Successful training management relies on leaders who take an informed, holistic approach when developing training. Just as instructional designers look to subject matter experts (SMEs) when creating training programs, organizations are beginning to look to SMEs to fill training management roles due to their comprehensive knowledge of their company’s products or their expertise in a particular job function (e.g., information technology).

Not only do they need that expertise, but training managers also need a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of learning and development and their target audiences. Erin Rauch, CPTM, SME-turned-training-coordinator at Fortis Construction, shares insights on her transition from product specialization to training management and tips for aspiring training managers.

Seek Out Mentors

All aspiring leaders need a strong network of mentors and coaches to guide them toward effective leadership. Training management is no exception.

Rauch unknowingly began her journey toward training management with the help of mentors and coaches at her former organization. Aside from an intrinsic passion for learning and training, Rauch attributes her transition into training management to leaders who saw potential in her work as an SME that she did not recognize herself. As she gained knowledge and guidance from her mentors, Rauch began taking on more training facilitator and content development roles. These early experiences, prompted by her network of supporters, gave her valuable experiences and skills that she uses daily as a training manager.

Once you’ve established your own network of coaches and mentors, becoming a mentor to others can allow you to share the valuable insights you’ve gained through your experience. Rauch took on mentoring roles with new employees at her company to help them “[understand] the product we were developing and selling and help them be successful in their roles.” Taking on mentorship and coaching roles also gives you the opportunity to reflect on your progress: how you developed your skill sets and how you overcame obstacles. You can carry these reflections into training development and pass them on to learners outside of your immediate network.

Equip Yourself with the Resources and Knowledge You Need

Your mentors and coaches can aid you in accruing knowledge integral to your success as a training manager. However, it’s important that you take responsibility for learning independently as well. Seeking out information and knowledge outside of the office will make you a more effective manager in the workplace.

Sometimes, the knowledge you need isn’t found in the most obvious places. When Rauch began searching for resources to aid her in her role as a training coordinator, she dove into a wide variety of genres to gain a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary understanding of training management. She read books on topics ranging from corporate training to K-12 education, because she felt it was important to “gather knowledge in a diverse way.” Her diverse pool of resources allowed her to approach training management with a more comprehensive understanding of learning.

The right resources will not only allow for greater understanding; they will also provide you with the language and acumen you will need on the job. Demonstrating your knowledge clearly and effectively is a critical step toward successful training management.

Advocate for Your Team and Your Learners

Training professionals must prove the value of training to executives and stakeholders. In these situations, they are most successful when they are able to apply business acumen to advocate for their team and their learners.

Let’s face it: Learning and development teams are not known for being their organization’s moneymakers. Therefore, training managers’ ability to communicate the needs of their team while demonstrating the value of their work to executives is crucial. Rauch says, “You need to be able to talk to your leadership and say, ‘We need these resources; we need this budget. I know that it’s not necessarily going to bring in this amount of money, but here’s how it directly correlates to your employee success and your customer success.’”

“It can feel a little daunting sometimes,” Rauch notes, “to constantly have to advocate for something your care so deeply about,” but don’t let the perpetual need for advocacy discourage you! Rauch says watching a training program come together after being deeply involved in all stages of development is one of the most rewarding aspects of a training manager’s job.

SMEs bring vast value to the training profession and can leverage their expertise to become effective training managers. With a strong network of mentors and coaches, the right resources, and the ability to advocate for the needs of your learners, you can go far as a training manager.

Download the free e-book “Career Pathways in Learning and Development: Perspectives and Strategies for Your Training Career”: