What is the role of a training department? It’s a simple enough question. Many would provide a simple answer: to train employees to do the job they were hired to do. How hard could it be?

For people outside of the industry, this task would not seem hard at all: Identify what employees need to do in their job role, tell them what is expected, show them how to do the job and then put them to work!

If only it were that easy.

The New Corporate Landscape

In today’s world, consumers expect more from the companies they buy from, and they are exercising their power over the corporate landscape like never before. A few well-placed tweets or negative Facebook posts can bring a company to its knees.

As a result, the departments within those companies need to work harder to protect the organization from self-inflicted wounds and cultural obsolescence. For example, marketing departments need to identify the cost of their advertising campaigns not just from a financial cost perspective but from a social cost perspective. How much revenue will the company loose if your marketing is deemed sexist, racist or homophobic? What if your ads are fine, but the shows or events you use to promote your brand are deemed sexist, racist or homophobic? Finance departments need to check to make sure the companies they invest in and partner with aren’t burning down the rainforest or using child labor. And, hiring managers need to determine what constitutes a diverse candidate pool. Are your hiring practices ageist? Is there bias in your interviewing process? If so, how do you fix it before someone files a class action lawsuit?

The New Role of the Training Department

These are the questions that executives must consider in the modern world. But what do they have to do with the training department? The answer is simple: Without the company, there is no one to train. Companies are expected to do more than just make and sell products. Therefore, training departments can no longer afford to focus solely on the employee as a means for making and selling those products. To be valuable, training departments must help their companies operate more leanly, with increased flexibility and with a future-focused mindset that aligns with consumer purchasing trends.

This new role is a far cry from the “old days” of making PowerPoints, creating training manuals and scheduling classes. How will the marketing team know what constitutes biased imagery? They’ll ask the training department. How will managers know how to appropriately create a diverse candidate pool and conduct a strong skills-based interview? They’ll ask the training department. All departments should be requesting assistance from the training department — but they won’t if the training department is unable to provide the requested expertise and assistance.

To be an asset to their organization, the training department must evolve and contribute to the development of the organization itself. It must become the subject matter expert on everything that keeps the company profitable and relevant, and it must operate in a forward-thinking manner. Learning and development (L&D) professionals need to become true performance consultants and thought partners in the organization’s strategic development process.

If a training department can accomplish this goal, the struggle teams often face to calculate return on investment (ROI) could go the way of the encyclopedia. They will see the benefits in the growth the company experiences and the quality of the people and products that represent it.

So, ask yourself: What does your training department have to offer?

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