I have worked as a training director in two companies. In my previous role, I managed a group of 13 trainers and instructional designers. In my current role, I am what many would call a “department of one“.
I never really cared for that label, as it almost seemed to imply “There’s only so much you can do… you’re only one person”. I’ve spent the better part of my two years in this role leveraging resources and maximizing my personal focus so that the organization measures the impacts of learning without the filter of it being a “one-person show”.
In order for that to happen, I needed to change the perceptions of the company’s employees and stakeholders. Much of that was achieved through conscious choice of the language being used. For example, organizational communications that reference training do not say ‘please contact David regarding the training’; they instruct people to contact the Training Department. My personal communications do not use ‘I’ or ‘me’; they use ‘we’ and ‘us’, as in ‘we are pleased to announce details about a new program…‘.
This may seem like semantics to some, but language is very important to me. I feel making this distinction helps change perceptions to what the reality truly is: that the resources for learning and performance support in an organization go well beyond what any single person may be able to deliver on his or her own.
At a recent meeting of managers, one of the newly hired managers asked me who else was on my staff. I informed him that I had no direct reports, and that my team consisted of over 50 people in the retail network. This confused the group a bit at first. When I explained that each and every manager is essentially an ‘authorized deputy’ of the Training Department, it clicked for them. That’s the reality.
Every manager that has a direct report who participates in a learning and performance program is, in effect, a partner in that employee’s learning and performance. They become part of the Training Department as soon as one of their employees participate in training.
So really, it’s not a question of how many people appear as part of the training group within your company organization chart. It’s a question of how many people in your organization realize that their role includes support of learning and performance initiatives. If they understand and buy into that part of their role, then even a ‘department of one’ can have an entire team supporting his or her efforts.
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