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Competencies All Trainers Need To Have

With so much happening in the world of training, what sort of people are HR managers looking for to manage their training function? According to experts, there’s no simple answer. Much depends on the organization’s individual circumstances, needs and training constituencies. But there are some unmistakable trends.

Because there are so many changes affecting the training function, Seal Beach, California-based Training Clinic President Jean Barbazette suggests that tomorrow’s trainers may be very different from those who have traditionally handled the responsibility. “Downsizing impacts our business because training departments are being reduced, and people left may need new skills or cross-training. So we train people to train others. More nonprofessional trainers are assuming the training role. Traditional trainers aren’t the people being asked to deliver training these days.” She adds, “More often it’s the line managers or experts.”

Barbazette suggests even training department managers are increasingly coming from other functions. “They already may know how to manage people,” she says. “But they’re not sure what the business of training is all about. It’s a steep learning curve. Some organizations are doing this, but it’s hard for them to be effective.”

Arlington, Virginia-based Gannett Publishing provides a perfect example of a company turning less to companywide professional trainers and more toward departmental managers. “We’re decentralizing training more by using group trainers to assist local units in training other trainers,” says Chris Landauer, director of employee relations and training at Gannett. “There’s considerably more emphasis in our company on having our managers and high-potential professional employees participate as trainers for their professional development, as well as for the purpose of broadening the reach and impact of training in the company. Training is something we hope to integrate into every manager’s mindset.” Landauer says people in all departments are now being trained as facilitators. No outside vendors are used.

Landauer explains why her company is going this route. “With the competition for time and resources, having groups of trainers traveling the country, and having employees pulled out of work to suit the trainers’ convenience was no longer effective. In addition to the high cost of travel, it was also clear to us in addressing the needs of the market that local issues are local issues. When a company is as broadly based as ours, different units are in different stages of addressing various issues. So what works in one place may not be effective elsewhere. One worksite might emphasize customer service, while another might be more concerned about delivery systems. By training more department managers to handle their training needs, we allow them to detail their training to fit their local needs, while keeping it all within Gannett parameters.”

How can HR managers know how to choose the right person for a training position? Barbazette advises them to, above all, make sure each trainer understands the dynamics of the learning process. “Most people have a bias in the way they learn,” she says. “So recognizing that there are different approaches to learning is one thing the nontrainer needs to understand to be effective.” And that’s something to keep in mind regardless of who’s conducting the training.

Workforce, June 1997, Vol. 76, No. 7, pp.94-96.