This training could save you from a $1.875 million lawsuit!

Would you like to be on the losing end of a lawsuit that cost your employer $1.875 million because you were too buddy-buddy with your hourly, non-exempt staff?

Personally, I would not like to be the cause for a multi-million dollar court award against my employer. And I would hang on every last word a trainer says in order to prevent being put in a position to lose a court decision like that.

Last week I had an opportunity to attend a manager training which was led by an employment attorney. By the end of the three-hour training, she had clicked through 152 slides and somehow she covered FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SEVEN BULLET POINTS during this session. She was efficient with the pace by which she blitzed through her material. Mind-numbingly boring… but efficient.

Yet for some reason she didn’t attempt to open our eyes to the real-world, real-money consequences of our actions as managers until she was two hours (and 148 slides) into her presentation.

Everything Wrong with Corporate Training

This 3-hour session represents everything that’s wrong with corporate training:

  • 17 managers invest a combined 51 work hours of their time in attending this session.
  • The outside expert (in this case an employment attorney) is given a pre-packaged, non-customized slide deck to run through.
  • She adds a few stories from the trenches to illustrate her points (537 bullet points to be exact) and she encourages people to ask questions so that the training can be “interactive”.
  • And people walk away entertained by the stories, thinking the presenter was good and nobody will ever know whether any of the 17 managers in attendance can do things better or differently as a result of the 51 combined hours they invested in this session.

The managers were never asked to demonstrate proficiency in a single skill that could avoid a $1.875 million lawsuit. The managers weren’t given an opportunity to test their skills at identifying what unintentional discrimination in the workplace might look like. The managers were never challenged to describe what “appropriate documentation” might include.

Fixing Corporate Training Isn’t Really That Hard

Following the training, I was speaking with another manager who had attended the session and he said how surprised he was that the speaker didn’t even ask us whether we did certain things during recruitment, interview or regular supervision activities that might get us into legal trouble.

Just ask a question

One of the simplest ways for a presenter to customize a session, even if it’s on the fly and in the moment, is to ask questions of the audience. Give us a pop quiz. Or just ask to see a show of hands and start a sentence with: “How many of you…”

Discuss a brief case study

I’m sure that employment attorneys have seen many, many cases that involve “grey areas” – actions in which one side could claim discrimination and the other side could claim that they were treating each employee fairly and equitably. Another simple way to engage the group and check to see if they’re “getting it” is to show a few case studies and ask the managers what they would do in certain situations.

Show a video

Similar to the case study idea, simply showing the group a video or two and asking what the managers identify as appropriate or inappropriate management strategies is yet another way to see if the group is “getting it.”

Mock Trial

Finally, if you really want to scare the heck out of the managers (and the executive staff), or perhaps better said, if you really want everyone in the organization to take this topic seriously, it would be fun to present the managers with some information and then ask them to demonstrate how they’d handle the scenario. Once they complete their demonstration, the attorney/facilitator could either say:

  • Congratulations, you handled that well! Or,
  • Bummer. Your organization now owes that employee $1.875 million

Have any ideas that are different from what’s described above in order to fix corporate training? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Know someone in a position to fix corporate training? Pass this blog post along!

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4 thoughts on “This training could save you from a $1.875 million lawsuit!

  1. Can I get an AMEN?! Your points are spot-on, Brian. “Fixing” corporate training is the easy part. The challenge really does lie with those 17 managers walking away, being unable to connect what they learned to the job. We need to be deliberate – to the point of obsessive – in how we develop and present our content, so that connection, that interaction and that skill/knowledge transfer is clear! Thanks for this post – good stuff!

    • Michelle, I will give you an amen. But I can’t give you a hallelujah too because it’s Lent and we’re not supposed to say that.

      I think one way to fix both the corporate training delivery AND the transfer of training issues is to be sure every presenter begins with his/her audience in mind. “What do I want my audience to be able to DO once I leave?” should be the guiding question for beginning the session design.

      And then design something in which you can see whether they get it. And I’ve found that when presenters are taught how to do this, they actually like it better because 1) the audience doesn’t fall asleep and 2) the presenter no longer has to do all the work!

  2. One deliciously simple but effective technique is a common one: think-pair-share. The expert could have asked the audience to first take 90 seconds to write down some thoughts on a topic, then find a partner (preferably a stranger, not a buddy), and take 90 seconds to share and discuss it. Then, if she wanted to get “crazy,” she could have asked for a few examples from the masses.

    This is especially helpful for people who need some time to gather their thoughts before speaking. The written thought puts space between the person and their idea, and makes it safer to put it out for the world to see.

    We missed you at Learning Solutions, Brian!

    • Thanks Kirby! Yes, think-pair-share should be in every trainer’s back pocket. So simple. And an effective way to just engage the group and make them think you care about their own experiences.

      Sorry I couldn’t make it to Learning Solutions… I really do need to get to that conference next year. I heard really good things (and Thursday’s blog post will have a screen shot of one attendee’s tweet from the conference). I heard you got a little shout out for the work you did with SightLife. Well-deserved congrats!

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