Many people who work in Training and Development don’t like to call themselves that. Some call themselves Learning and Development specialists. Some refer to their work as Education. And still others use the term Human Resource Development specialist.
I’m a trainer and I use that term proudly. In honor of the Canadian Learn@Work week 2012, I’d like to share five reasons why.
1. It’s what I do—and no other word accurately captures it. Because I was originally trained for, and worked as, a technical writer, I was sensitized to the role of precision and accuracy in the use of words.
And to be honest, learning doesn’t apply to the work we do. Dictionary.com defines learning as “the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill.” Instructors are not acquiring skills, students do. In other words, learning is what the recipients of my services do.
Similarly, education does not describe what I do. As the first training manager for whom I worked explained, “Training is for immediate use, education is for long-term use.” I’m also an educator, but not when I provide work-related training. I am an educator in my academic job as a professor.
Nor does Human Resource Development does not characterize my experience in training. Like many technical trainers, my corporate career never took me near Human Resources. Instead, I worked in product development, sales, and manufacturing divisions. Although I recognize—and am proud that—students in my classes developed skills, neither my nor my department’s focus went beyond immediate needs; we did not take the workforce-wide view that Human Resources groups rightfully do.
2. My work requires special skills that most people don’t have.
Many organizations think that technical expertise alone qualifies someone to work as a trainer. Technical expertise is essential (it’s a deal breaker in terms of credibility) but many experts lack the ability to effectively communicate that expertise, much less nurture the development of skills in others. These are not innate talents; like engineering and computer science, these are learned skills.
Don’t believe it? Consider that the core of most face-to-face and online teaching involves speaking to a group of people—and without a script. That’s one of the top three fears of most people, yet we do it every day.
Teaching through self-study materials requires effective communication and writing skills—skills that most employers claim are in short supply in the workplace.
More than these visible skills, training actually involves several fundamental, behind-the-scenes skills that most people only notice when we fail to perform them correctly. Effective training requires:
- Analysis skills to determine exactly what workers already know and need to know, so they can address the gap—and link the resulting improvements in performance to a larger need in the organization.
- Design skills to make sure that the content is communicated effectively, learners have meaningful opportunities to practice the skills and receive feedback, and means exist for verifying at the end of training that workers can, indeed, perform those skills. Facilitation skills to impart learning content and develop skills.
- Facilitation involves more than merely presenting content, it also involves engaging workers in the learning process, coaching them to effective performance, and assessing their learning.
- Transfer skills to make sure that workers apply the newly learned skills on the job. This involves integrating reminders, tips, and resources into the workplace so that workers are encouraged to use the new skills when they’re tempted to use the old ones, and receive feedback that they’re correctly applying the new skills.
- Evaluation skills to verify that workers have indeed learned the new skills and applied them to the job, and identify the impact to the employer as a result of workers doing so.
3. I proudly carry the credentials of a Training and Development Professional.
In fact, I am a Certified Training and Development Professional (CTDP).
That’s one of two credentials available to Canadian-based Training and Development Professionals through the Canadian Society for Training and Development.
As doctors go through a licensing process and Human Resource professionals go through a certification process, so certification now exists for trainers. The CTDP that I earned recognizes the competence of professionals who design, deliver, and oversee training operations. The Certified Training Practitioner (CTP) credential recognizes the competence of classroom and online instructors.
In fact, in just a few short years, the number of CTDPs and CTPs has surged as professionals in this field increasingly recognize the value of credentials. Realizing that they now have a means of distinguishing among candidates whose competence in the field is validated and just anyone off the street, employers are increasingly asking for this credential.
And Canada is not alone. Our sister organization, the American Society for Training and Development, offers a certification that’s similar to our CTDP and the UK’s Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development offers its own certification for trainers.
4. Training is honorable work.
In a framework of charitable giving proposed by Maimonedes, the great sage of the Middle Ages, the highest level of giving (charity) is when one provides the means for people in need to earn a living on their own, so they no longer need charitable assistance.
Although it’s not charity, training does provide people with the means of earning a living and, through refresher training in which workers bring their skills up-to-date, provides a means for them to continue making a living .
5. The Training name has brand recognition.
Although I recognize that many trainers are uncomfortable with the name training—and I’ve heard many reasons why—the truth is, the people who use our services only know our services by the name training.
But even if we did choose a new name, we don’t know what to call ourselves. Some want to use Learning and Performance. Some want to use Workplace Learning. Some want to use Performance Improvement. Some want to use Knowledge Exchange. Some even want to appropriate the names of higher education, using University (and the leaders are called “deans.”)
Branding 101 says that branding must be clear and consistent. And this diversity of names is neither. The variety of names suggests a lack of consistency.
But the more fundamental issue is that, when we call ourselves something else, no one knows what the hell we’re talking about.
Don’t believe me? I’m finishing up a preliminary study of the perceptions of trainers held by Information Technology (IT) professionals and, even in companies where the training group was called Learning and Development, the IT professionals still use the word “training” to refer to our work. “Learning” doesn’t stick.
A former Training director for a major bank explained it this way: he tried renaming his group to Performance Improvement and Learning and Development, and he said that no one understood what they did. When he said it was “Training,” then they understood. A training manager at a pharmaceutical company participated in the same conversation and said that the same thing happened to her. Both ended up returning to the name training.
Perhaps the real reason that we want to change our name is that we are dissatisfied with our positions in occupational hierarchy. A name change is not likely to address this more fundamental problem. Only pride in our selves and our works will.
So I’m a trainer. Proudly a trainer.