Professional Development for Training Staff

In my book The Training Physical, I devote a chapter to keeping professional development on the annual plan for training department personnel.  With one exception in my 26 year training career, every manager I have worked with has seen the value in training people getting annual professional development too.

The one exception came from an operations manager that managed a training department but knew nothing about learning development and/or adult learning.  She was a blast to work with, very funny and down to earth, but clueless about what our department did for a living.  She used to push back on professional development and say that it was our job to provide professional development, not get trained ourselves.  Brilliant!

Now while it was easier to remember to focus on my own professional development when I was the employee and then the manager, I have had to really make an effort as a consultant.  As a staff of one, I have to remember to keep my skills current, but also look for places to stretch.  Yesterday I attended a seminar on HR Laws, which was quite a stretch outside of the training development field.

I was struck by the first break in the content over how often companies get in trouble, pay high penalties and court awards for violating federal and state laws.  I asked the trainer if I was missing something simple, when if we trained manager more than we do if these issues would be minimized.  She looked at me and just grinned and she said “Duh!”

It wasn’t rude, just an obvious assumption I made.  For the past 15 years we have done an awful job of training managers, and if you entered the management ranks 15 years ago, you not only missed vital training, you are now in leadership roles managing managers that also don’t know the rules.  Because we have gone so long without training managers in too many industries, the HR department is constantly putting out fires.

Now while it may appear that I am getting off track, I want readers to see that if we are not training our employees, it is going to be really tough selling the need for our own personal development each year.  So make sure you are training everyone in your company, including yourself!

Day 1 Merger Flop – Blame Training!

For months the training department had but one objective before day one of a merger of equals.  Within the course of hours, it becomes apparent that the acquired company lacked the skills to pull off a smooth transition for the customer, and day one became a flop.  Who is to blame?  Why the training function, of course!

Now before we cut off the heads of everyone working for the training function, we ought to hold a few others accountable.  Yes, the training manager lacked the core competencies to prepare the new employees to perform their job, but who hired this person, and who allowed a weak training plan to be implemented?  Many will agree that a lack of competence prevents you from knowing you are missing the mark until it is too late, so is the training manager really at fault?

Yet, if the training manager had been able to see past the workshops his group created, that failed to build all of the necessary skills, he would also have been able to alert management of process flows that were going to jam up in the new locations.  He would have been able to suggest a different training plan before day one to compensate and better prepare all employees.  IT would have changed systems, and tested differently and administration could have adjusted policies.

So while the training manager was lacking the competencies to do his job correctly, it is really the fault of his manager for hiring him.  Especially when this hiring manager had been advised a year ago that the competencies he was seeking to hire needed to be more if the company was planning to grow.

But the ultimate blame for a day one flop lands at the doorstep of the CEO.  Not only does the success and failure of the company rest at his doorstep by design, he had the opportunity to ignore the executive that hired the training manager’s manager and go with his own choice of a candidate.  Instead, he yielded to his friend, and his friend failed him with an internal promotion of another under-skilled person.

Not to mention that the CEO had been contacted by an expert in training development that warned him of the potential disaster if they didn’t provide this inexperienced training manager some strategic help.  This CEO ignored the help, and day one was a flop.

But like most corporate disasters, the lowest hanging fruit will pay the price of poor management decisions.  Training will get the blame.  Too bad the board of directors are unaware of what is really going on inside their company.  Or maybe they do know, and the CEO is about to learn a valuable lesson in managing.

Dial A Training Manager

If you have a training manager that is unable to perform some of their responsibilities, and yet there is no one in the company to mentor them, how do you provide them support?  You don’t want to replace them, you want them to learn how to do the job better.

You could hire a mentor, or a coach but this is an expensive route to take.  In fact one company compared the cost of having a onsite mentor as more than they were paying the training manager.  When even a part-time person costs more than hiring another full-time person, it becomes a challenge to keep the staff currently in place.

In one company, the decision was made to hire a more experienced training manager, and make the current manager the assistant. The thought was they could learn from this new person on the job, and be a successor to the role (they had) someday down the road.  The problem was this demotion was not taken in the spirit it was meant, and the employee resigned to lead a training function at another company.

As a former Chief Learning Officer, and someone who has performed every role in training for the past 24 years, I can provide a lot of guidance to training managers.  Yet, I know to hire me even part-time is out of range in a lot of budgets, so a client and I came up with a solution that they are able to work with.  I call it “Dial a Training Manager.”

To support their new hire, that has limited experience in training but a lot of the spirit and heart to make a good one, I am now available to talk with any time they need help.  The retention agreement is a flat fee each month for a year, and of course comes with some limitation on my time, but gives anyone in training and HR the ability to reach out to a resource as they rebuild their training function.  Since I am affordable, they have help when needed, and the training manager will learn on the job.

I was lucky enough to be working for Bank of America in my initial days in learning development, where we had many mentors to learn from.  Unless you are working for a large company, mentors are hard to come by in-house, so you have to go to consultants.  “Dial A Training Manager” is just one more way to keep training in your company and make it an effective solution to improve performance.