Qualifications of a Training Manager

No two job descriptions are the same in describing the qualifications of a training manager, and I feel so sorry for the recruiters that are left to find suitable candidates to fill these varied positions.  Bless their hearts though, they strive to find the perfect match for what their company is seeking.

Industry experience seems to be a fundamental requirement that most companies seek in a training manager.  Banks want training managers that have been tellers, loan officers and operations officers.  Restaurants want training managers that have been waiters, cooks, and general managers.  Retail stores want specific and similar retail sales and management experience, so a women’s clothing store training manager must have women’s clothing store experience.  If they came from Sears, Home Depot or Wal-Mart they won’t be qualified.

Now while I will agree that industry experience is important in the role of facilitator, every other training role up to and including the manager is not essential to them being able to perform their role.  In fact, it is less of a challenge if they are not too familiar with the industry because they make fewer assumptions and ask better questions to understand the working environment.

So what are the real qualification of a training manager?

  • First, they should have management background in managing performance of a staff.  It doesn’t matter what kind of work, as long as they are able to set performance objectives, coach, give feedback, and evaluate performance.
  • Second, they should have at least 2 years as a facilitator in a variety of skill development areas, at least a year as an instructional designer in both print and electronic medium.
  • Third, they should have at least 2 years of organizational development, and/or performance consulting background with the ability to perform training needs analysis.
  • Forth, they should have experience creating strategy and plans for implementation.
  • Fifth, they should have experience in negotiating and working with external vendors, contracts and implementations.

By the time a person is made a Training Manager, Training Director, or Chief Learning Officer, they should have had a lot of hands on experience in each of the disciplines they are managing.  They should have an internal understanding of adult learning principles so they know when training is applicable and how best to design a solution that works.

The flip side to being required to have experience that is not needed, or lacking any time in the training field before becoming a manager is not only difficult on the individual’s ability to succeed, but it opens up the door for training to fail.

There is a restaurant that is seeking an experienced training director to take their learning organization in a completely different direction to assist employees in adjusting to some major cultural changes brought on by new management.  While there is no shortage of qualified and experienced training professionals that have done this countless times, the position has yet to be filled because the candidates must have managed a restaurant for at least 5 years in addition to 8-10 years of progressive training experience.  Meanwhile the company’s goals will have to wait for who knows how long until the perfect fit arrives.  (It has already been 6 months)

There is a bank that is growing, needs to develop a training function from scratch, and is going through another merger soon, so they hire a person to be the training manager, with 3 years of experience in banking as a trainer.  With zero experience in developing training from scratch, this poor chap has accomplished little in the first 90-days, and in the next 90-days the merger will close.  I feel sorry for the new employees and the new customers.  At least the customers have the option of leaving.

Is Training Ever Too Late to Work?

As an advocate of training and learning for every employee so that they are equipped to perform their jobs well, I am often confronted with the need to train people at the very last-minute.  While it is true that adults learn best when they see an urgent need and an immediate application of learned skills, is training ever too late to work?

A lot of training happens after the fact, when we tried to let things happen without training.  My favorite is skipping management development and assuming  these skills are somehow inherent in everybody once they get a manager title.  Then the human resource issues start to pop up and once a full field of challenges emerge, some bright bulb decides to train managers.  Is that too late?

It is for past issues.  The problems occurred, and the fallout is already in process.  But is it too late to prevent more issues, not if you implement training well.  But who among us can say that it is a good policy to wait until everything hits the fan before we train certain skills?  Obviously a lot of people do since emergency training is quite popular in America.  We train sales skills after sales results are below expectations.  We train customer service when the complaints are rising.  We train compliance when we find ourselves breaking the law.  We wait all the time to train!

This waiting until problems have come upon us is what causes distress, and it often costs more money because of the rapid pace that needs to happen to get training implemented.  Proactive skill building, which means training management development before one becomes a manager is easier on the learner and can be implemented over time.

Results of Last Minute Training

Since I am in the proactive camp for training, I often look for companies that are launching a new product, or have announced a pending merger as examples of companies that have an audience of learners needing skills.  I will contact management and encourage a proactive approach to employee development.

