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Becoming a successful training manager starts with a foundation of good communication skills. But there’s more to it than that. To run a training department effectively, a good training manager must focus on six core competencies.
A good training manager needs to have a strategic plan in place to meet the organization’s training needs over the next few years. This “top-down” visionary document sets the direction of the training department as it directly relates to the achievement of your organization’s objectives. It answers the question, “how will the training department help the organization reach its goals and objectives?”
You must also create an operational training plan. This is a “bottom-up” approach for addressing your organization’s current job performance needs based on your training needs analysis data and feedback gathered from past learners.
When someone in your organization makes a training request, what’s the best way to tell whether the training is actually warranted? You can only truly answer this question if you have conducted a thorough Training Needs Analysis (TNA).
A TNA is more structured than just asking the organization and employees what training they need or want. It’s a step-by-step process that empowers you to dig deeper into real training needs. With a TNA, you can find the underlying cause of a performance problem within your organization, and then determine the right solution for that problem.
Without a training needs analysis, your training department could end up in order-taking mode, where you provide training just because somebody asked for it. This approach is more likely to cost your organization money without delivering any actual return-on-investment.
An effective training manager needs to have a solid understanding of the design and development process to align training courses with the business goals of the organization. The process typically involves outlining the content, drafting instructional objectives, creating examples and exercises, organizing the course into teaching units or modules, and all the other steps that go into developing a training course.
Launching a training program requires the careful coordination of multiple details. Whether your training courses will be delivered in-house or through an external provider, all the various components need to work in sync. In addition to planning the course schedule, you are also responsible for coordinating other necessary resources including technology, facilities, or additional personnel.
Every training program should be evaluated for effectiveness. Getting feedback from stakeholders can help you determine whether any given program successfully met the training objectives. You need to be able to evaluate how well participants acquired new knowledge or skills, as well as the effectiveness of the instructor.
If expectations aren’t being met, the evaluation process affords you the opportunity to course correct. By analyzing the feedback and results, you can identify any weaknesses in the program. This gives you a path forward to focus on the areas that need improvement, revise the training program as needed, and bring it up to expectations. Or possibly retire it!
There are two of the four levels of evaluation that should be conducted during every delivery of the course. Level 1 (reaction surveys) and level 2 (tests). Reaction surveys include feedback from the attendees on whether they liked the course itself, as well as the trainer.
Level 2 is meant to assess whether the attendees are actually learning anything. It takes place during the training through all the practice/application opportunities built into the design of the course. Getting feedback from stakeholders is not a common way to evaluate training, unless that feedback comes with documentation in the form of records or reports retrieved post-training. That is the deepest level of evaluation (level 4).
Level 3 involves observing the trainees on the job (post training) to see if they actually applied what they learned. This is where managers/supervisors come into play. They’re in the best position to conduct the observation with a performance checklist.
As you add trainers to your team, it’s important to be clear on what you’re looking for. Do you want somebody who facilitates training? Do you want somebody who designs training? Or do you want somebody who can do both? Have a list of competencies in mind before you start your search to ensure the staffing process goes as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Also, recognize that you may not be able to find someone with every competency you’re looking for. You may need to compromise and negotiate. Having that flexibility, coupled with a clear set of expectations, will enable you to quickly build a well-rounded training team.
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These six core competencies are crucial to being a successful training manager. But they are only half the story. At the same time, it’s important to take a look at the bigger picture and run your training department like a business.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for training managers to fall into the trap of feeling insulated within an organization. They often feel free from the negative effects of any economic downturns because they aren’t viewed as a revenue-generating department. However, this misconception can put your training department in a dangerous position.
Training does not exist in a bubble. Your training department must deliver value to your organization in a way that is in line with the big-picture goals. Otherwise, your department runs the risk of being viewed as an expense, rather than a source of value. If that happens, it puts your department in danger of being scaled back, or even eliminated, when budget cuts come around.
In the long term, it pays to convince management that the training department is on the revenue-generating side of the equation, rather than an expense. There are two ways to accomplish this.
First, have a strategic training plan in place that aligns with the organization’s objectives and goals.
Second, before you launch a new training program, establish benchmarks that management can use to measure the effectiveness of that training. This will help prove its worth. Typically, it’s the training department that measures the effectiveness of the training, not management . For the deeper levels of evaluation, the training department may have to partner with stakeholders to get access to records and reports.
Both strategies directly tie into the core competencies of being an effective training manager.
The key to effectively running a training department is to hone your skills in the six core competencies:
Mastering these competencies is the proven way to become an effective training manager. It also provides you with the tools you need to protect the credibility of your training department and continually demonstrate its value to management. But it all starts with a solid foundation of good communication skills, which is the first step to becoming an effective training manager.
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