Training Manager, this is your Job

I was working with the site training managers for a mining company not long ago, and I realized that none of them knew what their jobs were really about.

As in many companies, they were focused on compliance, scheduling classes, tracking completions and hours, and just generally doing what the boss wanted them to do.

But they were not delivering the right results for the organization.

They were focused entirely on tactical, site-based details and not on the business value of their role. They missed the opportunity to make bigger contributions and to help their businesses succeed.

None of this is a knock on them. Each had come to training from the safety side of the organization or other technical roles. They were all very experienced within the company and they were recognized as subject matter experts. They were (and are) great people, hard workers, and very willing to put in the effort to meet the expectations given to them by their general managers. But none had the benefit of training or education in learning and development. No one had ever explained the bigger picture to them.

That is what this article is for. This “job description” comes from my experience as a manager, director, and consultant both inside and external to organizations. I have worked both as a corporate learning leader and as a site and business unit training manager. This is experience blended with research and best practices across many industries. With that in mind: Training managers, this is your job!

 

Training Manager Responsibilities (in priority order)

  1. Make sure that the business has the talent it needs to operate; now and in the future.
  2. Help your training audience be effective performers.
  3. Make efficient use of all training, learning, and development resources.
  4. Be a leader and support the people, initiatives, and causes that matter.
  5. Take care of administration, compliance, and reporting.

 

These responsibilities are listed from most to least important. Make sure that you put your effort to them accordingly. Here are some suggestions for how to do these things.

 

1. Impact: Get the organization the talent it needs

  • Learn and understand the business you support, and the bigger business it is a part of. Be curious. Find out what employees need to do to be safe, effective, productive, and efficient.
  • Know the strategic direction of the business and what that will mean for the kind of knowledge, skills, and abilities it will need. Your job is about making sure that your organization has people with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes in the right places at the right times. You often have to look ahead to know what the talent needs will be so that you can have a plan in place to meet those needs.
  • Set your priorities to match business needs. Be sure to adjust priorities as business and employee needs change.
  • Work with business leaders and HR to figure out what part of the talent needs can be hired and what has to be built up through training. Properly skilled employees for your specific needs are often very hard to find outside the organization. When necessary, create a new pipeline of talent through training, rather than forcing the business to rely on external hires. This can take more time, but can be less expensive and deliver better results for persistent talent shortages in the long run.
  • Be flexible. Work with what you, your team, and your organization are ready to tackle now, and keep leading them forward to get greater impact from learning.

 

2. Effectiveness: Focus on performance

  • Strive to deliver only training that will establish or improve worker performance. Information sessions, routine compliance refreshers, team building, “nice to know” pieces, and other things are often distractions from helping employees do things better on the job. Learn what makes a difference to the business and put your focus there. Minimize the time and resources spent on anything else.
  • You are in the business of helping people learn. Get research and advice from experts who know how adults learn in the workplace. Follow that advice and make all of the training you offer come as close to that ideal set of methods as you can, given your budget and situation.
  • Remember to get input from team members, HR, business leaders, employees, and others about what you should be offering and how it should be offered. Lean on business leaders to cough up the resources to deliver on their requests, where appropriate.
  • Learn how to get training done in the most effective place for the training need. Often, this is outside of the classroom, on the job. Set up (or buy) a package of standard training processes that will make non-classroom training effective for your needs.
  • Guide managers, partners, and your staff (if any) toward performance-focused training. Help them understand as you do that business training should be focused on helping people do the right things, the right way on the job.

