Who is looking after them?
This article is about the most under-developed, over-utilized department in your organization.
The learning and development (L&D) department of any organisation plays an essential role in increasing the productivity and success of the organisation as a whole. This is the department responsible for the induction of new employees and the continuous skills development of rest of the organization.
It is therefore ironic that this very department or team is so often neglected as far as investment into development is concerned. Trainers are often highly fatigued, unmotivated, and at risk of losing the passion that drives them, because they do not receive sufficient skills training and opportunities for growth. This can easily go unnoticed and the decreasing effectiveness of the L&D department can have a severe effect on client and staff retention and satisfaction.
Belinda* heads up the L&D division of a large financial services firm. “It’s just not about us.” she says, in response to this article. “We’re constantly told what a good job we’re doing, and how much we are valued: in other words, we don’t need to improve ourselves, we’re doing just fine as we are!” This appears to be the nature of the job. Kate* looks after the training department of a professional services firm. “It’s not that we are denied the opportunity to go on training ourselves,” she says. “But when exactly would I find the time?!” Kate heads a team of 5, all of whom train an average of 20 days a month: that’s practically 5 days a week.
Training has fast become an industry in its own right, and high standards are expected of the trainers themselves. Despite this, none of the trainers interviewed for this article had ever attended any kind of formal trainer development or facilitation skills programme.
A Johannesburg-based psychometrist claims that it is by virtue of their personality type that HR practitioners often find themselves thrown into the role of trainer. “Most people working within Human Resources are typical of the Amiable personality style. They are ‘givers’, ‘pleasers’ who find fulfillment through the development of others. They are “people” people!”
We all know who those “people” people are, report Butler and Waldroop in Harvard Business Review, June 2004. “They’re the team players, the ones who know what’s going on in their colleagues’ personal lives, the ones who can smooth over interpersonal conflicts. They’re usually found in HR.”
An organization needs to ensure that their “people” people are used to their full potential within a supportive and collaborative environment. Increasing and sustaining the effectiveness of any training team or division entails a 5-step process.
Step 1: Self-development
Continuous learning and self-development is crucial to advancing the effectiveness of any individual trainer. Suggested skills programmes include Facilitation Skills, Train-the-Trainer development, Presentation Skills, Persuasive Language, Return-on-Investment training, Conflict Resolution, Mediation Skills, Group Dynamics, GTT (Group Training Techniques), EQ, etc.
Steps 2 & 3: Peer and Team development
A regular programme of peer-observation ensures that trainers are continuously learning from each other, and sharing best-practice training methodologies. In order to keep abreast of an ever-changing industry, it is also crucial that members of an L&D team attend relevant conferences and workshops in order to discuss issues, compare ideas and investigate the latest trends.
Step 4: Materials development
Training materials should continuously be undergoing assessment, with a view to improve interaction and participation. L&D departments should be actively building a bank of supplementary materials which is available at all times to the team.
Step 5: Departmental development
Training does not only involve the delivery of material, but relies on effective administration and scheduling. These processes are often neglected, outdated or incorrectly added to the trainer’s job description.
Butler and Waldroop describe “people” people as multi-talented: their ability to meet and inspire confidence is indisputable; they are able to change the point of view or behaviour of others with seemingly little effort; they are able to focus and inspire teams, and arouse emotions and create relationships with groups. Theirs is “the embodiment of the player-coach role: they work through a group.” But when the productivity soars, and the deal is won, the coach retreats quietly to the change room, and allows the players their glory.
I ask you again to take a long, hard look at your L&D / Training Department.
Who’s looking after them?
* names have been changed.
Last Updated (Thursday, 17 June 2010 22:12)