How to Get Started as a Training Manager
What happens when you find yourself managing a training department for the first time? How do you get from first-timer to rockstar? A lot depends on the maturity of the business and what existed prior to your arrival.
Understanding the basics is a great place to start. But just so we’re clear, these basics may differ from any instructional design and development basics you may have picked up along the way in your career from other training professionals.
Your Training Team
Your team may be filled with talented designers, developers, coordinators, and instructors. Or your team might just be YOU! How you approach the “getting started” phase of your new role as Training Department Manager will depend a lot on what you’ve inherited as a team…or lack thereof.
Listen To Your Team
If you have inherited a fully formed and functioning training team, then your first task at hand will be to LISTEN! Spend some time getting to know the team and listen to their stories from being “in the trenches.” Don’t offer solutions, just listen. Listening is easier said than done, but you’ll be glad you did.
Understand Your Business
If you are the entire team, then you have different work to do. The business drivers that made this role necessary will be your primary focus, and should drive all the decisions you make from this point on. If you were hired into this role, and it is new for the company, then you need to get to know the business and understand the expectations of your peers and the executives. If you’ve been promoted into this role then you probably already have a good idea why it’s needed. But it wouldn’t hurt to confirm it with your peers running the other parts of the business.
Enterprise Software Systems
As with your team, there are many different situations that a new training manager can find him/herself in. Understanding the basic philosophy of the enterprise regarding software systems is critical. If you are lucky, there are no restrictions and you are free to seek out and find the right system that best supports your business. But in most cases many technology decisions have already been made by your CTO, and so your training development and delivery system decisions will be directly impacted by those standards.
If you’re new to the company, your onboarding process will tell you a lot about how the company has setup its systems. For example, if you are given a Windows laptop running MS Outlook, then it’s safe to assume your company has standardized on Microsoft products. And this most likely means you will be using Sharepoint as well. If you’re in a smaller company, then you may be given an enterprise Google account, or a similar enterprise Software as a service (SaaS)system. These may or may not impact your final decisions, but it will give a better understanding of your IT department. The key here is understand what you currently have available to use. You may be able to do a lot with the systems currently in place. But having a good idea of the technology landscape will give you a baseline to move forward. And moving forward quickly will be your primary objective.
As mentioned earlier, if you have been with this company a while and only recently moved into the role of managing an existing training department, then your training course content is most likely already in place. Your first action regarding content will be evaluating the usage data for existing courses and their effectiveness. In the process you may begin discovering the deficiencies of an old or outdated learning management system. More on that later.
Again, if the role is new to you and the business then you have a different set of issues to understand. Talking with the business leaders will give you a good idea of where the pain points are and what content they perceive as valuable coming from the training department. Do NOT take this feedback lightly. Your success depends on making these colleagues happy. You can have the best of intentions, attempting to do right by the company, etc., etc., but if you do not make these stakeholders happy you will only succeed in making life harder on yourself.
After identifying the business needs/wants you will then need to identify subject matter experts and begin winning them over. If the training content to be delivered is generic HR compliance type, then you should buy some off-the-shelf solutions and save yourself the headache. Training content specific to the company’s unique business will required the support of your subject matter experts, so be sure to establish those relationships and keep them strong.
As you can see, understanding the current state of the training department and why the leadership was motivated to create it is job #1. Get a solid understanding of the department’s current state and the rest of your decision making will flow better than if you skipped this critical phase of your learning process.
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