Earning A Seat At The Table
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone from the training sector complain that senior management doesn't get it or doesn't support training, I would be a rich man. I must admit that for a long time, this was my major complaint as well. This however changed when I was asked, "Who owns this problem?" This challenging question should stop anyone complaining and help them to humbly realize that training owns this problem. It is only when training can take ownership for this that they can begin to earn a seat at the table along with senior management, helping them to understand how training can truly be a resource to help them achieve their strategic initiatives, and that human development needs to be a strategic initiative.
Once training takes ownership of this issue, the next step is to learn the language of the business. At a recent training session I heard one of the training managers struggle and finally admit that they had no understanding of the products their company makes. How can one establish any level of respect with management unless they are able to understand their business model and the products they make? It is strongly recommended that you walk a mile in their shoes, working in line and staff operations, and truly learn the business. Another great way of learning about the industry you are in is using the Internet, with sites such as msn.com to learn about the trends in the industry, analyst projections and even your own company results if it is publicly traded. Consider the following challenge as a way to measure your progress in this area. How well can you hold your own if you were to meet up with any one of your company vice presidents in a conversation about their department, the challenges they are currently facing and the overall state of the company?
One of the biggest training needs that exists, is educating senior management on the value of training. Without being successful with this, all of your other training may only have minimal impact and overall training can be perceived as non-value added. However, training management must first understand what it means to be a strategic resource or partner. Every business has limited resources and some form of business plan or strategy to identify what it needs to do to prosper in a globally competitive environment. You need to know this plan and be able to translate it into the required competencies. Training and Human Resources should collectively take ownership of ensuring that the human element of the business has the needed skills and knowledge to achieve the plan and make the company successful. HR recruits the right individuals, you train them and give them the "stamp of approval" that they are competent, and then HR creates the appropriate talent management system to ensure that employees are performing to expectation. This method also implies that HR and Training work hand-in-hand.
One of my key lessons learned in leading training functions successfully over the past 15 years is that the way you can measure your success is when you have established high levels of respect and credibility across the organization. In today's world, these translate to job security and career growth. The journey to the table is a challenging and difficult journey, but worth it once you are there. You then can help shape the future of the company and ensure that training flourishes and is successful. Or, you can discover that despite all of your efforts, the leadership of the company is not interested, which suggests that it is time to pack your bags and move along. However, my experience has been that skeptics make the best believers, and our job is to make them believers.
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