Thursday, December 29, 2016

Is It Really Training?

Being a Training Manager (and in the past a Trainer), I often contemplate just what we mean by "training". Much has been written on the subject, and we can come up with all kinds of comparisons like training vs. education, training vs. learning, and more.

I tend to agree with the experts that say in essence, training is the act of assisting a learner to change behavior - or add new behaviors - as a result of learning. And that learning can be both skills and knowledge.

Here's one way to look at it. I have Trainers that facilitate new hire programs for call center agents. In these multi-week programs, participants learn a great deal about systems, procedures, rules, and techniques. That's education, which is heavy on presentation of content and on the learner's part, memorization and the ability to find reference information. They also practice the procedures and techniques, starting out with simple tasks and working up to very complex call management. That's learning and skill development. Together, they make up training.

For another example, professional pilots are highly trained to correctly respond to emergency situations. In that training, they learn information (and review it annually), and practice in simulators. The Trainers simply deliver the education and monitor practice, providing feedback to the learners.

Police dogs are also highly trained. They learn to obey certain commands, and through practice with feedback to sniff out a suspect or drugs. Since they're not human, they receive very little knowledge (education), and maximum practice, which is their primary mode of learning. Whether the learner is a call center agent, pilot or police dog, the goal is the same: new or improved, reliable and effective behavior.

So, a Training Manager like me is really responsible for learning and the resultant behavior changes, not so much just the act of providing training. Training is a complex effort of providing education and  opportunity to practice with feedback all for a specific goal: performance. And that's why I named this blog Learning. Training is meaningless without it and performance is dependent on it.

Friday, December 23, 2016

My Experience

Here's an elevator speech version of my career. If interesting in details, see my LinkedIn profile (link on the right sidebar).

I spent about 10 years in various retail jobs after high school, and during that time went to college at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and The Ohio State University, where I graduated with a B.A. in Social and Behavioral Sciences, with an Aviation Management major. 

My first professional job started just before I graduated, with an awesome company called NetJets. They operate a massive fleet of private jets made available through fractional ownership and prepaid charter cards. I started out as a Flight Coordinator, taking crew calls and arranging flight logistics. After a couple years I got my first training position, in which I wrote and delivered our training program for my department. 

Over the next 10 years I grew into corporate training roles, building and delivering Orientation and many other training programs for HR, Maintenance, Owner Services, and other groups. 

In 2007 I left to strike out into other industries, working at Mettler-Toledo for almost a year where I rolled out the company's first LMS. NetJets called me back with a need for a curriculum specialist in their pilot training group, and I couldn't resist the opportunity so I returned. A year and a half later, the Great Recession impacted us, and I was laid off with hundreds of colleagues. 

From there I was fortunate to get on with JPMorgan Chase as an instructional designer for Retail Training, serving over 5,000 branches. There, I helped redesign Teller training and other big programs. 

Looking to grow back into leadership, I did an internal and external search, and was picked up by a marketing/consumer services company as Training Manager for a good-sized call center. In my three years there I did a lot of improvements, creating an effective scheduling tool and redesigning one of their biggest new hire programs. I also learned a great deal about contact center operations. 

Most recently, I was found and recruited by my current employer, where I lead training and design for three contact centers. I've been there for two years. 

All-in, I've been in professional training roles for 18 straight years and love it. While aviation was my first love (and the reason I went to college), I'm grateful that I found the learning and development field as something I love to do. It's a transferable skill set and it has afforded me some great opportunities to learn multiple industries. 

Great Book!

Now in it's second edition, this is one of my favorites and a regular reference. In fact, in both my previous and current roles I've made it required reading for all my trainers and designers. What's so great about it? To start, it's written to learning professionals but in easy-to-digest language, with a hint of fun and even some interactive pieces. Second, it's based on real research in the field. And third, most importantly, it's incredibly practical and usable in any training role or organization.

If you read this book and start applying even a few of its concepts and ideas, you'll take big strides in creating and delivering effective training! Give it a look.