The ethical training manager

What do you do when the general manager wants a class sold that you know the instructors can't teach? What's the ethical thing to do?

Read this column and ask yourself, "Am I happy?” You're in charge of several instructors, you probably answer to the general manager, and you may have meetings with the sales department among other duties. You see people patronizing your business to be trained, the sales department takes their money and your staff is responsible for training them. What does this mean to you?

Their money, your job
We all have jobs. Some of us are luckier than others in that we love what we do and enjoy the people we work for and with. We take a paycheck at the appointed time and continue to do our jobs the best we can. However, training is different. In training, we sell preparation for the future, job prospects, and some sense of security. People come to us, pay their hard-earned money, and expect to learn about the future. To them, we represent a knowledge level few have attained. We sell them an Excel class, or a PhotoShop class, or MSCE training, but what they want is security. In some businesses, we mistakenly give them this. We sell them poor quality training that has the mask of security.

Pack 'em in
While the goal of every business is to survive and prosper, doing the right thing is another. Ethics and business have had a long and tempestuous relationship, and the training industry is no different. Where do you stand when the general manager wants a class sold that you know the instructors can't teach? Just because a customer asks for it doesn’t mean that your company must now offer it, especially if that means shortchanging the customer. Your job as training manager is to stand up and say, "We need more time," or "We can’t do this justice." It should never be, "We can scoot by." By passing off an instructor that crammed for a class as an expert, you are doing the customer a disservice, telling the instructor this is acceptable behavior, and jeopardizing your reputation simultaneously. The general manager may not care for several reasons. Do you?

What if it were you?
What if you paid the money and knew how things worked? Would you ask for your money back? Would you be proud to tell others about your company, your job, and your instructors? Are you quietly telling those close to you that you can't believe how this company stays in business? Companies whose motto should be, "We Make Money In Spite Of Ourselves" should be shunned by the reputable training firms.

One way to rid the training industry of these kinds of companies is to scout them for their main instructors. Often these instructors are overworked, underpaid, and not very happy. They know the material and have a healthy aptitude for learning, but their morale is rock bottom due to their companies' lack of ethical behavior. These are your targets. By occasionally sitting in a free class offered by another training company, you can scout these people out and offer them something better. I know that I'll get screams of non-comp agreements and stealing from other companies and how this is in itself wrong. I don’t care. We all know these companies are out there and it's up to us to maintain a high reputation. If one training company in a city loses credibility, we all lose.

Ethical behavior starts with you
More than sales or management, we have the power to control our companies' high standards by standing up for what we believe is right. Classes that we have no business teaching should wait until we have qualified instructors. We should not overwork our best instructors to please management. If you are good at what you do, then stand up for what you believe is right. Ethical behavior in business may not be in vogue, but it should be. When you go home, are you proud of yourself? Can you look in the mirror and smile? Are you happy?

Schoun Regan is a consultant to training firms and travels across North America educating people on a variety of topics for Complete Mac Seminars. Follow this link to write to Schoun .

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