I work a lot with banking, and bank mergers have been going on since the dawn of time, continue today and will continue for years to come.  One bank is buying another bank, and the buying bank wants their new employees to do things their way starting on a specific date.  For those of you that write out goals, I just identified a goal and completion date.  We know what we want to happen and by what date.

I’ve learned that a merger is successful for employees and customers when training is ready for the merger.  This mean that they already have programs in place before a merger is announced and that they have training leadership that then knows how to develop the new employees so that they are ready on day one.  Because each day passed the go live date with untrained employees puts customer retention at risk.  Yet many banks with less than 90-days to go before day one have not even developed a learning plan for new employees, not to mention have programs developed, training in progress so learning is in place before day one.

Last minute training involves slapped together programs, untested methods, costly development because you often have to hire a cadre of contractors to pull off the development in time, and then you short change the actual learning process.  The results ensure a poor customer transition process and many unhappy customers that can easily walk.

While there are some industries that really have no competition so customers have little choice but to stay after a merger, banking has a ton of options for customers.  Retention is the name of the game.  You want to retain employees and customers, and last-minute training is sending the signal that you could care less about either the employee or the customer and how this merger will impact them.

Good training can prevent problems, or halt issues and prevent new ones from happening.  But late training is never a good option to take, Ever!

When Training Becomes an Expense

We have all heard the references to the training function as just an expense, that it is not a revenue source for the company.  Thus with this sage wisdom prevailing, is it any wonder that when business starts to decline that another familiar phrase is invoked, that the first thing to go is training.

I was speaking to a training manager this week who seems to have stopped dead in her tracks because “school is out, vacations are starting, and we won’t be training for a couple of months.”  I wanted to respond with, “so what?”, but instead I asked what she and the training team does during these slow times.  She responded, “not much.”  This was an honest answer, and yet the beginning of the end.

The training function does cost money to run, duh.  Every function in your company comes with costs, so it is all a matter of giving back to the company in revenue, or expense reduction that at a minimum recoup what your department is costing. If you are spending two months performing “not much” work, then you really have to bust a gut the other 10 months just to make up the loss.

I prefer to manage and encourage training managers to operate training functions that are returning on the investment all the time.  A solid strategy, plan and implementation schedule will deliver results, but you must always be capturing how training improved the operation, prepared people to perform their jobs quicker, or how an internal department is more cost-effective than outsourcing.  Even during summer vacation, there are activities that can be a productive use of time.

The Training Physical is a perfect way to check the current health of a training function.  Obtaining an early diagnosis of a terminal illness allows you to save your department from the chopping block.  And regular checkups allow you to make modest changes so you are always returning on the investment.

So when does training become an expense?  Every single day they are not returning on the investment.  Every single day they stop doing their job!

The Absence of a Training Function

dice  Basic math tells us that if we hire human beings to perform tasks that make our companies work, that they must be able to perform these tasks if the company is to be successful.  When a company does not have a training function, it is throwing the dice to see if the employees can figure it out on their own.  I believe that game is called craps.

Unless you are a very small operation, a training function is an essential part of your operations.  For small and even some mid-size organization, the training function falls to the Human Resources Manager.  If the HR Manager is busy with other fires, running a proactive function like training is the last thing they have time for and thus it is often absent from the company.

I’ve said this before, and unfortunately I’ve seen it play out too many times to change my opinion.  When a company is without a training function and yet it claims to its investors and stock holders that is has big plans for growth, I write down their name on a list I keep privately.  These companies will not make it, and will either close up or be sold.  I’ve yet to see a single company succeed without a good training function.  I am not licensed to give investment advice, but it is something I personally use to judge the future of any company’s ability to succeed.

If your company is not developing the skills that you want employees to have and use, only dumb luck is working in your advantage.  It will carry you just so far, and then failure will hit.  There is not a single mega successful company in America today that doesn’t have a top rated training function, with strong strategic leadership.  It begs the question of those companies without training, what is your strategy?

Personally I think management that has decided that a training function is not necessary, or creates a façade training function for recruiting only, is only shooting for a short-term success.  Their plans are to get in and out of the market, make a few bucks and move on to something else.  Spending time and money on developing employees is a waste of time, resources and money.

If your company has a lackluster or nonexistent training function, how long are you planning to be in business?  If you think forever, you are sadly expecting too much of your fellow employees.