One challenge of working in the training field, especially in
manufacturing, is that our function is often viewed as an expense.
In the current economy with plant closings and layoffs, that is not
a good place to be. Calculate what you cost your employer on an
annual basis (including not only salary but also bonuses and
benefits) and ask yourself if you are providing a service that is a
value for that expense. Could your employer purchase your services
more cheaply from a vendor or off the shelf? Are you competitive
with other resources available? At the end of the day what has your
employer gained by having you on salary?
Work by the numbers
Business acumen is listed on the ASTD Competency Model for good reason. If you don't understand the "numbers" measures or metrics of your business, now is the time to learn. Stay abreast of how your facility is performing against your company's performance goals. Understand your customers' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis.) If your organization has a SWOT analysis, digest it and see where you can add the most value. If your company does not have one, build one from the information your customers provide. You should never invest considerable time in projects or activities without measures to justify the investment of your salary.
Stay tuned into your customers' needs
A colleague once asked me if I got frustrated when people
questioned my judgment. "You are the trained professional," he
said. "They should trust your judgment. They hired you because of
your education and experience." My response to him was the best
definition of quality I have, that quality is in the eyes of my
customer. I explained that if I do not provide a service that is
perceived as providing value then my employers will spend their
money on something (or someone) that is.
Never allow yourself to become complacent by coasting on past
successes. Remember, we earn our paychecks every day. We must stay
attuned to our customer's needs at all levels, from hourly workers
up to the corporate office. For example, if you have not taken the
time to conduct a new needs assessment, now is a good time to do
so. This doesn't have to be a complicated process, but dedicate
more face time, listening to your customers' needs in terms of you
can help them meet their performance goals.
Don't duplicate efforts
I have often heard the phrase, "I just don't know what to do with
you." Training jobs are sometime new to an organization, and if we
aren't careful, we end up picking up loose ends from overwhelmed
co-workers. We have to avoid being assigned feel good projects,
such as newsletters, or becoming the resident PowerPoint expert. At
the start of each project, ask yourself and your customer (with
great tact) appropriate questions, such as "What is the benefit of
this project? What will we gain from this? Am I the most
appropriate person to do this?" Here is where your knowledge of the
bottom line will help you.
For instance, if you are asked to create a facility newsletter, ask
why it is needed. Usually, the answer comes back that everyone else
has one, so it seems like the thing to do. Or perhaps you'll be
told a newsletter makes people happy and increases communication.
Probe to discover what your customer is trying to accomplish - the
why behind the project. A newsletter in fact may be the answer if
your facility has morale problems, turnover, and no current
communication system. But beware of taking on a project that is
really someone else's responsibility. You will end up duplicating
services. Before you enlist in a task, determine what measures are
in place that illustrate that the project will provide a measurable
Although our jobs are an expense to our organization, we have
opportunities to generate revenue or returns. Think of other
facilities or divisions that do not have a training professional on
site as an opportunity to sell your services. Discuss the
possibilities with your manager to either invite employees to
attend your sessions on a cost-per-person rate or to conduct
training at these locations on a cost per class basis.
You can also generate a return for your employer by utilizing
workforce development funding in your state and community. Maintain
an active network with your local ASTD colleagues, community
college, and state institutes of higher learning. Each time you use
these services, be sure to note how much these services would have
cost had you purchased them from a for-profit vendor.
The one constant in manufacturing is a constantly moving target - a
truth that applies to other industries as well. It pays to
- Customers' needs change rapidly and so should your services.
- Don't get stuck in a rut.
- You have to maintain both long-term projects as well as provide
- When a customer asks for your help, discuss the opportunities
and steer the conversation toward benefits or in other words, avoid
training for the sake of training.