 

3. Efficiency: Make good use of limited resources

  • Don’t assume that your budget is fixed. Many, many times I have seen line managers and executives fund training projects that were not originally in the budget. They do this because there is a real business case for the training outcomes, not because they like you. Don’t say no to a request. Instead, tell training requestors what it will take. Be able to make that business case with the logic, language, numbers, and details that those sponsors need.
  • Know the advantages, disadvantages, costs, and benefits of different kinds of training. Know what the market is like for your area and your industry needs. Lean on professional association contacts and consultants (on their dime, not yours) for this advice.
  • Solve the right problem. Most business leaders who request training don’t really have problems that training can fix (knowledge or skill performance gaps). Probe, listen, and work through the problem with them. Bring in the right people or resources to address the real needs, and cheerfully take responsibility for the things that you can address.
  • Make effective use of staff, trainers and subject matter experts from the business, and outside vendors or consultants (including corporate resources). Know the advantages of each and draw them into your work wisely. Don’t reject a corporate tool or program simply because it doesn’t match what you are using today in your part of the business.
  • Use technology to speed up design, development, delivery, tracking, evaluation, and reporting. Just make sure that you use the right technology for the task. Some topics just can’t be taught effectively through webinars or self-paced e-learning, for example. Processes are another type of technology you need to use wisely. A consistent, efficient process for designing, developing, and delivering training reduces uncertainty and makes the best use of skills and time.

 

4. Leadership: Support people, initiatives, and causes that matter

  • Be a leader. You’ve got the manager title, regardless of whether you have any staff, so be a leader. Share your expectations and expertise. Point people in the direction you believe they should go. Lead by example. Be humble, listen actively, and develop the skills that great leaders display.
  • When you do have team members reporting to you, guide them, involve them, and support them. Give them the information they need to make great decisions. Equip them with the tools and the authority to do great work. Keep them informed and able to represent you as they work with others.
  • Work closely with HR to deliver the talent that the organization needs. In training, you have part of the job of making sure that the organization has people with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes it needs to operate. HR has another big part. Create a training system that will support HR’s efforts to attract, retain, engage, and develop employees.
  • Strongly consider what kind of training and growth opportunities employees value, and seek to deliver them. This is part of the strategic effort to make sure that your organization has the talent it needs. Find ways to provide employee growth and development training. Ask what they want, and seek ways to deliver it. Make good business cases for the things you believe will be effective in this area.
  • Support the causes and initiatives that will make your organization better. This may vary widely. In some companies, safety is extremely important. In others, preparing employees to adapt to change is critical. Providing value and service to the community is a hallmark of other organizations. Lead training efforts that support the causes that are important to your company.

 

5. Administration: Take care of compliance, tracking, and reporting

  • Recognize compliance, tracking, and reporting as a cost of doing business. Make it as efficient as possible, but economize your investments and effort here as much as possible. It is not the reason for the training function.
  • Make a calendar of required training and plan ahead to get it done, tracked, and reported. Use the reporting functions of your learning management system (if any) to make this easier. Use standard reporting formats, where possible, and lean on specific staff members to know the requirements in depth and handle the related reporting.
  • Determine what compliance requirements don’t actually need “training,” and reduce time spent on this to the bare minimum. Allocate that effort and time to improve performance around the intent of the compliance training, whenever possible. If you need people to comply, develop training that builds their ability and willingness to comply, and tie that in with policies, procedures, and incentives (or disincentives) that push behavior in the direction of compliance.
  • Do evaluations properly, or don’t bother. Evaluate training and learning on metrics that matter to the business (see responsibility #1, above) and collect data that will allow you to make better, fully-informed business decisions about training. If you aren’t going to do this, don’t waste your time on smile sheets and reaction evaluations.
  • Keep your business leaders informed about what you do. You are continually selling the business value of your services. Report on activity, efficiency, effectiveness, and impact at regular management meetings. Have monthly meetings with key managers, whenever possible, and send them concise, business-focused reports related to their areas. In your meetings, ask about what is going on in their part of the business. Stay alert to opportunities to help them with new knowledge and skills. This will help you stay connected and valuable to the business.

 

This list may seem simple, but the scope of the responsibilities can be daunting. Regardless of where you are starting out as you take on the training manager role, you can do a great job. Use this advice as a set of guidelines. Stay curious and develop yourself. You are in charge of some part of learning for your organization, whether it is for just one department or site, or for the whole firm as a whole. People who do these things well succeed as training leaders.

When curious or in doubt, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to respond to questions! I don’t have all the answers, but I have seen and experienced a lot. If we put our heads together, I’m sure that we can help you deliver the impact you want as a training manager.

 

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