Training on Trial

How Workplace Learning Must Reinvent Itself to Remain Relevant

 Training on Trial

Authors: James D. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick
Pub Date: February 2010
Print Edition: $21.95
Print ISBN: 9780814438145
Page Count: 256
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814414705

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The Case Against Us

‘‘We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.’’


ON THE MORNING OF November 14, 2003, I was summoned to the office of the new CEO, RobertWarrington, of First Indiana Bank, where I was serving as the Director of Learning and Development. Since he took over earlier that year, Robert and I had had several informal conversations about training, the Indianapolis Colts, local restaurants, and world travels. Our interactions were cordial, friendly, and productive. My job had been an enjoyable and worldwide experience for eight years.

I made sure I was all decked out that morning—even wore a suit and tie. I was not sure what was on Robert’s agenda, other than it was ‘‘training related.’’ I arrived at my office early enough to brush up on the latest initiatives my L&D team of six members was in the midst of, and I thought up a few new ones case Robert was interested in expanding our influence to the thousand or so bank employees.

I rode the elevator up to the twenty-eighth floor, where I was summoned into Robert’s office right on time. As I walked

through the door, something happened that had never occurred during my prior visits. I heard a ‘‘click’’ as the large wooden door shut behind me. I began to wonder what type of meeting this w s going to be, as I walked the twenty or so steps to Robert’s expansive, polished mahogany desk, where he sat with arather somber look on his face. My next thoughts came quickly, one on top of the other. ‘‘Uh, oh . . . something is wrong—trouble of some kind, just like being called to the principal’s office. He is going to give me bad news.’’

After exchanging some nervous pleasantries, he got right to ‘‘Jim, we have decided to make a change in the way we do

training here. I have decided to eliminate the positions of the six trainers on your team. I want you to stay, however. I have

confidence in you that you can carry on alone, and can utilize the fine business managers we have to pick up the slack.’’

In recent years, this scene has recurred many times for many eople. It takes di ferent forms, but the message is remarkably consistent: Executives have become wary of the value that training brings to the business in relation to the investment that is made. Research by several major training-related groups clearly shows that learning professionals and training departments that emphasize the training event as key to business results are particularly vulnerable to this type of action.

I learned a valuable lesson that day back in 2003. My department had been on trial and we didn’t even know it! And worse, the verdict from the new CEO was, for the most part, ‘‘guilty.’’ I vowed back then to no longer count on good relationships between ‘‘us trainers’’ and our business partners—or the great programs we deliver. Instead, I concentrate now on understanding what our stakeholders—our key business partners—expect from us. I focus our training, reinforcement, and coaching efforts not only on creating strategic value but also on demonstrating that value. I also vowed to help as many people as possible to prepare for the time when they may find themselves on trial.

In 1959, ASTD published Don Kirkpatrick’s articles on the four levels. In the first article, Kirkpatrick cited Daniel

Goodacre’s work with BF Goodrich and quoted Goodacre: ‘‘Training directors might be well advised to take the initiative and evaluate their programs before the day of reckoning arrives.’’ Many still need to heed that warning from over 50 years ago. The tradition that training value comes mostly from design, development, and delivery (Levels 1 and 2; see Table F-1) is imbedded in the world’s learning culture. This book is designed to offer—nay, shout—yet another wake-up call: Learning professionals at all levels and in all types of organizations must extend their roles beyond tradition. To help you achieve this end, we’ve provided a model and the specific steps that will help you become a genuine strategic business partner. Additionally, we’ve scattered many ‘‘business partnership tips’’ throughout the book, and these are

applicable to professionals in any situation. Fore example, here's the first such tip.

Business Partnership Tip: Take an honest and objective look at your job, role, and function as if you were a practicing attorney. What evidence can you provide to demonstrate your value to the bottom line of the business in relation to your efforts?

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