by Ann Glumac

So, you find yourself missing a day of work to sit in some boss-mandated (and paid for) training to buff up your skills. How will you know if it was worth it? What should you expect from the training for this investment of your time and the boss’s money?

At a minimum, here are some things to consider when evaluating whether any given training will be a good return on your (and your boss’s) investment:

1. Clearly stated outcomes: At the outset of the session, the trainer should articulate specifically what you will learn. Once the training is completed, you should be able to re-visit the outcomes to determine whether the training met them successfully. Training that isn’t upfront about what you can expect to learn might not be well-designed or well thought out.

2. Relevant outcomes: The objectives of the training should be developed with you and your company in mind. Training priorities should be consistent with and support the culture of your organization and your role in it. A group of insurance adjusters should expect different outcomes than a group of front-line, retail salespeople.

3. Knowledge about you: A good trainer will find out a bit about the participants in the training, their role(s) in the organization and any special concerns or needs they might have. Not only will that allow the trainer to tailor the content to suit the audience – a key to successful communication – it also allows the trainer to develop rapport more quickly. A trainer who doesn’t know a thing about the participants is just going through the motions, delivering the training regardless of who is in the room receiving it.

4. Knowledge about your workplace: While an external trainer can’t know everything about your organization, culture and workplace, a good trainer will take the time to learn as much as possible to ensure the training is a good fit and to incorporate relevant examples, which has the additional benefit of helping participants translate content from the training room to the workplace. A trainer who can’t connect the content to the day-to-day realities of your workplace is missing an opportunity to cement the learning.

5. An engaging trainer: To benefit from the training, you need to be engaged, maybe even excited by it. A good trainer will use a variety of techniques to ensure each participant can find his or her own way to dig into the material – personal reflections, small- and large-group discussions, exercises, lecture, humor, etc. While every trainer will have a different style, effective trainers authentically connect with participants and help the participants connect with the training. If they don’t, you likely could get as much out of reading a textbook or web page – for a much smaller investment.

6. A safe environment in which to learn: Learning new skills as an adult can be intimidating; we don’t want to look foolish, especially in front of colleagues. Creating a safe learning environment means the trainer respects participants’ experiences and perspectives, monitors discussions to ensure they’re constructive and encourages a variety of opinions to be discussed. Beware the trainer who needs to be the smartest person in the room or allows a participant to bully other participants.

7. New and challenging concepts: Good training should stretch you to consider new ways of doing your work or interacting in the workplace. Like a good run or a challenging weight-lifting session, good training should leave your brain feeling exhausted but good, like it’s worked hard and accomplished something. Why spend the boss’s money and your valuable time just to learn the same old, same old?

8. And respect for your perspective: Training offers additional skills and insights that can help you be more successful. You, however, are the best judge of how to put those skills and insights to work in your environment. Good trainers realize that you understand your work reality better than anyone and don’t try to force you to conform to their views. Training isn’t like high school, where the teacher was always right, regardless.

9. A thoughtful agenda: Training should fit comfortably within the time allotted to give participants time to grasp the concepts; trying to cram too many outcomes into too little time means participants might not understand the content or some outcomes will be missed or not fully developed. Conversely, allowing too much time for a topic can lead to boredom.

10. Ongoing applicability: While items one through nine can be assessed immediately after the training (and a good trainer will ask you to evaluate the session and incorporate your comments into future training) the most important evaluation likely will come after the training is over. It will come when you find yourself more enthusiastic or energized at work. It will come when you tackle a common problem in a new way and find a new solution. It will come when you apply what you learned in the training – a day later, a month later, a year later.

Training isn’t cheap; the investment of time and money is significant. Assessing training based on these and other criteria can help ensure that the investment yields a significant return.

What other ways do you evaluate the return on investment for training?


By Ann Glumac

When I was a teenager, “one size fits all” pantyhose were marketed with the promise that they would fit— perfectly—all shapes and sizes of women. My cousin was 5’2″ and curvy; I was 5’9″ and … not. “One size fits all” fit neither of us.

“One size fits all” pantyhose was a myth—and, I would argue, one size fits all training is also a fairy tale. Employee development training that is not built on the specific training outcomes desired by the organization, the unique culture in which employees work and the individual learning styles of participants—in other words, “one size fits all” training—will fit exactly no one.

Client-Centered Training

To maximize the investment of time and resources, training content must be built from the ground up to achieve outcomes specified by the client organization. Leadership, for example, encompasses a broad array of competencies. Rather than delivering generic “leadership training,” as a trainer committed to delivering value for the organization and participants, I want to know what specific leadership skills the client wants emphasized. Effective decision-making? Conflict management? Team-building? Interpersonal communication? All of the above?

Learning about the organization’s training goals and participants’ backgrounds also helps me design and deliver training that helps the individuals succeed in their context, leading to improved performance for the organization.

Culture Matters

Just as my cousin and I had different body types, each organization has its own culture; the best and most effective training is tailored to fit that culture. A fast-paced, relatively flat organization that encourages outside-the-box thinking and individual ownership of decisions has a very different culture and expectations than a more institutionalized, hierarchical business that has thrived, in part, due to its reliance on tradition. Training must reflect those cultural differences or the content will ring false to participants, and the investment will not yield the returns it could.

In-depth conversations about culture—what it’s like to work in the organization, what is revered, what is scorned, what are the organizational values—inform the development of content that is relevant and useful immediately because it speaks to the participants’ reality.

Learners Come in All Types

Individuals learn in…well…individual ways. Some participants love to take notes during lectures; others need physical involvement in an activity to cement a key point. Yet others find that small group discussion helps them develop nuance and perspective far more than listening to a trainer drone on and on.

