Who Should Lead The Training Function?

th  What makes a person qualified to lead a training function?  What kind of qualities and experience should they have before the keys to the training department are handed to them?  Will the outcomes for learning be different based on the person we choose to lead training?

A new contact this past week is concerned about the direction their company is taking in regards to building a training department and learning environment.  They reached out to me with a scenario that even after 25 years in this business I have never personally seen in place, so at first I was a little surprised.  This person had recently read my book The Training Physical, and mentioned that they didn’t see much on the qualifications to run a training function.  They were right, as I only discussed training managers that lacked all the necessary skills to pull it all together and the difficulties that they would encounter until they acquired all the skills necessary to do the job.

So let me set the stage a little, without mentioning the industry or the gender of this person, hence I will not say “she” or “he” but rather “they” to avoid any reader figuring out what company I am talking about.  This particular company does have a variety of business lines that are supported by a single corporate training department, and to have industry experience in all of these businesses would probably be a stretch to find.  However, this particular new training managers comes with only one of the businesses and zero experience in human resources or any training role.  So while this person is a subject matter expert in a line of business they lack any HR or training skill sets.

In my experience, I have yet to find a person that leads the entire learning function without some type of trainer, designer, organizational development or even basic human resources experiences as a foundation.  Leading a training function and understanding capabilities of your team are kind of essential to the job, but I wonder if they can be successful without anything on the ground floor.  While this person does have strategic skills, probably project management experience, they would have to learn everything about how adults learn.  Slapping together a bunch of workshops or eLearning courses doesn’t make for good learning results if you don’t know why you are doing things a certain way.

So today I am leaving this in your trusted hands to float some ideas and opinions as to what qualifies someone to lead a training function?  What kind of criteria would you use to select someone, and what are the minimum qualifications that must exist?

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