I’ll never forget one of my first weeks as a trainer in the corporate training world. I sat in a cafeteria after observing one of the courses I would soon teach, and I shared my background with one of the students. I told this person I had just left public education after teaching third grade for five years. I shared that I was very excited about teaching adults, as well as about the new classes I was observing.
The student proceeded to inform me I was no longer in education — I was now a part of something called training. I would no longer be a teacher and was now a trainer.
I remember sitting there, not knowing what to say because I never knew there was a difference. As I pursued this dialogue further with my peers and other students, I came to find out corporate training definitely felt as if it was not in the education business.
With the changing face of the learning landscape and the plethora of amazing new approaches, methodologies and technologies, perhaps it’s finally time for us to get out of the training business. It’s time for us, as an industry, to take a harder look at how we are perceived and the services we are, therefore allowed to offer.
Training has an amazing legacy in many organizations, but in some of them, that legacy might be one that we now fight against. For many learners, training has come to mean different preconceived ideas and outcomes. That might not be fair, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that perception is reality, and brand is everything. How tarnished, old or ineffective has the traditional training program become within your organization? What connotations does it imply when mentioned? Does the legacy you’re trying to change or reinvigorate affect any of your new learning initiatives?
Training often has come to mean a few fundamental things. How many of these characteristics resonate with the learners and managers we support? Here are a few to consider:
Training is often seen as:
Many of us might find these characteristics unfair, inappropriate or even hurtful. But it’s important for us to keep training’s journey in perspective. For those of us who have been at this for some time, many of the characteristics listed above are true and were even valid at some point.
For me, it’s not an issue of whether these characteristics are right or wrong, but whether the learners associate them with the programs I offer. We can argue their validity, or we can work to change the perception.
If our learning organizations want to be effective and have an impact on those we serve, we need to reinvent the business we’re in right down to the brand we use to identify ourselves.
Many organizations are reinventing their learning approaches from the ground up, including their titles. The fact that this magazine exists, as well as the fact that many organizations offer a C-level position for learning, speaks volumes for how far we have come from the traditional days of training.
I have seen trainers become learning consultants and training managers become senior account managers. These changes involve more than just titles — they also have involved changes in responsibility. If we’re going to change perception, we have to make these responsibilities relevant to our organizations.
This list identifies only a few of the many new responsibilities of learning. If we want to be as relevant and effective as we hope to be for our organizations, “training departments” might be a thing of the past.
Bob Mosher is global chief learning and strategy evangelist for LearningGuide Solutions and has been an influential leader in the IT training space for more than 15 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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