Are you someone who has ‘fallen into’ your role? In most fields, professionals have gone to school and been ‘prepared’ in some way for their role in the workplace. An accountant, for instance, generally has some sort of degree or certification that relates to finance.
Yet the opposite is often true for training professionals, who often find themselves in training because they have some level of expertise in a tactical field, and at some point someone suggests: "Hey, you should teach others how to do that." What’s missed in that common practice is that being able to do something is very different than being able to support someone else in learning the same task.
This is one of the biggest challenges with the training industry. A sizeable portion of the professionals working in the field have little or no training in the field itself. Their subject matter expertise gets them selected to become a trainer, and they just join the organization’s training department.
Does this profile sound familiar?
This handcuffs individuals (and organizations) in the dangerous shackles of “what has been." Many organizations follow a model that shares some of the following traits:
- We have historically done most training in a classroom.
- We are trying to use more eLearning because it is cost effective.
- We are looking for ways to convert many of our classroom workshops to online modules.
- Training is assigned to employees, with deadlines.
- Learning is measured through post-workshop surveys and tests.
These points represent a great number of training organizations. I also think they represent an anchor that is holding down individuals, organizations, and the industry as a whole. We get so caught up in the routine that we fail to step back and consider if the current path is the one we should be following. Is there perhaps a better way to do things?
I think that’s something that many training professionals need to consider, and the answer isn’t likely to come from within the organization. If the points listed above describe your organization, then it’s likely that you don’t know what you don’t know. You need to start listening outside your organization and tap into the greater community of the profession.
Getting started on the right path
Thankfully, there are plenty of options to do this, most of which are free. If you use social media, chances are there is a community you can connect within a tool you are already using. Whether you are someone that prefers LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or some other service, there are groups you can connect with to listen to what others in the industry are doing and to share best practices.
Many organizations like ASTD, Training Magazine, and others offer free webinars you can participate in. These quick 60-minute sessions are a great way to keep your pulse on what is going on within the training industry, and often provide some tips that can be used right away. If nothing else, they are a great way to expose yourself to something you may not have exposure to within the organization.
Another great option is to find a way to attend at least one industry conference each year, such as The eLearning Guild's Learning Solutions or DevLearn conferences, or ASTD's International Conference and Exposition. These gatherings are an excellent way to tap into what is going on in the industry. You are able to attend sessions featuring leaders in the field, browse through an expo and see what vendors are doing, and connect with like-minded peers that you can share and learn from.
It starts with a simple decision to embrace your role – be it a facilitator, instructional designer, or some other function – not for what it is, but for what it can be.
David Kelly is the director of training at Carver Federal Savings Bank. He is also the author of the blog Misadventures in Learning, where he discusses the future of the learning field and curates the backchannel of learning conferences.