Share this content

What's the point of a training manager?

by
10th Aug 2010
Share this content

Judith Germain considers how training and HR can best work together - alone or in the same department?

Function heads responsible for people are increasingly finding it necessary to justify their existence especially when companies are striving to achieve a substantial Return on Investment and generalists are looking like they will provide a better return. With the Board looking to save costs it can be tempting for them to insist that HR directors amalgamate stand-alone training departments into HR and have one manager responsible for the amalgamated department rather than two. This can also have the side-effect of reducing the need for training or L&D directors.

"Training is HR’s responsibility even if it’s not HR’s day job."

With HR already fractured into many departments or defined area of responsibilities (such as talent management, recruitment, employee relations, training for example) it can be confusing for the non HR specialist to understand the need or indeed the desire to have this dizzying array of complexity.

Seemingly coupled with HR’s inability to articulate their value and how they can positively affect the bottom line the simplest solution for many is to incorporate training departments into HR and hope for the best.

Amalgamating stand alone training departments into HR – is this a good thing?

One of the things that HR is responsible for is ensuring that employees are effective in their role. When it comes to their ability to perform their role due to capability, HR should be aware of how each employee ‘stacks up’. This is regardless of whether the employee’s training needs are managed by a training department, line manager or HR. The strategic implications of poor employee performance or wasted talent is well documented – so HR needs to be focusing on what’s best for the employee and how that is aligned to the business objectives.

It is important to consider what the function of the training department is within your organisation. It is not uncommon in companies that have a high level of technical specialism, like engineering, media, defence or retail, to name a few, that the training department is most concerned with the ability of the employees to comply with statutory or industry requirements. Giving HR the day to day responsibility of this type of training just reduces HR to a compliance function, often with little real understanding of the importance and unique peculiarities of the technical training. This can have a devastating effect on the overall business performance. This type of specialist training should remain with the experts!

"One of the biggest lost opportunities in learning and development is when the training department is totally divorced from the rest of HR."

This is not to say that HR should give up its strategic responsibilities for learning and development. That would be madness! Learning and development is a subset of HR in so much as employee relations, comps and bens and recruitment is. It is vital that you do not hamper the business by giving day to day responsibilities to those that cannot add value to a critical business need. In the same way that HR can be given the responsibility for technical specialist training, standalone technical training departments can be given responsibility for soft skills training. The problem with this is that this can be given a low priority and again the business suffers.

Two halves do not make a whole

One of the biggest lost opportunities in learning and development is when the training department is totally divorced from the rest of HR. When this happens the training department is often busy following a training agenda that is not critical to the success of the organisation. For example, providing training courses that employees have identified as a need but are not necessary skills for the organisation or perhaps training individuals that are soon to be dismissed. It is also common for the HR department not to be closely aligned with training which can be detrimental to performance management, talent management and succession planning. I have heard of incidences where HR has placed an employee onto a performance improvement plan and not notified the training department as they didn’t see the causal link.

Competent HR directors will be considering the need of the organisation that they are working within. This may mean that there is no longer a need to have a standalone training manager working in isolation from HR. When the training required is primarily soft skill training then it is possible to have the training department completely absorbed into HR.

It is vital that you do not hamper the business by giving day to day responsibilities to those that cannot add value to a critical business need."

With reorganisation of roles and responsibilities across the amalgamated department it may be possible to make the department leaner due to the reduction of similar processes. Where there is a high component of technical training and expertise required then options can include leaving training where it is but ensuring that there is high interaction and connectivity between the department and HR. Another option is to amalgamate training into HR with HR retaining the expertise of the technical training department which may or may not include the training manager.

Training is HR’s responsibility even if it’s not HR’s day job. Sometimes this is lost when we spend a lot of time ensuring that the responsibility for people are fractured into silos that we call recruitment, training and the such like. HR has a strategic and operational responsibility towards the development of employees and the performance of the company. Training has a valuable role to play in the company’s success and learning and development professionals can demonstrate their value to an organisation by taking a holistic and integrated approach.

Judith Germain is founder and principal consultant of Dynamic Transitions, a leadership company specialising in helping organisations and individuals to improve their leadership performance. Judith provides strategic mentoring, assisting in enabling HR to be more credible to the business and delivers innovative leadership programmes. For more information visit www.developing-leadership.com.

