rewarding work, and have much to be thankful for in the years ahead.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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