Staffing the Training Department for Success

Employers are always trying to find the best talent for the least amount of money. It is a game played in nearly every function in every company and probably won’t soon disappear. With the current high numbers of unemployed, the advantage is with the employer today.

However, what happens when we settle for less talent just to save money? The perils of this choice when it comes to staffing the training department are often not realized until much later, when it is too late to reverse the losses.

Many times the training manager is a promoted trainer, or human resources specialist that wants to manage training. They are a really nice person, and they get along well with others, but they simply have zero experience with adult learning beyond the basics, let alone are strategic. Because they have what I call “the right heart” they accept the role and struggle like hell trying to do the job. They make numerous mistakes and take twice as long to get every project done.

The company needs to weigh their options when hiring inexperienced people to manage training. Even if you spend half the salary, if it takes twice as long to achieve results you have not saved a dime, and in fact because it took longer to achieve your goals more than just training is behind the curve.

When companies decide to “build out” the training function, which means they want to make learning official now, they often begin with a role called a Corporate Trainer. They define the role as a jack of all trades, that in addition to managing all training programs, they should be able to design new programs, facilitate all the different types of content, and maybe handle a systems conversion in their spare time.

While the task of finding this wonder-person will be daunting, it is not the challenge most companies are realizing. Finding someone who can do these tasks is one thing, but expecting them to all be done in the same time period is unrealistic.

I know this is old school, but let’s assume some basic math. 1 person times 40 hours a week is still 40 hours a week. Only so much can get done in a week by one person. As I have often said to senior managers, I can get everything done you want in the time allowed as long as I have the people to get it done.

When it comes to staffing a training department, so much depends on what is on the to do list, and how quickly things need to get done. Large training organizations can afford to hire subject matter experts and train them to be trainers, but smaller organizations need the competencies in place. When you are just beginning your training department the laundry list of projects is pretty long, and having experience may cost you in the short-term, but quicker results pays off in the end.

Now many experienced training leaders are expressing frustration over salaries that are half of what they were 5 years ago. Not many people want to earn 50% of what they did 5 years ago, especially when they are 5 years more experienced today. Logic would dictate that experience is worth more money, and yet a lot of unemployed people competing for these jobs and are willing to settle for any salary.

Companies that feel they found a bargain, need to realize that the employee is not likely to stay past a better offer from another company. Retention is often difficult with these employees, and it would have been a more strategic move to pay them what they are worth from the beginning. People often work as hard as they feel they are being compensated, so was saving a few dollars really a bargain?