What makes a successful company? Among many other factors, successful companies might include effective marketing, hiring and team management, and fundraising. However comprehensive this list, however, effectively managing your training team is critical in building a thriving training organization.

If your training team is unaware of the business’ strategic priorities, does not get proper feedback, and loses contact with top executives, even the most thriving training organizations will fail.

Strategic growth begins with developing a team that is strong, cooperative and productive — because business growth is primarily about people growth: You won’t build a top-tier training function without paying attention to the training professionals you’re creating it with. If your people fail, you will, too, fail; if they succeed, the entire company will climb up the business ladder, supported by their hands.

Of course, human resources (HR) is imperative to sustained business growth. Think over the following question: Who is responsible for managing the HR function at your organization? If your unequivocal answer is “the HR department, only” and you in a managerial position, I have bad news. It seems that you don’t follow one of the not-so-recent management trends: strategic HR management.

Strategic HR management is a relatively new term designed to highlight the importance of soft skills in business development. The somewhat derogatory term “soft skills” hints that these skills are less necessary than “hard” ones: as if a college degree or technical knowledge is much more helpful in business management than empathy, planning, time management or plenty of other uncertified abilities that are essential to training, and business, success. According to Laura Mazzullo, founder of a recruiting firm focused on the placement of HR professionals, the term “soft skills” is a bit of a misnomer. Thus, she refers to them as “core cultural contribution skills.” Soft skills are universally recognized as essential for efficient hiring, empowering motivation, building a productive working atmosphere and driving business growth.

As long as you are leading your training function and helping your company grow, developing strategic HR management skills will position your for success. Consider these five HR skills and competencies that all training leaders should develop.

1.   Be People-centric

Learning leaders dedicated to helping both their people and training function succeed will always balance collective and individual goals. Suppose you are paying attention to the business results only, without considering personal gains and pains your team may be experience in pursuit of those results. In this case, your team will likely build resentment that remain unnoticed until a series of resignations occurs due to burnout.

How can you create an efficient training team that achieves results while ensuring they are supported?

First of all, listen. Active listening and empathy are two crucial elements of efficient communication. Without empathy, you will face insurmountable difficulties in supporting team spirit, engagement and a sense of belonging. Additionally, without empathy and active listening, you can’t be sure that your training team members won’t fall behind (or resign) in the most inopportune moment.

2.  Learn to Manage Organizational Changes

There’s no escaping the fact that every organization faces structural changes — either voluntary (aimed at supporting growth) or forced (caused by improper management or business failures).

Effective learning leaders must be at the forefront of organizational changes, understanding their impact on people’s lives. Try to explain structural changes to your team members beforehand to mitigate the undesired outcomes and advocate for your team members. As a leader, you should primarily demonstrate support for your training team and offer care in the hour of need.

3.  Build a Winning Team From the Get-go

Effective leaders never spare time for knowing the team as a working body and as a set of distinct individuals. Firm foundations of such knowledge are laid from the start the interview process — but it doesn’t stop there. Continuously ask your training team members about themselves, maintain the effective feedback process and create interpersonal bonds. Lastly, work to understand more about their career goals so that you can support them along the way.

4.  Explain, Don’t “Chief-plain”

“If I asked you, “What is the job of a soccer player?” would you say that it’s to attend practices, pass the ball to their teammates and attempt to score goals? Of course not,” says Julie Zhuo, Facebook’s vice president of product design, in her book “Making of a Manager.” “You’d tell me why those activities matter in the first place. You’d say, ‘The job of a soccer player is to win games.’”

Be upfront with people about the kind of relationship you’d like to build and the type of learning leader you want to be. This will help your training team conquer new professional heights and win more games. Never resort to “chief-plaining” — that is to say, don’t make yourself a “know-it-all” just because you are a leader. This approach negates all the possible interpersonal empathy and strips your relations of its emotional component. No one wants to establish emotional bonds with such a leader. What will be the consequences of your fault? Big chances you will get the information about your team’s emotional climate late and piecemeal. Sooner or later, you’ll feel the drawbacks of such a status quo and spend even more resources to mend it.

5.   Arrange Weekly One-on-one Meetings

“90 minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks or some 80+ hours,” writes Andy Grove, the founder of Intel and author of High Output Management, about one-on-ones. A good working strategy is to implement one-one-one meetings weekly with your team members.

It’s also important to schedule weekly free slots on your calendar for spontaneous consultations with your team members. Such flexibility will surely pay off. Treat them as impromptu sessions but never come unprepared. The core 1/1 discussion scheme includes plans, both ideal and tangible results, and possible obstacles on the way. If you are interested in possible 1/1 topics, their long list is here.

In her book “The Manager’s Path,” author Camille Fouriner quotes Marc Hedlund, senior director of engineering at MailChimp, saying, “Regular 1-1s are like oil changes; if you skip them, plan to get stranded on the side of the highway at the worst possible time.” The takeaway is clear: If you want to avoid unpleasant surprises, arrange timely check-ins with your team members.

Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

To avoid rookie mistakes when developing the strategic HR management tips outlined in this article, follow these tips:

  • Read more: Learn from quality sources, constantly improve yourself and keep in touch with modern approaches to HR management as you continue your career as a training manager.
  • Find qualified mentors: Insightful specialists with relevant experience can always be a source of advice.
  • Observe: Look around, take notice of those who surround you in the professional field, catch sight of their mistakes and learn from them.

All in all, the path of every leader is marked by a set of challenges. Some of them are desirable, some are not. By developing a strategic HR skill set, you can better navigate them and set your training team, and entire organization, up for success.

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