Replies (6)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By Lorraine Lewis
10th Aug 2010 10:33

.....One of the biggest lost opportunities in learning and development is when the training department is totally divorced from the rest of HR. When this happens the training department is often busy following a training agenda that is not critical to the success of the organisation. For example, providing training courses that employees have identified as a need but are not necessary skills for the organisation or perhaps training individuals that are soon to be dismissed......

Any truly professional L&D specialist will always define an l&d strategy that is aligned to the achievement of  business objectives, whether the function is embedded within HR or sits outside. The notion that development is about 'going on a training course' is long gone and if it persists at all, is usually in the mindset of lazy managers who wish to devolve themselves of any responsibility for the performance and advancement of their people.

Most forward thinking organisations see development strategy as a means of advancing their business - knowledge extraction and transfer is now a critical business issue. Interventions such as communities of practice and action learning sets are used to resolve business problems and/or create new and innovative services or products.

The learning and organisaitonal development person will focus on the 60/20/20 rule - 60% of all development opportunities and learning coming from everyday work experiences; 20% from feedback through, for example, mentoring and coaching and 20% from workshop based programmes.

There certainly needs to be collaboration between HR and learning and development, however an even bigger opportunity is lost when l&d is divorced from direct contact with its client - the business.

 

 

Thanks (0)
avatar
By davidmackey1
10th Aug 2010 11:31

Sian Livsey and I extensively explored these topics for our book 'Transforming Training'. We identified that there were a number of different styles of 'Training Manager' [we called them 'Leaning Architects'] undertaking their roles in different ways. Differences included number/ style/responsibilities of the training team, relationship with line management in addition to methods of measuring roi and the like. The appropriateness of the relationship with HR depends on the style of training management .   

Thanks (0)
By Judith Germain
10th Aug 2010 12:21

I totally agree that good L & D professionals seek to find out what the business needs and works hard to implement it. Excellent L & D professionals will challenge line managers' assumptions that it is only training if the training takes place in the class room.

When L & D is divorced from HR, situations can arise where employees undergo significant amounts of training when the real issue is that the employee has performance problems - particularly when the capability issue is one of conduct. HR is more likely to challenge the manager's perceptions than a 'traditional' training manager.

L & D has a powerful role in ensuring that the company is able to perform and therefore meet it's objectives. There are many professionals out there who is making sure this happens!

Take care

Judith

www.developing-leadership.com

07790 299 914

Thanks (0)
avatar
By tadams2347
10th Aug 2010 16:17

 Good ideas and I totally can relate to this! When I was a training manager with the County of Los Angeles, I reported to HR and whenever there was a problem, as you pointed out a performance issue, they often through training solutions at it. I found that I was doing training for the sake of training, without any focus on the anticipated outcomes. Often the questions were, why are we doing this? 

I liked David;s approach that training managers should be learning architects and as you pointed out - there needs to be a strategy between training and HR. With the emergence of Chief Learning Officers and Chief Talent Officers, how do you see these departments changing and new strategies evolving? 

Thanks (0)
By Judith Germain
19th Aug 2010 22:47

I think that as long as there is an integrated performance management approach then these specialists can work well together with the HR department. Regardless of whether they report to HR or work in isolation of HR.

There is a danger of overlap of ownership of the 'client' (read employee!) where insular mentalities could mean that there are too many people involved with the client or not enough. It's a difficult balance although one that can work well.

When I work with clients I like them to consider a 'case management' approach to an employee - ie a holistic view of the 'whole' employee and their employee journey and not look at them in component parts like training needs or absence management.

Take care

Judith Germain

W: www.developing-leadership.com

T: +44 (0) 208 288 0512

E: [email protected]

 

 

 

Thanks (0)
avatar
By anja8577
22nd Aug 2010 13:30

Each function within an organization has their unique set of competencies & strategies to support growing the business. To proactively support growth through outstanding talent, an in-depth understanding of the different roles/functions is required. We have pioneered within our division an L&D team for Sales, that is part of the Sales function (incl reporting lines). A similar approach would be useful for other functions in the organization, to truly maximize performance by ensuring business-critical capabilities are in place.

Training Generalists, working for all functions alike, not only lack critical insights into the specifics of competencies they try to develop. They often have credibility issues with their target audience as well. I would therefore favour L&D experts sitting in the most important functions of the organization, in a matrix org where they report both to the functional head and the head of L&D. Whether the head of L&D sits within or outside HR to me is mostly a question of the HR culture in the organization. If HR is a true business partner, the above L&D approach could sit within. If HR mainly is a policies watchdog, L&D in the above sense might have difficulties driving the required changes at the necessary speed.

Thanks (0)