When a company is large, learning and development is often decentralized. Training is divided into each department, and trainers are spread out across the company. This arrangement can leave trainers feeling isolated, alone and hungry for connection. You can bring them together and build the training community at your company. Encourage trainers from different areas of the company and different parts of the world to get together in person and virtually, giving them a chance to share ideas, share obstacles and solutions, learn from each other, and help each other grow to drive the organization forward.
There are many ideas for how to bring the training functions together across a decentralized organization. Virtual and in-person internal conferences, mentoring databases, and job shadowing programs are some options, but they are often complicated and cost a lot of money to implement and maintain. Two easy-to-implement and inexpensive ideas are a monthly training brown bag series and training book study groups.
Brown Bag Series
A training brown bag series, often called lunch and learn sessions, provides a good opportunity for trainers across an organization to get together frequently to discuss a variety of topics that are important to the work they are doing at their company. In lunch and learn sessions, experts from departments across the company lead a discussion that others learn from and can implement in their department.
In a brown bag session, the featured leader prepares a demonstration of a training method and begins a discussion on how it has been successful with his or her department’s learners. Then, the featured leader facilitates a discussion around the challenges of implementing the method. Trainers in other areas of the company learn from the lessons of the featured leader’s team, benefiting from their experience and success.
Other times, the expert can lead a hands-on clinic on how to use a new method or software. This activity is helpful for people who are new to the concept or software as well as for experienced users, as they may learn new ways of doing things. The organization and training community are enhanced with the shared knowledge and skills.
Training Book Club
Another option to bring the training community together is organizing a book club that meets to discuss training-related books. Topics could include a new training method or theory, a well-established training method to build foundational knowledge across the company, or business concepts related to the skills trainers need. The list of book topics is as endless as the interests of the trainers and the needs of the organization.
To start, a group of trainers decides which book they want to read and discuss, and participants volunteer to lead chapter discussions. The chapter leader prepares a summary of the chapter and leads a discussion during the book club meeting. After finishing the book, the group can meet to discuss how they are using the skills or ideas they learned.
Creating a Network
The benefits of building the training community in a decentralized company include networking and building talent. When trainers are isolated within their business units, they often don’t hear about the struggles other trainers are experiencing across the organization. Scheduling times for trainers to meet, either in person or through a virtual platform, reduces the feeling of isolation and gives trainers a chance to share conflicts and solutions and experience all of the benefits that are found when like-minded people have a chance to network.
When the organization develops a training network, mentoring relationships grow organically as trainers learn from each other. These relationships foster growth for trainers of all experience levels as younger trainers share new ideas with trainers who have been working in the field for many years, and experienced trainers share their years of experience with the newer ones. All of the trainers at the organization benefit and develop in ways they couldn’t have without the mentoring and networking. These experiences lead to a healthy training community that supports and builds itself even when trainers don’t work in the same area or struggle with identical issues.
Building a training community in a decentralized organization can make the whole company better. With a little effort and almost no cost, any organization can implement these ideas to build its training community.