A Trainer’s Heart

If there is one topic I discuss throughout my book The Training Physical more than any other it would have to be having a “Trainer’s Heart.”  This is a term I invented to describe as a quality I look for in people who will work in and lead training departments.  Having a Trainer’s Heart means that they understand the purpose of training, and their motives are all about helping others become successful.

In some ways it is much like the popular term used to describe a “Servant” Leader, which as we know is the opposite of the “Self-Serving” Leader.  Having a Trainer’s Heart does not make you a trainer, but it is the indication that you could become a very effective training professional.

Sadly, I have discovered in the past 22 years I have been in this profession that less than half of the people in training roles have a Trainer’s Heart.  Too many see the job as a way to kick back and collect a paycheck.  Too many have no desire to learn the craft, and become continual learners themselves.  Too many are ruining the reputation of training for the rest of us.

A facilitator with a Trainer’s Heart will do whatever it takes to make sure that the participants are able to perform better after a training event.  An instructional designer with a Trainer’s heart will create programs that bridge and build skills through engaging activities.  Both focus on knowledge transfer, not just information blasting.

A manager with a Trainer’s Heart views their role as a proactive partner with the business, and pushes back on training initiatives that are poorly linked to performance issues.  They will support learning activities that make a difference and they will avoid window dressing activities.

While corporate training today is gaining support in some companies, many other companies are cutting the training function to save money.  To avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water, we need to fix underperforming training departments rather than eliminating them.  Finding people with a Trainer’s Heart to replace those that don’t belong is a good first step.

Training Priorities

I had a person ask me this week what the training priorities should be for their company.  I asked them what their training plan stated were the priorities and found out there was no such document in place.  So I said, what kind of training was happening, and he dryly answered only compliance training.

This happened to be a bank, but in most cases when there is no training plan in place, the default “priority” is compliance training, or what I call “got-to-do training.”

In absence of a training plan that speaks to the strategic needs of your company, the only kind of training that will get done is the kind that prevents you from closing down the company.  Sometimes it is a regulatory body that is dictating the topics, and other times it is a single executive that has campaigned and funded training that meets their objectives.

When a training function is completely reactive, they are not being allowed to make the difference to the business they could be making.  Some training managers like this kind of environment, and others find it difficult to prove their value to the organization.

The real answer to the question of what is the training priority for your company is unique to your organization.  If you want to determine what your training priorities are, then let’s develop a plan together.

Enter Training Too Late

Interview, Hire, Orientation, Training, and then Success!  A process that seems simple and logical, and yet rarely applied in mid-sized and small companies that are growing fast.

Too many times I watch companies interview and hire and orientation consists of completing HR and payroll paperwork and bam, the new person begins work with the expectation of  great performance.  When the employee is unsuccessful, they are pulled out for training, and then the poor soul tries it again.

I’ve also seen new hires slip from orientation to a generic “one size fits all” training session that assumes the whole group is on the same learning curve.  Occasionally this will work, but most often the new employees in the training come with a wide range of skills and experiences.  This means that some are bored to tears and day dreaming and others are sweating bullets trying to keep up.

When training is applied after the fact, or the skills being trained are not matched well to existing competencies, the training becomes less than effective.  It becomes the scape goat for under performing employees, and once again loses credibility.  It is also extremely difficult to retrain a process just learned on the job.

As we speak, a company is hiring over a 1000 new employees to assume a function they will all perform, and yet the sheer scale of this many new hires at one time will bring a vast array of skills.  At a minimum this company should be considering 2 versions of their training program, but instead plan to run everyone through their basic training.  On average, half of these people will fit the content of the basic training, while the remaining will either be lost or bored.

Another company is planning two acquisitions this year that will increase their 200 employee head count to about 600.  Roughly 200 employees in each company need to learn a new operating system, the system that the acquiring company uses and 200 of the 600 employees already know how to use.  Simply you say?  Just train the 400 new employees in the new system.  But what if this is happening in the next 2 months, and our acquiring company doesn’t have a training program for their existing system?

Training is a powerful tool for employee success, and yet it is often used way too late in the employee life cycle.  Train early and appropriately and success can be yours!

Wanted: Super Trainer!

The record months of unemployment has empowered a lot of companies to believe they can hire every competency they want, pay a salary not seen in three decades and wait for months for their “Super Trainer” to apply.  It is time to get realistic!

Now I will admit there are people who can facilitate training in a multitude of skills like management development, compliance, operations, sales, customer service and the assorted systems and programs.  You may even find this person is capable to deliver in both a classroom and virtual classroom environment too.

I will also admit you might find someone who can do all of the above, and are experienced instructional designers in print and assorted eLearning, mLearning and virtual learning programs.

I have even seen all of the above, plus they are experienced organizational development consultants, and can facilitate, plan and communicate strategies and vision.  They are even skilled in project planning and needs analysis.

And although the list is narrowing, I have even known people who can do all of the above and have management experience.  And when you have all this combined, to me your title ought to be “Super Trainer!”

But here is the humor, what happens when a company actually wants all of these skills and experience in a single person?  This staff of one may be able to perform all of these skills, but not at the same time.  They might be very versatile, but they are still a single person with just so many hours in a week.

While it is a real feather in your cap to have Super Trainers working for you, we must never forget that training is a team effort.  Success is based in part on the talent, but the creativity and quantity of work hinges on the amount of talent working for you.  The training team cannot be a single person, no matter how much they know how to do.

For those employers seeking a bargain when hiring I offer these words of caution.  You get what you pay for, and you need to pay for what you want.  If you are going to demand a full set of competencies, you will need to pay top dollars for that package.  However, if you underpay someone what they are worth, it won’t be long before they find another employer that will pay for their skills with the appropriate salary.

Establishing training from scratch is a strategic proposition.  If you are interested in learning how to do it the best way for your organization, give me a call!