Where Have All The Trainers Gone?


I have been in the learning profession for over 25 years spending time as a facilitator, instructional designer, performance & organizational development consultant, manager, director and Chief Learning Officer. I’ve been selected by Chief Learning Officer magazine as a judge in their annual Learning Elite awards for the past 6 years evaluating some of the most talented learning organizations in the country. One might think that I’d have no trouble landing a job in my chosen field, but you would be wrong.

At one time you had to demonstrate your competencies to get a promotion and/or a new job. Now you are measured on what you say you can do and how long you have hung on to a title. At other times it is predicated on being in the right place and the right time. A happy go lucky person or someone strong in their field are made into a trainer without learning a minute of what it takes to transfer adult learning and maintaining engagement. Perform that job for a while and you become a manager. Hang on to that role a few years and you become a director. It doesn’t matter what you did, only that you have been and/or currently are in the role.

If you look at the quality of training in your organization it either doesn’t existent, or is window dressing or learning lite versions, unless you happen to work for a large corporation. Unless your company has a healthy and engaged learning function the training provided to you is never going to be good. And I say that because trainers like me are tired of expecting things to improve with the current staffing.

The real trainers, the ones that worked in training before the great recession have moved on to careers in consulting, or entirely different fields. My personal story is much the same with one caveat. I saw this coming in early 2010 when I wrote my first book on fixing these broken training departments, and 5 years later when I published the follow up book on training solutions that benefit the organization and are accountable for results. I spent 12 years trying to help organization improve results, and for those that wanted to improve we did, but for many we never connected.

Where have all the trainers gone that knew how adults learn and matched learning needs with business objectives? A few found roles in large organizations. Some found a life as a consultant doing the ad hoc work for clients annually while the internal staff remained incompetent to assume the roles. And most of us have moved on to completely different careers.

I realized late last year that my first love in a career was not going to pay the bills anymore. I chose reluctantly my second love of travel to launch a third career (first was in retail banking) and became a travel consultant. I’m currently giving away or selling my training materials, books and effectively retiring 20 years before I had expected to. Someone told me to dumb down my resume to land a job, but I have not been able to interview as a novice. I guess sometimes you must give in to society’s wishes even if it means they get less than they need.

Where have all the trainers gone? There’re just gone.

Succeeding Without Employee Development

no training

While the old saying “that everything is possible” could be applied to a company succeeding without taking the effort of developing the skills of their employees, it is probably easier to win a million dollar lottery jackpot. Whether you call them employees, team members, talent, or warm bodies, the bottom line is that the human factor of your business is what makes your company successful.

Avoiding the effort, and yes money, to develop your employees will be the Achilles Heel that brings you down in the end. I cannot remember a single organization that has failed that had a focused and engaging learning function. And yet, there are a ton of organizations trotting right along today without anything but tired old eLearning modules being ushered out annually and called training.

To be sure, the regulatory world we live in requires some training for all members in most organizations, but as my book Pointless Training illustrates, these efforts are often no more effective than window dressing. So while technically your company offers “training” it is also pointless.

Eight years ago when I published my first book, The Training Physical, about a process of auditing and fixing the corporate training function, companies were a lot more involved in employee development that met the needs of their workforce. Today you would be hard pressed to find an organization that would invest in an audit of the training function, or the human resources function (beyond compliance requirements) for that matter. And yet these functions if they do exist are also staffed with weak talent lacking necessary competencies.

Human Resource and Learning Development talent has over the last 5 years become administrative lacking proactive people willing to challenge the status quo. You can see this by people in their first jobs as recruiters, that don’t even know what a skill or competency is, and yet just screened out experienced talent because a key word wasn’t on their resume.

If stockholders want their companies to succeed, then they must insist that management take employee development seriously. Personally I never invest in any company that avoids proactive and continual learning. Why would I invest in an organization that will fail someday?