Lessons for Training Departments from the German Soccer Team

Context is still the king and after yesterday’s FIFA World Cup finals, this post was inevitable! With some inspiration from this article, I came up with my version!

So what we can the Enterprise Training Department learn from the German Soccer team?

2014 German Soccer Team Holding the FIFA World Cup

1. Never give up. The Germans never quit. They fight until the very last second of the match and never give up. They never quit, they fight one battle after another, one match after another. The thought of losing doesn’t even exist in their minds.

The biggest challenge training departments face is being the first one on the chopping block when the management team decides to downsize. There is a perennial battle to gain attention and budgets. Training departments should themselves be convinced about the importance of training in meeting business objectives and carry this message of conviction to the management team. Gather hard data on the impact of training on business and never stop projecting your story.

2. Learn from the competition. In 1998, France became soccer world champions by beating Brazil with 2-0. Both goals were scored by Zinedine Zidane, an Algerian immigrant and one of the best soccer players in history. Germany fielded a multicultural team in the 2002 World Cup that included players from Poland, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Africa. They reached the final. Germany learned from the competition the value of players with a foreign background.

Look at how marketing departments project their contribution to the business. Obviously they have an inherent advantage in the fact that they have “marketing” skills. Training departments need marketing skills backed by an ability to bring out data on business impact from training. Packaging training programs and its impact on business is a must. Ever considered hiring people with marketing background for the training department? Customer Education teams are starting to get better at this game.

3. Be flexible. Prior to the start of the World Cup the German media called Joachim Löw “undetermined” and “lost” because he changed the playing formation of his squad countless times before picking the final 23 players who went with him to Brazil. He kept changing the tactics and adjusting the starting eleven. He moved from one formation to another during the World Cup. His approach beat Brazil with 7-1.

Sometimes, we are comfortable doing what we know best. But this strategy can backfire. Flexibility is a key requirement for the training department as well. Employees are changing (look at the generational shift), how employees and customers access information and knowledge are changing, newer tools are flooding the market. Need I say more?

4. Never let go of the goal. In the German soccer federation building hangs a photo of the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro where the final match will take place next Sunday. The players, managers and staff at the federation all know exactly where they are heading and what their goal is. They kept visualizing how they would get there, and nowhere else.

Training departments should know what business challenge they are trying to address before they organize a training program. Measuring ROI should be a mandatory process  (yes, even for compliance training). The training department should have the final outcome in mind – say, reduction in support calls, faster deal closure, increased productivity, to name a few, and explore all options to get the job done.

Srinivas Krishnaswamy


I love to read and share thoughts on technology, enterprise learning, mobile and any thing cool that impacts enterprises.

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Posted in Learning, Training

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