Human Resources

Nine Sins Trainers Make

Great training does great things for your organization; however, poor training can have a great negative effect. In today’s Advisor, attorney Philippe Weiss shares nine sins of trainers—things he thinks may go wrong in your training sessions.

Weiss is managing director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, a legal compliance training company associated with the Seyfarth Shaw law firm. His remarks originally appeared on our sister publication, the HR Manager’s Legal Reporter.

Here are Weiss’s nine training sins to avoid. How many are your trainers committing?

1. Training from the Bottom

If top management has not been trained, Weiss says, the resonating message is that the organization is not totally committed to the training and its message.

2. Delivering Incomplete or Inaccurate Content

Presenting incomplete or inaccurate content may actually mean the training has a negative effect. This usually happens either from failure to update training materials or from answering questions when the trainer doesn’t know the answer. Weiss advises organizations should be sure your trainers are thoroughly prepared and that the material is complete and current.

3. Giving Legal Advice

Even if the trainer is an attorney, don’t dispense unequivocal legal advice or give legal conclusions, such as “Yes, that’s illegal harassment,” Weiss says. The words may come back to haunt you during a legal proceeding. Instead, say “Most situations are more nuanced and complicated than this. It might be illegal, but to tell, we would need more facts.”

4. Discussing Organization Situations

Similarly, avoid discussing past or current situations in your organization. These cases are interesting and often would provide relevant examples, but they risk the dangers of confidentiality, defamation, slander, and privacy.

When attendees bring up such questions as “One of the people in my department …”, it’s best to say that you can’t discuss specific cases because of legal concerns, Weiss advises. Instead, use the example as a springboard to a discussion of a more generic situation.

5. Keeping Paper Test Results

Don’t test on paper, warns Weiss. And if you do, don’t file the tests. They often create an embarrassing record. Furthermore, you’ll be called to task on where you drew the line between passing and failing.

6. Making Discriminatory or Stereotypical Remarks

Permitting or encouraging discriminatory or stereotypical remarks is asking for a lawsuit and providing the evidence to make it stick.

This often happens when, for example, the leader asks participants to write down two stereotypes about women or members of another protected group. These lists of stereotypes, even though they do not necessarily reflect views held by the participants, can end up in court, Weiss warns. There, they will reflect negatively on the organization, no matter how positive the original intent of the training exercise.

7. Promising Confidentiality

Trainers, in an effort to encourage openness, often ask participants to agree that “What we say here stays here.” These agreements are not meaningful in legal proceedings. Whatever is said is discoverable and may be brought out in court, Weiss says.

8. Failing to Document

Documents are needed to help prove that training was actually provided, the content of the training, and which employees participated in the training, Weiss says. Consider: attendance sheets, participation forms, evaluation forms, and, if appropriate, policy acknowledgment or receipt forms.

9. Videotaping Training

Some organizations videotape training sessions so that others may view the videotapes at a later date. Weiss discourages this practice for two reasons. First, the videotape will show your little mistakes, and second, there is no interaction for those who view the recording at a later date.