Jennifer V Miller: If I could change one thing about HR…

JenniferVMiller.JPGI’m delighted that we’ve reached something of a milestone in the “If I could change one thing about HR…” guest blog post series. Today’s excellent contribution – which comes from leading US-based training/learning and development blogger Jennifer V Miller - is the 51st entry in this series. So, to kick off the second ‘half-century’ of posts in this series, Jennifer is here to share some very interesting theories as to how HR can help take compliance training beyond just being about achieving BIS (Butts in Seats). You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, and her The People Equation blog is also recommended reading.

Jennifer V Miller: Make Performance the Goal of Your Training

During my corporate career I’ve had the privilege of working in both the human resources and the training and development functions.  On the org chart, sometimes these functions reported to the same Vice President, sometimes they didn’t. Regardless of reporting structure, it was vital that the two functions work well together to provide an optimal experience for the organization’s employees. Because of this career history, I’ve been assigned to lead projects when wearing my HR hat and also when wearing my training hat. . . and I’ve always needed to collaborate with my fellow HR/Trainer colleagues. When it comes to a “wish” that I have for the human resources function, it’s this: if I could change one thing about HR, I would grant each HR professional the latitude to operate from a “performance” stance rather than a “training” stance.

Here’s what I mean by this. Say that the HR function is tasked with providing some sort of training to its employee base. Perhaps it’s something mandated by the local government, commonly called “compliance training.” Oftentimes, this training is dry and dull and nobody wants to do it: HR doesn’t like being the “training police” and the employees detest sitting through yet another webinar on Safety Training. It’s quite a feat just to get everyone to attend the training. So, it’s understandable that HR would focus on ensuring 100% training attendance. It’s easy to track and measure. After all, the Human Resources department has got enough other things to do without worrying about making a big production of the training process. So, they check off the boxes- Safety Training-check! That’s complying with the letter of the law.

What about the spirit of the law? Is there a way that the HR function can tap into the Training function’s expertise to help ensure that the compliance training is just more than BIS? (Butts in Seats) Many training professionals have dimension to their expertise, drawing on the discipline of Human Performance Technology. These performance technologists look at factors beyond training to determine how to ensure that the topic trained actually gets put to use in the workplace.

Does this sound like too much effort and fancy consultant-speak? It’s not. What I’m talking about is common sense, but said “sense” sometimes takes flight in the face of deadlines and overloaded email boxes. These techniques can be used whether an HR pro is a one-person department, or part of a multi-national HR team.

  1. Capitalize on Your Best Bet for Success: Direct Supervisors. The supervisors of those affected by your training initiative provide your best avenue for ensuring actual job performance. Studies show that when an employee has direct contact with their supervisor before and after training, the likelihood of training transfer increases.

    Idea: Ask high-performing supervisors to give input on the best way to introduce and reinforce the training to employees.

    Upshot: Leaving your supervisory staff out of the loop spells F-A-I-L for your training project.

  2. Review Your Company Policies for Disincentives. Many times, a mandated training program directly competes with existing company policies. Be sure to review your company policies to ferret out rules that might inadvertently lead to non-compliance

    Idea: Leverage your natural born employee “editors” on this one. Ask employees who are known for finding holes in the company policies to see where there are gaps in the new compliance rules and current company policy. They’ll sniff out discrepancies in no time.

    Upshot: You’ll need to review the policies anyway, so might as well get a head start on it.

  3. Communicate. Frequently. Meet with company executives to determine how to communicate the necessity for the training. Find a genuine business purpose that the training provides. (Not always possible, with compliance training, but it helps.) Set up a way for employees to provide feedback about the proposed changes that the training will bring about. More and more, the employee base expects to be able to participate. Giving them an outlet to do so will aid in the adoption of the practices outlined in the training session.

    Idea: Set up a series of “pulse-taking” milestones during the project. Start with a pilot project of the training program, then institute two to four more feedback opportunities throughout the process.

    Upshot: Don’t wait to get feedback until the end of the training project; by then it’ll be too late.

By operating from the perspective of ensuring performance, rather completing a training program, an HR professional can honor both the spirit and the letter of the law as it pertains to compliance training.

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One Response to Jennifer V Miller: If I could change one thing about HR…

  1. Jay Kuhns 16 February 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Great post Jennifer. What I like most is that you’ve offered very practical and realistic tips for actually making an impact. So often we get caught up in jargon, that we miss opportunities to connect with those on the front-line and ‘keep it real.’ Well done.

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