Staffing The Training Department

Employers are always trying to find the best talent for the least amount of money.  It is a game played in nearly every function in every company and probably won’t soon disappear.  With the current high numbers of unemployed, the advantage is with the employer today.

However, what happens when we settle for less talent just to save money?  I want to chat with you a little today about the perils of this choice when it comes to staffing the training department.

Many times the training manager is a promoted trainer, or human resources specialist that wants to manage training.  They are a really nice person, and they get along well with others, but they simply have zero experience with adult learning beyond the basics, let alone are strategic.  Because they have what I call “the right heart” they accept the role and struggle like hell trying to do the job.  They make numerous mistakes and take twice as long to get every project done.

The company needs to weigh their options when hiring inexperienced people to manage training.  Even if you spend half the salary, if it takes twice as long to achieve results you have not saved a dime, and in fact because it took longer to achieve your goals more than just training is behind the curve.

When companies decide to “build out” the training function, which means they want to make learning official now, they often begin with a role called a Corporate Trainer.  They define the role as a jack of all trades, that in addition to managing all training programs, they should be able to design new programs, facilitate all of the different types of content, and maybe handle a systems conversion in their spare time.

While the task of finding this wonder-person will be daunting, it is not the challenge most companies are realizing.  Finding someone who can do all of these tasks is one thing, but expecting them to all be done in the same time period is unrealistic.

I know this is old school, but let’s assume some basic math.  1 person times 40 hours a week is still 40 hours a week.  Only so much can get done in a week by one person.  As I have often said to senior managers, I can get everything done you want in the time allowed as long as I have the people to get it done.

When it comes to staffing a training department, so much depends on what is on the to do list, and how quickly things need to get done.  Large training organizations can afford to hire subject matter experts and train them to be trainers, but smaller organizations need the competencies in place.  When you are just beginning your training department the laundry list of projects is pretty long, and having experience may cost you in the short-term, but quicker results pays off in the end.

Lastly, staffing training doesn’t always mean full-time employees.  When you have projects that are nonrecurring, hire a contractor.  There are plenty of talented designers, facilitators and consultants that can complete a project for a flat fee.  In, out, and you can check another project off the list.

Being Prepared

While “Being Prepared” is most often associated with the Boy Scouts than most training departments, as a former Boy Scout who is also an Eagle Scout, I believe that training comes out looking better when they are prepared.

While speaking to a senior manager this week, I heard him speak about a rather large growth of employees in the second quarter of 2013, that would be coming from a number of hiring sources.  This means that these future employees will also be coming to work with a variety of learning needs, so their standard one size fits all training program is not going to work.

Yet as of today, training and recruiting are not even talking about how they will need to work together so that when these new hires start work, they will be directed into an appropriate learning program.

Being prepared is getting as much done before the storm hits, as much as knowing that certain things like designing a training program takes some time to accomplish.  In this scenario, the first quarter of 2013 (only 3 months in time) should be spent designing the training.  Whether it lands up being classroom and/or eLearning, the first modules will take time given that 1000 new hires will not be starting on the same spot of the learning curve.

It is well know that the company plans to be beefing up staff in the second quarter, so I was disheartened to learn that for some reason training had not even had a conversation with recruiting about what they predicted will be percentages of experienced, closely related or brand new to the industry new hires.  Notice that in each of these groups, training cannot begin everyone at the same starting point, and yet all they currently have in place is training for experienced employees.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I beat the drum often about having a training plan in place.  Knowing what is coming around the bend each quarter is something that allows training to be prepared.  As odd as this may sound, not everything training does needs to be a last-minute, slap it together, training solution.

So find out what is coming your way, and do something today to be prepared.  You will look more efficient and your client will be better served too.