The first year in any new role brings unique challenges, and the training manager role is no different. Training managers face various tasks during their first year on the job, from diagnosing the current state of the training function to assessing stakeholder needs to simply adjusting to new policies, processes and procedures.
Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take to conquer your first year in the role. Consider this checklist your guide to a successful start in the business of learning.
Congratulations! You’ve just landed a role as the new leader of a training organization. It’s time to get to work. The first thing you should do as a new training manager is get the lay of the land. Ask yourself:
- What does the training function currently look like?
- What resources (i.e., talent, budget, technologies, subject matter expertise, vendors and systems) are currently available?
- Is there an existing learning and development (L&D) plan?
- What are the organization’s short and long-term goals?
Diagnosing the current state of the training function will help you establish a baseline to measure progress against. It will also help you communicate your improvements to key stakeholders. After all, remember: You are not only a learning leader but a business leader. Performing effective diagnoses early on will help you deliver training that is strategically aligned to business goals.
Assessments, both formal and informal, can help you diagnose the current state of the training organization. While there are a variety of assessment tools on the market, start by taking a deep dive into Training Industry’s research on the key process capabilities of great training organizations. This research offers a framework of best practices that you can use to evaluate your training function’s current process capabilities and identify areas for improvement.
You should also speak with stakeholders, learners and their managers, and your training team members about the training function’s current state. Speaking with executives of both your own and your clients’ organizations will offer unparalleled insight into the businesses’ long-term goals, which learners may or may not be aware of, so that you can deliver more impactful training. Not only will these conversations offer insight into key business challenges and priorities, but they will help you build rapport and trust — which will later help you gain buy-in for training initiatives.
All training managers should perform a diagnosis after assuming a new role. However, diagnosis is especially important for training managers hired into an organization they have never worked for. Effective diagnosis gives these training managers a foundation on which to build impactful learning initiatives.
After diagnosing the current state of the training function, you are ready to rationalize. Portfolio rationalization is a technique designed to help training managers evaluate courses to determine which ones are valuable and useful to the business and which ones are not. This evaluation informs the decision to keep or eliminate a course, and helps you determine if you are using the right resources to design, develop and deliver the training.
Rationalization can be a long process, but it’s essential for successful training management. Whether you inherit 10, 100 or 1,000 courses, take the time to assess each one’s strategic value and proprietary nature. In doing so, you will be better able to recognize gaps in your portfolio and determine which courses you should eliminate or update with new information, materials or revisions.
It ensures that all courses in your portfolio are strategically aligned to business goals. Rationalizing early on in your tenure will help you eliminate courses that aren’t driving value so that you can free up resources for ones that will.
As you roll out new courses throughout the year, continue to rationalize your portfolio to ensure all initiatives are aligned to business goals.
After diagnosis and rationalization, you are well equipped to create an L&D plan — the learning leader’s go-to resource outlining the relationship between training initiatives and business goals.
As a new training manager, you may be tempted to fill your L&D plan with exciting new programs featuring cutting-edge learning technologies and future-forward content. But remember: Your job as a training manager is to improve performance. All courses should address a critical business priority.
A successful L&D plan should include the following:
- An executive overview.
- A description of your learners.
- Your company’s business objectives.
- Your business needs assessment.
- The training function’s current capabilities.
- Your short- and long-term objectives
- Anticipated challenges and solutions to address them.
Creating a solid L&D plan will anchor your learning programs in business goals, putting you well on your way to achieving what Training Industry research has identified as the most important process capability of great training organizations — strategic alignment.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to adapt your L&D plan as business needs change. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, you will likely need to add, replace or augment training initiatives at some point. Remaining agile will help ensure training continues to drive change — even in the midst of it.
After creating your L&D plan, you’re ready to put it into action. Implementing your L&D plan starts with assessing and managing your resources, including subject matter experts (SMEs), vendors, your existing learning tech stack and budget. From there, you can determine which courses to outsource and which to develop in house.
When designing and developing your courses, it’s important to select delivery modalities strategically. For example, if you are developing a program for a large, multinational organization, eLearning or virtual instructor-led training (VILT) may make the most sense in terms of accessibility and reduced travel costs. On the other hand, if you are developing a program for an organization whose learners are in a central location, instructor-led training (ILT) may be a viable option.
The last step in implementing your L&D plan is identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) for each of your programs before they launch. Determining which metrics to measure upfront will help you track each course’s business impact from the get-go.
Communication is a critical skill for learning leaders. After all, even the most engaging and exciting new programs won’t drive impact if learners don’t know they exist. Make sure to communicate all available courses to learners so they know what’s available.
You should also keep stakeholders up-to-date on all new training initiatives and on the training function’s overall progress toward reaching business goals. Doing so will help you gain buy-in for your plan and demonstrate your value as you execute it. As a new training manager, marketing yourself and your programs will help prove your value to the business from the start.
There are many ways to communicate training’s value to stakeholders, from a monthly newsletter featuring relevant course updates and metrics to a formal quarterly meeting discussing training’s impact on business goals. Of course, communicating training’s business value shouldn’t end there. As a learning leader, you should continuously update key stakeholders on how training is driving business impact. During your first year in the role especially, communicating and marketing the business impact of training will position you — and the entire training function — as a critical business asset.
Today’s business environment is constantly changing. Businesses must keep pace with emerging technologies and societal shifts to stay relevant. As such, this checklist is not a one-and-done process. Rather, it’s a process that you should perform continuously.
After your first year as training manager, it’s time to start fresh. Perform a new needs assessment to assess current organizational challenges and skills gaps, compare against your baseline to evaluate progress, rationalize your portfolio accordingly, update your L&D plan if needed, implement accordingly, and continue to communicate your progress to business leaders.
Your first year as a training manager may feel overwhelming. But don’t fear: Following this checklist will position you — and your entire training organization — for success long after your first year on the job.