Saturday, December 30

The Only Training Metric that Matters

There is only one training metric that matters: the person responsible for the training program gets promoted.

Any other metric, be it smilesheets or increased organizational productivity, or stock price, is only ammunition.

Now, clearly we need to tap into pure research. We need to pilot. But there are at least three reasons why this is the critical metric.

1. You can't do any good if you are fired.

2. Your clients, be they sales teams or management, live in a world of results. That is the language they speak, and you are too removed from them if you are not speaking this language.

3. Getting yourself promoted is the ultimate form of accountability. I have known too many people who called themselves "purists" or "in it for the good of other people" or "researchers" or "visionaries" or "business partners" or who like to shake their fists at the gods, saying of everyone else that "they just don't get it" or "they are part of the old model," who really just soft-talked themselves out of sweating out the details, worrying about the repeated, incrementally improved implementations and delivering real value.

Finally, selfishly, I wear two hats, one as consultant, and one as simulation vendor. In either case, I don't want the email from someone who says, "You get it. I get it. Simulations are cool." I want the email from someone says, "I think you can help me become a senior vice president."


Geetha Krishnan said...

Interesting, Clark. Except, I wonder, is it a touch glib?
How will I be able to define what parameters will be used for the "person responsible for the training program" to get promoted? It may still end up as a combination of smile sheets, cost reduction, and such. I reckon it has to. Just knowing that I need to get you promoted is not going to help me do my job better, is it? The promotion part could be some kind of a terminal objective if you like, but the path that needs to be take to get there does not seem much different from the one we are struggling on, I suspect.
And I am not even getting into whether your promotion criteria map to the success or otherwise of your training interventions alone.

Clark Aldrich said...

I agree with everything you wrote.

Am I glib? Well, to use your phrase, I take my profession seriously but not myself.

I believe the metric is critical (but not sufficient) for evaluating the comments and experiences of others. If someone is on a stage (literally or figuratively) talking about their program, a generalization of programs, their new ideas, or their vision of how the world should be, it is fair enough to ask that question.

As an aside, I also am often asked to evaluate training programs. People supply me with reams of data and screen shots and evaluations. Great, but if you got promoted, you did something right, and if you did not, you did something wrong.

Marilyn said...

Have to question your assertion that if you got promoted you did something right and if you didn't you did something wrong. I haven't seen an organization yet that awards promotions purely on the basis of doing things right. Many factors do (and should) come into play, such as a record of repeatable successes in several areas -- not just one outcome; how well networked or visible one is; one's personal style and organizational fit; one's future potential; etc. Promotions are typically the result of the subjective opinions of a few managers and frequently one person's star performer may be another's problem. Promotions are most frequently made when there is an opening to be filled -- whether or not one has done good work. Sorry to disagree, but I think the important metric is closer to being the success of people completing the training -- not the success of the person responsible for it.

Clark Aldrich said...


You have very well articulated the opposite and mnore traditional position!


Tony Karrer said...

While Clark and I don't always agree on topics ... on this one I have to come to his defense. While promotion may not always be the exact answer, Clark is pushing for us to ask the "real question" ... what is our internal/external client really interested in achieving? Is it working less hours? Is it having a completely pain-free project? Is it winning a design award? Is it getting a promotion?

Often it's hard to ask this directly, so the way Clark presents this is a pretty good way to do it. But rather than asking about a promotion, I generally would ask - "What would you consider a success here?" And, of course, push to find out what they really mean.

Success in any service capacity (and we are all in a service capacity) is to find out what your client really wants, then establish mutual expectations, then hit or exceed those expectations (note: most people are pretty happy when service providers hit the expectation because that's not the norm).

Ed Provencher said...

This guy I work with proposed to management that our company should have an HR Team with him at the lead to help train, evaluate and support the employees. We are a growing english language institute in Korea in which the employees are teachers. The management agreed to let him develop the team. He is being seen as a shameless self-promoter who has no qualifications to do any of this. What's worse, the management actually think this guy knows what he is doing. I imagine that whatever he does will go over well with the management, he will get a promotion and the employees' time at work will suffer. I don't see how the success of his training program depends on his ability to snowball the management to get himself a promotion.

Clark Aldrich said...


Thank you for bringing up that great counter-point. Let me, if I may, add two comments, but with the caveat that I really don't know your real situation at all.

First, we can all learn from this person, who is doing something pretty important right. We may not want to follow in his tracks, but we would be doing all of ourselves a disservice by shunning this type of person completely.

Second, I worry that we as a culture of training professionals too often use phrases like "shamelessly self-promoting" and even "didn't really know what they are doing," (even if they are accurate, as in your case) as code-words to define, protect, justify, and excuse an inwardly focused culture.

The reason for the post is to expand on an idea that doing what we inwardly think/know as right, but that is not valued by the rest of the world, at some point goes from being THEIR fault to OUR problem.

Unknown said...

I have heard a variation of this elsewhere recently - that the prestige of the trainer and training department is increased due to a program. It feels both overly political and also sensible to me at the same time.

I think the key concern for me in the statement you make, Clark, is how do we know who is responsible for a program? How accurate is it? I know that I have a track record of making pivotal contributions in teams I am a part of and receiving no public credit. I even do that quite deliberately now, as an external consultant - I want the success to shine on my client, not me. It brings me better business.

I think this is where the 'overly political' aspect comes into play - as mention by other posters, it is very possible to get promoted for reasons that have little to do with capability or competence. Politically savvy organization members can find ways to achieve beyond their ability.

With that in mind, the metric of promotion does not accurately measure the program's success. There are far too many other factors involved in real world promotion questions, and those confounding factors would not give you a good sense of your program's success.

Having said that, I do think that promotion of the sponsor, developer or trainer is definitely a business outcome that should be measured, along with other business outcomes.

Clark Aldrich said...

Hey Joe,

Again, I think it is an industry mistake to trash politics as being somehow beneath us or inherently evil.

In your own comments, however, I think you represent exactly the productive relationship I think more of us should adopt. You are doing well and getting more business by delivering great programs.

Anonymous said...

If I work for myself, should I immediately use this metric to predict my failure and choose a less political profession, or should I continue to 'promote' myself until I'm Super Duper Senior Vice President of the Universe?

As you whisper encouragement for me to embrace the politics, I whisper encouragement for you to embrace the altruism.