Why You Need to Understand the Business of Training


Do you struggle running the business and administrative side of your training department? I know many of you do because I’ve heard the complaints for years at events, and in online communities of practice. Many of us make the transition to manager from being a designer/developer. That transition is not easy. And then there are those of us who have landed in the role of Training Manager because you’ve managed other departments. But how you got there isn’t as important as where you are going. And all of the things you’ve done in the past will not successfully get you into the future of corporate training.

The Future of eLearning?

When people ask me about the future of eLearning I’m often hesitant to give my predictions. For many years now I’ve said there are no new technologies for eLearning. And for many years that was true. Except for running your training like a business. We’ve become very skilled at creating learning content, and designing learning solutions, but the business of training has been largely ignored. Technology has given us authoring tools, rapid elearning development, mobile devices, performance support options, and a host of other solutions. But the work of the training manager and basic operations has been largely ignored.

What Do We Mean by Training Operations?

Before I continue let me be clear what I mean by operations. We have a fantastic cloud-based LMS like Litmos to manage teams, courses, content, and track reports…all related to the training. Training operations is the messy business stuff. It’s one thing for your skilled instructional designer to produce an awarding winning blended learning course. But it’s quite another to execute the production of that course. Most blended learning courses include an ILT portion. So let’s consider that for a moment.

  • Who is going to find an available room?
  • Does the room have all of the proper AV equipment?
  • What additional supplies need to be ordered, and managed?
  • Do you have more than one instructor capable of being an teaching that course?
  • Can this classroom event be delivered and scheduled in multiple locations?
  • And what if you sell these courses?
  • How will you accept payment?
  • If you sell into different countries can you account for their taxes?

We spend a lot of time in our industry discussing instructional methods, authoring tools, design solutions, etc. And that’s good. We should discuss those topics as well. But as corporate professionals working in training or L&D departments there is much more required of us. And this is true for training departments of all sizes. Even if you are a one-person training team or team player on an enterprise L&D team. Managers and learning leaders should absolutely understand the business operations of the training function. But even individual contributors would feel less pressure if they understood why certain decisions are made.

Technology vs. Operations

And yes, I know, virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 degree video, and other new technologies are hot topics right now. And yes, they will most certainly change the landscape of technologies for learning. But the fact remains that you must have a clear understanding of training operations before considering any of those cutting edge technologies. New technologies means new costs, new acquisitions, new required skill sets for trainers, new resources, and new design methods, and models. You can’t manage that level of change without having a solid grip on your operations.

If you want to learn more about the business of training from other L&D professionals, please join me for L&D Talk: TrainingOps Wednesdays with my cohost Ajay Pangarkar. Each Wednesday morning we gather online using blab.im, share, collaborate, and work through the issues involving the business of training.