Training is a delicate thing. We have all endured bad training and hopefully some of you have had the benefit of quality training. The difference, training and learning professionals versus subject matter experts (SMEs) or HR generalists. I am not questioning their intellect or skills in what they do, and while all have great intentions, the subtleties of quality training design and facilitation go beyond knowing Adult Learning Principles or the ADDIE method. And sadly, yes, with much fumbling and frustration, anyone can and has designed training. Often resulting in an immediately cynical workforce when it comes to further training. If you want people to engage in your development efforts rather than blithely walk through them (with little or no result) then you need properly educated and qualified learning and development professionals. Saying anyone can design quality training is very similar to saying anyone can build a quality house. Anyone can build a house, really?
Tools are Not the Same as Design
One of the biggest travesties I see in training is the confusion between instructional design and material design. The misconception that delivery tools are the same as delivery design is a gross oversight in many training programs. If you focus is on the delivery tool and not the purpose of the training, then you are likely spending a lot of money and not getting the results you are looking for. Sure, eLearning can increase efficiency in training delivery…but it does not always corollate to an increase in impact. ELearning, social media, PowerPoint, webcasts, etc. are training TOOLS, not training design. The neatest new drill or hammer cannot replace a good blueprint. And just because someone is skilled at using a hammer or drill it does not mean he/she could/should build a house.
Focus on the Result First
If you do not know what you want to be different, then stop and figure it out. I have asked this simple question a hundred times to people requesting training of one sort or another – “what would you like participants to know, do, or think about after this training that they cannot do now?” And I often left with a blank stare and a few seconds of silence. Training is meant to increase knowledge, skills, or shift perceptions…that is it. If you do not know what you want as a result of the training, don’t waste your time or money. Continuing the house metaphor – if you do not know what you want that is different than what you already have, then why would you build a new house? And similarly, be clear on what is accomplishable thru training. Saying you want people to get along as a result of the training is kind of like telling an architect you want the kids to keep the house cleaner as a result of building a new house. Training cannot make people want to do anything; it cannot make people like anything (or anyone), and it cannot make anyone believe something different. It also cannot make them accountable – that is YOUR job as a manager.
Contractors know a lot about the overall process of building a house. They can schedule resources, get workforce mobilized, and manage the building project’s timeline. But they are not an architect or an engineer. When it comes to design. Contractors are generalists or project managers. The have a broad understanding, but most contractors at one point or another outsource a lot (if not all) of the construction work. The same can be said about HR Generalists. HR Generalist are the consumate organizers of HR functions – they make sure people get paid, processed, retain benefits, all while keeping you (the employer) out of employment legal trouble. They have a great broad understanding of the HR functions including training AND often is it best to outsource parts of the work. Be sure to acknowledge your limitations and outsource when necessary.
Plumbers, Electricians, and Carpenters
Masters in these trades are skilled beyond belief. They make the parts of the blueprint come to life. Yet many, though skilled and handy, have a deep knowledge of one or perhaps two areas. They are the subject matter experts. Though, I would not ask a master plumber to design my house, nor electrician, nor carpenter. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are wonderful resources of copious amounts of knowledge and expertise. You call on them when you want to dig deeper or need specific knowledge. Techincal, finance, or sales SMEs are no different. They are wonderfully skilled at what they do. And interestingly enough, have a lot in common with training professionals.
Architects are the masters of bringing a vision into a physical form and detailing how it needs to be executed. They understand the concepts of flow, sequence, material usability, and innovative concepts. They are design experts both in an artistic form as well as in physical possibility. Training Professionals are the architects when it comes to developing talent. They understand the importance of flow, timing, sequence, design, appropriate materials, and adult learning. They understand the value of SMEs because in many ways they are themselves subject matter experts in the realm of knowledge, learning, and skill transfer.
Foundations of a Company
The inescapable fact of organizations is that without people, companies die. Even if you are the sole proprietor – if you abdicate, your company dies if there is no one to replace you. People are the foundation, walls, floors, aesthetics, HVAC, plumbing, and electricity of your company. Talent development is not arbitrary or accidental just as the quality construction of a purposeful building is not dumb luck. Of course if you are only looking to hang some pictures or build a box, finding someone who can drive a nail and handle a saw might be all you need. But if you are looking to build or rebuild your talent development programs- you might want to talk with a learning architect.