Monday, July 21, 2008

HR and Training: Let’s Partner for Great Management Development Programs

HR topics, like progressive discipline, hiring, and performance appraisals are an important part of any management development program, especially training programs for new supervisors and managers. Most companies include these topics as a part of their curriculum, and often tap into their HR experts to deliver the content.

Makes perfect sense, right? Well, it’s been my experience, having managed these programs at three different companies, that the partnership between HR and training isn’t always as effective as it could be. It's more like dogs and cats. And when it doesn’t work as well as it should, our managers are the ones who suffer. Not to mention we come off looking like idiots – our credibility suffers.

Having been on both sides of the fence, I think I’m somewhat uniquely qualified to offer some “tough love” advice to HR and training. I’ll offer it as an olive branch for the next Carnival of HR, to be hosted by The HR Capitalist , and the new Learning and Development Carnival, to be hosted by Learn2develop. (Some might say this just being lazy… I like to think of it as being “efficient”).

Maybe this post will be used as the start of a discussion between HR and training? Go ahead, order a pizza or a platter of cookies, schedule a meeting, and give it a try. Your managers will appreciate it.

From the training department to HR: we need your help with our management development program:

1. First of all, stop whining about how busy you are and how hard it is for you to find time to help with our management development programs. Busy with what? Dealing with problems that managers have created that could have been prevented if they were properly trained in the first place? This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and begin to build positive relationships with newly promoted managers. Please treat this as a high priority, and an opportunity – not as a nuisance!

2. Look, we know you are the “content owners” for topics like performance management and hiring. We get that. We know a little about the topics too, so please listen to our input. With that, please accept that we are the experts on how to design and deliver effective training. So if we tell you that managers can’t absorb 100 PowerPoint slides with small font in a 45 minute session, trust us, they can’t. Let us help you design an effective learning plan.

3. New managers need to learn a lot. Your topic, although the most important thing in your world, is only a small part of theirs. A manager may only hire one employee a year, or fire one employee every ten years. So don’t try to teach them everything about the topic – they won’t retain it. The best we can hope to accomplish is that when something comes up, they’ll remember that they probably need your help and will know who to call.

4. Show up to the session on time. Being late – or worse yet – canceling at the last minute is a slap in the face to our managers. Better yet, arrive early and stay late. Get to know the managers, have lunch with them.

5. Here’s some bad news for you: your participant evaluation scores are usually the lowest rated of any section of the program. You’re killing our managers. We know most of you are not professional trainers – you’re subject matter experts – but please, get some help with your facilitation skills! Take a class, or let us help you. While training might be the main part of your job, being able to stand up in front of a group of managers and effectively engage them will serve you well in your career.

6. Oh, and it’s not just your lack of presentation and facilitation skills that are killing them – it’s the way to talk to them and answer their questions. Come on, all of our managers are not morons, or lawsuits waiting to happen. When one of them works up the nerve to ask you a question, or share a challenge they are dealing with, don’t scold them and quote policy. Show respect for their abilities, and some empathy for what it’s like to be a manager. Be real – have a discussion, as a trusted partner.

From the HR department to training: we’d love to help with your management development program

1. Look, we know there’s limited time on the management training agenda. Lord knows we wouldn’t want to cut back on the three days you’ve devoted to “servant coaching”, or whatever the latest leadership fad is you’ve fallen in love with. But guess what – managers still need to hire, fire, do performance appraisals, deal with unions, and all of the other topics you seem to find so boring. So please, if you’re going to ask for our involvement to cover these topics (and you should), could you give us more than 30 minutes?

2. Our time is limited and valuable. We’re working 12 hour days dealing with bad stuff you never have to deal with. Yes, I know management training is important, and we want to be a part of it. But could please get your act together and schedule our involvement ahead of time so we can plan for it and make sure we’re available? And don’t change the schedule at the last minute and expect us to be able to drop everything and be available. Lastly – we often deal with real emergencies - stuff happens in our world. We’ll try to find a substitute, but it’s not always possible. When it does, don’t badmouth us.

3. Please treat us as respected partners, especially in front of our managers. Recognize how challenging it is for us to walk into one of your programs, after you’ve been with them all week bonding with all of your feel good training exercises and showering them with candy. Then we show up and have to talk about progressive discipline. Maybe you could help set us up for success? Instead of “OK, this afternoon we have to do the HR stuff, sorry, it’s mandatory, don’t eat a heavy lunch”, etc…

4. Recognize that we are subject matter experts for our topics. We deal with hundreds of these situations – we know our stuff. Don’t sit in the back of the room and roll your eyes, sigh, and please, don’t ever challenge us and disagree in front of our managers. We both end up looking like idiots. If you disagree, take it up with us outside of the classroom.

5. We know we get low evaluation scores and snide comments. Welcome to HR, it comes with the territory. First of all, we’re not professional facilitators. We’re not as good as you are when it comes to answering a stupid question in a way that makes a manager look brilliant. We have an obligation to give a straight an accurate answer, and it that ruffles a few feathers, then so be it. But if you have some tips on how we can be effective in the classroom, we’d be glad to listen.

6. Could you please not schedule us at the worst times, like after lunch, first thing Monday morning, or last think on Friday? Our topics are challenging enough, please don’t make it harder on us. We seem to get treated as “filler” for all of the garbage slots. And if you think of it, how about inviting us to stay for lunch, or join in on some of the other activities throughout the week? We not may be able to, but it sure would be nice to be invited.

So how about it? Managers, is this what you’re looking for? HR, training, is this fair? Would you add or challenge anything?

BTW, for the benefit of anyone from my company reading this….. we’ve got a great partnership between HR and training, really, we do! These examples are based on past experience. Although I’m sure there’s still room for improvement… I’ll buy the cookies.


Chris Morgan said...

This made me laugh out loud - have you been listening in on some of my meetings....?


Joy said...

Hi, Dan- I related to this recent entry... and it brought back memories of being in a similar role (both in-house and as a consultant). I would add something to the list of helpful tips, which is:

1. Long before OD schedules a training or the content is drafted, to pay it forward in terms of the relationship building and "job shadow" by following the manager or HR person around to spend some time in their shoes (inevitably eye-opening). Then a real conversation can happen around what the priority pain points and challenge are...I think when managers feel assured that training is designed to respond to their priorities they lend a real ear and they're also more likely to help prepare for and follow-up on the training.

As far as HR and OD go, same strategy-- spending a day in the other's shoes will discover areas of complimentary focus, overlap and result in a united effort, which managers would appreciate no doubt as well.

Appreciated your thoughts on my blog as well and hope to see you more often there too :-)

Dan McCarthy said...

Chris -
So true in the UK too?

Dan McCarthy said...

Joy -
thanks, great adds!