Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - February 12, 2014

In Training, Timing Matters

I deliver training in a wide range of settings. You might find me as a keynote speaker at an association conference, or running breakout workshops at a convention. You'll find me delivering curricula at the major banking schools or at association sponsored events. And you'll find me working within individual banks to help bring all their employees together in a common vision of appropriate credit practices.

In many of these settings, I see participants at all stages of their careers. I get brand new employees who are experiencing my training as one of the first things they do for their new jobs. I get bankers and analysts and other staff who have been with their respective banks for a few years, doing a good job, but hoping to learn how to do their work even better. And I get very experienced participants, for a variety of reasons: their bank may think everyone needs a refresher, or they may be trying to merge disparate cultures into a common way of doing things, or, not unusually, they may have problems with the way these employees operate and they may see training as the "fix."

In other settings, I see fairly homogeneous audiences, groups of participants who are more or less at the same stage of their careers. This is more common with the set curricula, whether sponsored by an individual bank or part of an association offering.

Now, there are certainly some advantages to a diverse mix of participants. The range of questions and the sharing of experience can enhance the activity for everyone.

Still, I generally find that the most fertile ground for truly impactful training -- training that goes back to employees' desks with them, that changes how they work -- tends to be participants who have been working around credit for, say, one to three years. Some experience, but not too much, offers a "sweet spot" where the bank's return on investment in training is optimized.

Those completely new hires? They do not have any real context to lend meaning to what they are learning. They don't have enough mental infrastructure to hang things on, and that makes it harder to recognize situations, when they get back to their desks, where they can apply what they have learned. Besides that, they are overwhelmed: they are getting all sorts of orientation and basic organization information and practices stuffed into their heads, I'm stuffing credit knowledge and skills into their heads, and they just can't hold it all, or organize it very well for later retrieval when needed.

What about the "old hands" that pop up in my training sessions? The biggest problem there is pitting knowledge against habits. It is just very hard to keep them from going back to the way they learned to do banking ten years ago, or more. Sometimes it is hard even to get them to accept that they could still learn something, that they don't already know it all.

So that leaves us with the fairly new, but not completely new, staff. They know enough about their institutions and about their work to understand the basics of their jobs. But they haven't gotten so entrenched in how they do things that they can't see when better ways of doing them come along.

I know that compromising on timing is necessary. Employee schedules, the calendar of training offerings, and the costs of training all play a role.

All the same, as you are developing the future of your bank, don't fall for the notion "training is training is training," whenever it happens. There are points in the careers of your employees -- slightly different for different roles and different individuals -- where learning is optimized. Aiming for that "sweet spot" whenever possible is one more way to maximize your bang for your training buck.