Teacher versus Trainer

One only need to experience a recent “trainer” with the State of California conducting a workshop that began “1, 2, 3 all eyes on me!” to know that many do not see the difference between a teacher and a trainer.  Turns out that with all the teachers in California being let go because of budget cuts, their “talents” are now being used to facilitate training programs.

Not only is this opening line a juvenile way to begin any adult learning event (and I have to wonder how many high school students would enjoy it either), it conveys the message that “I’m the teacher, all knowledge starts here, and if you are to learn today it must come from me to you!”  Give me a break!

Those of us that have majored in adult learning principles, realize that knowledge moves around the training environment and is a shared learning experience for the trainer and the participants.  These principles are also being used by many experienced teachers with outstanding success, but too many teachers believe that all knowledge originates from the front of the room.

Adults have their own experiences to draw on, and they have an abundance of real life stories that bring home the point of the lesson.  However, society as a whole sees value in teachers not on their ability to facilitate learning, but as sources of unending brilliance.

When we define education as knowing about a topic and training as the ability to perform tasks, it begs to ask the question why we spend so much time in K-12 and our college years learning about stuff, but not always knowing how to apply it to real life.  Corporate Trainers are tasked with just a few hours to achieve the learning objectives, and when employees can’t perform better, training takes the brunt of that failure.

Teachers do not have the same burdens to perform as trainers do.  Teachers must be able to demonstrate learning long enough to pass exams.  So what would happen if we reversed roles and teachers had to learn to be trainers?  Maybe instead of hiring unemployed teachers to train California employment curriculum we should hire unemployed trainers.  Would the results be different from “1, 2, 3, all eyes on me?”

A Learning Journal

I’m always under impressed with today’s “Learning Professional” who struts around claiming to be a “Continual Learner” and yet asked what they have learned recently they go blank.  How can you be a continual learner if you can’t remember learning anything lately?

I have a dear friend that has been in the learning profession much longer then I have been, and the key to this statement is that she retired from full-time work 5 years ago.  She is the consummate continual learner, and you only need to talk with her for 15 minutes or read any email she sends you to find out what she has experienced or learned.  And, she never needs any prompting either.

She reads, attends workshops, and engages in numerous online environments.  The key to these activities she will tell you “is to always walk away with a take-a-way.”  She forces herself to do this by keeping a Learning Journal.  Along with being a person who has always kept a diary/journal for thoughts and reactions to life, she has taken to keeping a separate log of what she has learned, and wait, how she could apply it to her life.

I wish I had this kind of discipline, but I am honest enough with myself that I don’t.  I journal thoughts in my Franklin Planner all the time, and buried in there within the sentences I might have a nugget or two of what I’ve learned, but I have not made it to the Yoda-Level of my friend’s passion for tracking my learning.

If keeping this kind of learning journal is too much to ask of yourself, and yet you manage a learning function, I would suggest you begin by tracking the learning that is happening in your organization.  At least weekly, track what the employees have learned.  If you didn’t run any workshops, don’t assume learning has not happened, but at the same time don’t take credit for running a learning organization just quite yet.

Until we can track our individual learning, and what our staff and employees are learning, our imaginations will be bigger than the reality.  If you really are a continual learner, prove it.  If you really manage a learning organization, be prepared to prove that too!

Perfect Purchase!

If you have read many of the posts in this blog, you know I often speak of the issues that are causing distress in many training departments.  A friend asked me once if I ever find good examples to write about, and although they are rare, I am pleased to be able to share a perfect one today!

In my book The Training Physical, I talk about how important it is for training managers to know what they need to purchase before they go shopping.  Much like going to the grocery store, if you have a menu in place you will actually buy the food required to cook the meal.  Shopping and figuring out what you need at the same time is a bad combination.

So last week I get a call from a training manager looking at a particular training program.  Before I could open my mouth, she wanted to tell me where in her process she was at that moment.  My ears perked up because I was intrigued to hear what she had done so far.

I’m about to paraphrase what she said, as she laid out the business objective that was driving this conversation, and the culture that supported these skills.  She had done a thorough needs analysis and had determined which competencies needed to be developed in training, and in the coaching and mentoring process.  With her training list in hand, she began to research solution providers to determine if she could buy off the shelf, or would need to create something custom.

She had already reviewed the website information, and asked if I could compare the program with her as she went through her list of competencies.  Once I got the stunned look off my face (thankfully we were on the phone) I asked her to begin, and I read back what each module would cover.  This program was a match like I’d never witnessed before from an off the shelf solution.

Four days later after reviewing all of the materials I provided for the program, and running the costs up the verbal flag pole, she was ready to create signing documents and get invoices sent to her.  She had no problems selling her solution because she had connected the dots before she began positioning this training program.

She had understood the performance issue.  She then broke down the performance piece into what training could solve, and what would need to be addressed by some other performance tool.  She shopped after she knew what she was looking for, and when she found a match she was quickly able to secure funding because the picture was complete.

So, yes I love to share stories like this one.  This is one awesome training manager and a credit to our ranks.  This company whether they know it or not, has one cracker-jack return on investment in this single employee.

Buyers Need To Focus

In my book The Training Physical, I stress the importance of building a good relationship with any vendor that supplies a product or service to your training function.  When you have a solid relationship you can ask and receive things not normally afforded to all clients.  Training Managers should also be aware of the potential risks of ignoring the signals that their vendors are sending.  As buyers in the transaction, it is vital that the Training Manager is focused and not afraid to ask questions.

One of those signals is when you are being rushed into a decision.  This is partly because many clients do take forever to make a decision and the sales representative is getting impatient.  Yet if you have been moving along at a good pace and not stalling, it could be that there is an undisclosed urgency to close a sale.  Maybe the company is trying to close out the month with better numbers.  Maybe the sales representative is being compensated to sell quicker.  Maybe the company is desperate for money.  In any case, you as the buyer hold all the cards, and you need to play the game and get the vendor to reveal their cards first.

Watch the types of discounts being offered when you first begin your pricing conversation.  Are you in control, or is the vendor?  As I have stated before, never go shopping until you know what you need to buy.  When you are solid with your needs, then the vendor can create a winning proposal for you.  If these discounts are coming too soon in the conversation, there is a motivation at work that has nothing to do with your needs as a buyer and you need to question why.

Always read your contracts yourself.  I know, you have a purchasing department that does that and yet do they have a complete understanding of your needs?  Did they witness all of your conversations with the vendor?  Contracts are often created by and reviewed by different groups of people then the ones that have been talking.  Can you say “Disconnect?”  Read and make sure that what you are expecting is also in writing.

I’m lucky in many ways because I have been the buyer and the seller over the years.  But if you have only been on the buying side of the equation, link up with a sales person to learn their side of the business.  Otherwise, you may end up on the short end of the sales stick!