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Annie Ward


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Trainer’s Diary: Devolving Power


Byron Kalies
There’s been a fair amount of debate recently about the power of managers and HR. The responsibility seems to be moving away from the centre to the managers. This has been happening at a rapid rate in terms of HRD personnel functions and now there’s pressure to devolve this power further to managers.

Managers have had to make decisions that personnel would have made - conduct disciplinary interviews, decide on conditions of service far more in recent years so now do they train as well?

I say let them try it for a few weeks – the knowledge, skills and attitude thing. Perhaps they’ll learn then that to be a good trainer you need a certain amount of aptitude. As one senior manager remarked on seeing an admin person in the training office one day “Why can’t she train? She certainly looks bubbly enough.” Oh well that’s OK then.

I’ve seen trainers and they stand up and talk and try to keep people awake. Anyone can do that it seems to be a message with a number of people these days. Once again I say good – let them take their best shot. Let’s see how they cope when people just want to argue for the sake of it. When people just want to be somewhere else, anywhere else infact than stuck in a room in the company of strangers.

It’s a bit insulting really. You wouldn’t get people wandering up to surgeons saying “Well I’ve seen how you do that. I’ve got a knife, a green set of overalls, I’m sure I’ll be able to have a stab at it.” Or an aircraft pilot. Of course not. It’s nonsense. It’s just that we have one of those jobs that people see and because the skills involved are so subtle and almost designed to be disguised it looks effortless (well, on a good day).

I think we need to make it look far more difficult. I think we need to prowl around pre-course like an Afghanistan weight lifter pacing and rubbing chalk on our hands, breathing deeply and occasionally screaming some bizarre word. Instead what do we do – sit around drinking coffee talking to shy attendees making them feel comfortable. Well no more.

From now on I’m going to let all the angst and self doubt out. I’m going to sob uncontrollably if I have a less than perfect session. I’m going to employ a sports psychologist to talk to me in the coffee breaks and gee me up – get my focus back, get my bubbliness back.

Bubbly my arse.

9 Responses

  1. Thanks for your contribution
    Yes interesting perspective, but what have we learnt from this? 😉

  2. Caution necessary
    I agree – and this is an irritating old chestnut that refuses to die!

    And speaking of HR bashing (well, not quite…!)I see this article (see below ‘Why I hate HR’ by Keith Hammonds) is getting quite a lot of airtime this side of ‘the pond’ now. I also notice that in the OPP newsletter Professor David Ulrich cited this article in his recent session at the Oxford Forum.

    Interesting reading…..not exactly a fan…!

    As ever, a focus on commercial imperatives, an understanding of the business, how it works and what the priorities are coupled with quality delivery seems to be the key to training (and therefore ‘trainer’) success.

  3. Interesting Debate
    I agree with all of the comments so far.

    I’m interested to know if anyone has been using a model that works with the centre being smaller. We have a centralised training function and a community of workplace trainers. This seems to work reasonably well but some of the business areas seem more and more intent on becoming self sufficient.

    The debate rages on ……. I’ve seen quite a lot of formula one recently and have a sunny disposition, perhaps that qualifies me to replace Michael Schumacher?

  4. The visible part
    I think the view that anyone can train comes from those staff who do not have the appreciation of the training cycle, the delivery being the most visible part of it. Managers especially should be aware of the research, development, delivery and the post delivery evaluation aspects and the amount of effort it takes to get these aspects right. We have a ‘coaching community’ which, although focussed in one particular area, has led to some tensions as they could be percieved as a trainer substitute, but can actually act as a great link to operational teams. I would like to believe that anyone hoping to become involved in training, really does understand that its not all about being on stage and that the management of people is one of our greatest attributes.

  5. I could do that..!
    I think the fact that managers tend to look at trainers and say, “I could do that!” says a lot more about the type of people that go into management than it does about the required skills of the trainer role. I wouldn’t take it personally though, as typical managers look at everyone else in the company and think they could do their job better..from the cleaner to the CEO! Hmmm..possible new management development course..Controlling your over-inflated self-esteem. I could do that!

    On a completely related matter – Does calling your new child Shiloh Nouvelle (translated as New Messiah)indicate a slightly over-inflated sense of self-importance? I only ask because I am due a new son in September and was thinking of calling him Ultimate Master of the Entire Multi-dimensional Universe. Or James.



  6. And there’s more
    It is frustrating, isn’t it? Even people in internal training departments sometimes seem to have no concept of the skills necessary to be a good trainer. It is quite common to be asked to deliver a workshop for the training department of a company so that “they can roll it out themselves”. Well, fine, say I – but I work with a lot of actor-trainers in my workshops, so first you need to do three years at RADA, then ten years in Rep…. That seems to bring the message home.

  7. Let them learn the hard way
    Hi, I too used to get frustrated with this issue, but now I just let them try it for themselves, ‘experiential learning’ I think is the label we add to that, but the bottom line is that if you keep in touch with these organisations in an informative way then once they have come out the other side of the learning curve, you are the one they come back to. The temptation is to say I told you so but actually, a degree of empathy and personality go a long way here. The great news is that once a mistake has been acknowledged the likelihood is that they are keener to get it right second time round and hence have more realistic/appealing budgets to work with.

  8. Not only, but also ?
    Dare I suggest that line of thinking sometimes extends to a few HR people who (with or without a CIPD) think there’s little to it? I’ve had the misfortune of co-delivering along side one or two who can really make a trainer’s life difficult. Maybe there’s a point to NLP psychobabble after all (now I’ll go and wash my mouth out).

  9. Knowledge experts versus bona fide trainers
    What irks me are the so called ‘regulated’ jobs – where you cant train unless you have x,y,z exam eg in accountancy or financial services. So some dull geezer (or geezeress) is able to drone on about figures but knows toffee about training and those with the communication and development skills are excluded because they dont have the qualification which ‘matters’.

    Which is more important, a knowledge expert or a skilled person able to communicate the knowledge effectively?

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Annie Ward

Editor, HR Zone

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