The best training relies on a mix of methods (with a large dash of fun) to energize participants and engage them in learning. Lecture, small group discussions, exercises, individual reflection and role-playing all have a place in effective training, and tailoring the mix to the desired outcomes, organizational culture and participants’ learning styles leads to the greatest learning.

Your organization is unique, as are your employees. The time and resources invested in training should reflect that uniqueness and not drop to the lowest common denominator of “one size fits all.”

What other training myths have you experienced?

By Ann Glumac

I love training – working with adults to help build on their assets, acquire new skills. It’s exciting, energizing work that leaves me feeling satisfied.

As a consultant and trainer, I collect articles that shine a spotlight on the importance of training, how it can improve the bottom line or increase an organization’s success. Written by consulting firms, business journalists or other trainers, these pieces reinforce my belief in the value of training—but frequently the most important point seems lost amid metrics and statistics and subjective evaluations. They only partially explain why I love training so much.

Simon Sinek’s excellent book on inspiration and leadership, Start With Why, compels us first to determine our cause, our purpose, our belief – not simply to focus on results or activities. His work helped me understand what was missing in these articles on training, why they seemed incomplete: Most articles were missing the irreducible “Why?”

When I asked myself “Why do I think training is important? Why do I love it so much?” I was able to articulate my purpose, my belief, in my own “Why” Statement:

 Ann’s Why

 We all have a deep-seated need to be productive and contribute in a meaningful way to something greater than ourselves. Many of us help meet that need through our work and/or community involvement.

 Building upon our innate strengths and acquiring new skills help ensure that we get the maximum satisfaction from these efforts – meeting our need to contribute in a meaningful way and, in the process, enhancing the success of the organizations where we work.


While better performance, greater profits, higher sales, etc. are worthy goals, they don’t necessarily connect with or to the individual training participant, what he or she values.

Improving leadership skills, learning how to communicate more effectively, identifying better ways to manage conflict, developing greater mentoring abilities – all help an individual contribute more meaningfully to their organizations. And the results just might be improved efficiency, higher margins, more clients served, etc.

Training is vitally important, first and foremost, because it helps individuals satisfy their personal need to contribute to a greater good; this intrinsic motivation is more enduring and more compelling than reaching a sales target or a performance metric.

It’s the “Why.”

Why is training important to you?

By Ann Glumac

The scenario: Pat, an aquatic biologist, has just delivered a well-researched technical presentation to a lake association on a topic dear to Pat’s heart: the negative impact of residential fertilizer and pesticide application on water quality. Pat worked hard on the presentation – more than 45 minutes of PowerPoint slides, complete with footnotes, photos and graphs.

While drinking coffee later, Pat heard these snippets of conversation from the audience:

“Runoff is only dangerous to fish.”

“Roses don’t need fertilizer.”

“The weeds on the grass are the same weeds that are in the water.”

“Cow manure is a natural fertilizer, so it must be good for water.”

“Pesticides will kill weeds in the water, so it’s okay to apply them to the lawn.”

Pat was stunned; each comment was only partially true or totally misinterpreted.

Silently, Pat thought:  “How could the audience get it so wrong?”

A better question for Pat to consider is:  “How did I do my audience so wrong?”

Chances are, Pat didn’t think about crafting a limited number of messages to support the proposition that over-application of pesticides and fertilizers was damaging the lake. Pat gave the kind of technical talk that might persuade a scientist—a scientist like Pat—providing every bit of scientific support for the proposition, hoping to persuade the audience with an abundance of technical facts.

Instead, the audience had to pick and choose from Pat’s endless supply of facts and figures, got confused and came up with their own ideas — many of which were flat out wrong.

How could this happen when every fact was accurate, every figure precise?

Pat forgot that to communicate successfully with an audience, a presenter must identify three or so key messages to convey, key messages the audience will understand and be able to remember after the presentation is over. Additional facts can be used to support them, but effective presentations rarely have more than three or four key messages.

 What Are Key Messages and Why Are They Important?

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By Ann Glumac 

While Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra made some outrageous statements, his quote in this title demonstrates that even he knew the risks of setting out without a destination in mind.

Would-be communicators who don’t start communicating with a destination in mind frequently find they’ve wound up someplace else — sometimes with truly unfortunate consequences.

Identifying clear communication goals is critical.

The environmental engineer who doesn’t identify goals for her presentation to a neighborhood association on a proposed landfill might find herself in the midst of an angry crowd. The geologist who doesn’t articulate what he wants to accomplish from his presentation to potential investors might leave the meeting without needed financial support. The software developer who doesn’t hone in on key features for folks who stop by his booth at a trade show might leave with aching feet but without any sales.

Effective communicators identify the goals of their communication before they start developing it.  In fact, establishing communication goals is critical for any and all forms of communication — emails, speeches, brochures, news releases, question and answer sessions, sales pitches and more.

We do this naturally every day. Our goal in communicating with a waiter is to let him know what food we want. Our goal in a letter of recommendation is to encourage the recipient to think highly of the person being recommended. Our goal in telling our dog “Down!” is to get her to stop jumping.

If this is so natural, why do we fall short when it comes to presentations and other communication? Why do we ignore our natural inclinations?

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By Ann Glumac

When my six-year-old nephew asked his dad why days get longer in the spring, his father answered by describing the vast solar system, the role of the sun at the center, the planets, the earth’s elliptical rotation around it, the tilt of the earth at various times of the year, etc. etc. etc.

After several minutes of astronomical education, my nephew said:  “You might be right, Dad. But to a kid, it’s just blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.”

This family anecdote provides more than a good laugh; it also offers a great lesson in communication:

Sometimes the more you know, the more difficult it is to communicate what you know.

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