Training As A Campaign


This month we are proud to have the President of CI Squared, John Geraci, present his point of view on the state of the corporate training world, drawing on his experience in the United States Army.

Do you feel like you’re flushing training dollars down the toilet? Frustrated and a bit angry, yet knowing training your people is key?

Like most of you, I have been a student, buyer of training and trainer for the better part of 40 years. I believe that we all have great intentions with training, but 80% of our training results in very little behavioral change or real business results—WHY?

While pondering this, my subconscious reminded me of a Story… I was a captain in the United States Army, Airborne/Ranger Infantry. After graduating from the Infantry Officer Advanced course at Fort Benning, I was chosen to participate in a major Army Training Initiative which prepared newly inducted soldiers to be more competent when arriving at their unit. It was an honor to be selected and I would no doubt learn from this experience, but it took almost 40 years to truly appreciate training and how to use it to scale operational performance and gain leverage to train soldiers (people) to execute effectively.

The training struggle for the Army in 1980 was two separate training programs in two locations for basic and advanced trainees. This meant programs were executed by separate cadres and instructors. With typical bureaucracy and overhead, precious time was wasted moving troops from one location to another. They also realized that much of the training was disjointed and had to be repeated. After the 16 week training programs, they were graduating high rates of students per class. But field commanders who received these “newly trained” recruits were left incredulous and frustrated at the unpreparedness of these soldiers and used their own time and resources to bring soldiers up to speed.

General Don Starry, Commanding General of Tradoc, wanted to blow up this model and develop a centralized process that delivered highly trained soldiers to their combat units at a lower cost. This went on to be dubbed “OSUT”- One Station Unit Training.

I was asked to help in the planning to innovate the old into new, so we worked with active infantry units to better understand their needs and problems when trainees arrived. Reimagining how to deliver higher quality, enforceable soldiers while linking the training goals to skills that could then reinforce the principles in the field was a huge step forward. With focus, simplicity, and consistency, less could be more. After 18 months of trial and then implementation in the field, the cost, time, and number of resources, cadres and trainers, was reduced to achieve a better outcome. The graduates left experienced and motivated, battlefield commanders were ecstatic, and the Tradoc Commander and Army Chief of Staff were happy with the cost and overall quality increases. I was proud of the small part I had played and was sure that it would lead me to my dream assignment of working at the Ranger Department. The Army had different ideas, and I became a civilian with the blessing of choosing the nascent Software Industry as my new battlefield.

At this point you may be wondering, what is the point of this Story? Who cares that you trained soldiers and left the Army? How can this Story help me?  I may not know everything about your company, but I see a lot of companies making the same mistakes. There are too many disjointed training programs with no focus or reinforcement; programs being thrown over the fence with no active alignment with first line management; exorbitant amounts of time and money spent on classroom with very little practice and reinforcement; training departments working very hard but with no clear goals, alignment or collaboration with field leaders.

Here are 4 lessons to think about as you invest your training dollar to help your employees deliver high performance:

  1. Start any idea of a training initiative with the WHY and WHAT in mind? What do you need to change or enhance and WHY? Increasing sales productivity to drive revenue from X to Y; increasing customer service conversations to drive satisfaction and more buying from Sat score X to Y and customer revenue from X to Y; aligning people to an organizational change initiative to increase revenue and decrease the cost of a project? If you do not know the business metrics you are trying to change, you will not really be committed and short change the time and effort to make a difference.
  2. Training is NOT an event. When we trained soldiers to shoot rifles, we not only had 8 hours of classroom instruction, but also had 40 hours of on-range training, both live and dry firing. How many times do you conduct a 1 day or 2-day training and assume that your people can execute these skills post training? How do you reinforce the training? How do you continue to discuss and tell stories about results of training? How do you keep this alive as a core skill for competitive advantage?
  3. First line managers are key to reinforcement and practice. If the squad leaders were not bought into reinforcing the training and working pieces into their Battle Rhythm, these important skills would not be mastered and would atrophy over time. Are your first line managers bought into the training? Do they know how to reinforce and practice these skills in everyday situations so it fits into the natural cadence of their work? Or are they first time participants from training scheduled by some HR or higher-level leader with no energy or passion to help make these skills habits that lead to real results?
  4. Training is a campaign, not an event. The OSUT training program we devised all linked together in a way that reinforced the key modules and integrated into the rest of the soldiers training. There was ongoing reinforcement and field practice supervised by competent first line leaders. The skill did not become an effective and efficient behavior until well after the initial training with the necessary focus and emphasis on using this competency to get results. How often do you have this approach?

Let’s learn the value of training and take from the General Don Starry Commander book and design your next training initiative as a campaign to send your troops (employees) into the field with military precision and the right tools to battle and win business.

CI Squared is a leadership and sales training company focused on communication through Storytelling. We are bringing all of these ideas to our training programs in a desire to innovate or “change the training game”. We deliver real behavioral change to achieve your business results.

Learn more about John’s Story:

Why the Military Produces Great Leaders

The Impact of Poor Training in the Workplace

How To Create The Worst Employee Training Experience Ever

Stop Treating Training as a One-Time Event

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