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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Continuing Education for Training Staff

learn more about the business world you serve

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

If you run a department with several training staff, those employees probably spend some time working on their own continuing education. You may have a formal requirement, or you may simply provide opportunities for staff to improve their knowledge and skills, but it is likely that each year, people in your department attend seminars, take online courses, or find other ways to update what they know and what they can do.

Suppose you were to audit all the topics covered in your staff's own continuing education over the last several years, the actual subjects they studied. What percentage of that learning would be narrowly focused on the particular skills, terminology, common methods and tools of the training function? What percentage would be devoted to learning more about the core business of the company or organization you work in?

In the previous issue of The Training Tipsheet, I wrote about the wisdom of teaching support staff a little more about what the people they support, the recipients of their help, really do in their jobs. Understanding the mission, the goals, the strategies, the constraints, the methods and processes of those other players in the organization leads to better support.

Many businesses never think of training their support staff in anything but the narrow procedures required to perform their own support tasks. Sometimes broader training doesn't get done because of turf issues.

And many times you hear that knowing more about the goals and needs of those they support would be valuable, but . . . "there isn't time." Yet many successful organizations find the benefits or a broader "education" are so great that it is worth reducing some of the training time devoted narrowly to the support staff's own tasks, to make room to build a better understanding of what others are contributing to the company's success.

Now, training staff play a supporting role. They do not directly achieve results for the organization, they help other employees in the company to be more productive. And, as with other support functions, a deeper understanding of the world of those they support generates better results for everyone in the organization, trainer and trainee alike.

If 100% of the continuing education effort for your training staff focuses narrowly within the field of training itself, you may need a little better balance. You don't have to turn your employees into experts in everyone else's jobs. But you, and your organization, will benefit from an understanding of the "hot buttons" of the employees you support.

Learn about the key themes of such an employee's day. What can go wrong in their work, and what are their possible responses to these problems? What kinds of activities do they concentrate on, what conditions and resources make those activities go smoothly, and what can derail them?

Ask the people you support where they go for additional training and insight into how to be more productive, and then look for entry-level, orientation-style continuing education that deals with those topics. Attend lectures, workshops, or conventions, not about training, but about the key business issues for the people who depend on your services.

Again, it is easy to make excuses for not stepping outside your comfort zone, and that is really what's at issue in many cases. Employees don't like to feel inadequate, and the staff in your department will naturally feel a lot more confident learning more about what they already know -- how to be professional trainers -- than they will learning about other kinds of work.

Put the excuses away and make sure that some of your continuing education time goes to learning more about the worlds others in your organization work in every day.

© 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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