The purpose of the training organization as it relates to the business is a common topic of discussion in the learning and development (L&D) community. High-performing training organizations excel at aligning learning solutions with the needs of the business and helping those working within it perform at a higher level.

Improving performance implies we understand there are issues hindering the organization from performing at its best. Let’s face it, if the organization didn’t have problems, then we wouldn’t need a training function. Training managers play a key role in helping organizations improve efficiency and mitigate performance issues.

I like to think of training managers as problem solvers. Training courses are vehicles for helping the organization perform better. We are not in the business of creating courses; we are in the business of creating solutions.

As training professionals, we must identify and apply the right learning solutions to the right problems. Traditional approaches to learning allow students to choose what knowledge and skills they need. But in a work setting, learners do not always know what they need. If you are a new employee or are taking on a new role in the organization, you don’t know what tools you will need to be successful. Leaving it up to the learner to determine their own needs falls short of helping them become successful.

Using Data to Identify Training Needs

Data associated with how the business is performing provides us our best insights into what training is needed. Similar to how a doctor checks vitals to diagnose an illness, learning leaders gather data to understand organizational illnesses. Data provides direction as to how to treat the condition. Training managers should work with clients to understand the data available and be astute at using data to conduct diagnostics and identify needs.

Of course, training managers are not doctors, but we are leaders. And exceptional training managers use data to understand the environment they are working in and determine solutions for solving existing problems. Training managers, just as any leader of any organization, should use data as a means to remain objective. Emotional decision-making or developing learning curriculums based on what’s trendy at the time may feel good initially but will not achieve long-term results. Great leadership is about being objective and leveraging the facts available.

In the Certified Professional in Training Management (CPTM) certification program, we teach a simple five-step process to identify solutions to business problems based on data fluency:

  1. Problem statement: Identify the problem you seek to solve based on data related to your clients most pressing needs. Work with your client’s leadership team to understand the most important issues to prioritize.
  2. Diagnostics: Next you must diagnose the root causes of the problem you have identified by gathering related data, as well as opportunities and approaches for how to solve the problem.
  3. Solution: Based on data, determine the solution you plan to utilize to solve the problem you’ve identified.
  4. Implementation: Develop a plan for how you will implement the solution you intend to provide. This includes how you will develop or procure the training and how you will deliver it or provide access to the learner.
  5. Measure success: Lastly, it is imperative that you measure progress and success using the same, relevant data that you used to identify the problem.

Great training managers help create and manage great training organizations, and great training organizations demonstrate a high degree of data fluency. Data fluency is one of the key competencies of a training manager.