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.


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