Many digital content and techcomm professionals think about going into training as they develop and build their careers so we are particularly pleased to hear about what this work entails from Dan Jones, a training manager for a global insurance firm based in Zurich, Switzerland. He reveals how to get started in training, why learning professionals are more in demand than traditional classroom trainers and why he loves the job.
You can also read more interviews with professionals working across the field of digital communications in our Interview with a… series.
What is your job title?
Officially, I’m a training manager, but I like to call myself a modern workplace learning professional since it’s a better reflection of what I do. I’m employed full-time with a global insurance company in Switzerland.
What does your job involve?
I help our employees acquire knowledge, apply new skills and shift attitudes through modern approaches to workplace learning, communication and change management.
So, in addition to designing and delivering classroom and online courses, I create ‘learning experiences’ that go beyond traditional, face-to-face training sessions. I manage a learning community, produce and host webinars, and monitor social media groups.
And I use my techie and design skills to build SharePoint collaboration sites, create social media graphics and videos, and produce microlearning modules and apps that learners use to reinforce their learning both before and after a class.
What background do you need?
Most people fall into training roles when – as a subject matter expert – they’re asked to teach others what they know. Most end up delivering a boring ‘brain dump’. But if they’ve taken some courses in training, facilitation and instructional design, they do a much better job.
You’ll be a step ahead of other candidates if you hold a certificate in training or instructional design in addition to a bachelor’s degree.
What is the most challenging part of the job?
Sometimes you have to convince senior managers that training is not part of the solution. For example, I once received a complaint from IT leaders about poor data quality: “If only employees were better trained on our systems then we’d have accurate, up-to-date data.”
I had to explain that our employees already knew how to use our systems but, under time pressure, they often skipped fields or entered default data to meet their deadlines. As managers never audited their entries or gave them corrective feedback so ‘dirty data’ became the norm.
Better management and coaching – not training – was the solution.
What is the best bit about being a training manager?
I love the variety in my work. One day I might design a learning game and the next a digital microlearning module. Today I might host a webinar and tomorrow deliver a face-to-face class.
I really enjoy interacting with learners both in class and online. I get a kick out of the ‘Aha!’ moments they have when learners ‘get it’ and apply what they’ve learned to their daily work.
What advice would you give to a student or young person trying to get into your area?
If you’re a subject matter expert, volunteer to teach and coach others. That will open doors to other training opportunities. And focus on the learners, not on yourself. They know a lot – and maybe even more than you – so use your facilitation skills to get them to share their knowledge and experiences with others.
What is the rate of pay?
Training professionals can make a good living. The financial services and pharmaceutical sectors tend to pay the most. A chief learning officer (CLO) holds the highest training position in a company and reports to the head of human resources or even the CEO.
Is there job mobility and security?
There’s a demand for training professionals in every industry. Once you’ve mastered the core skills, you can be a training professional in any sector.
I started out teaching retail buyers how to use a mouse. Later I helped IT staff improve their project management skills. Today I’m coaching corporate underwriters in strategic account management and sales.
That said, when cost-cutting measures come into play, training – unfortunately – is often one of the first things to go. This is particularly true in companies that don’t really value the development of their staff.
Any advice on training and development options?
Join the Association for Talent Development (ATD) or similar organisation in your region, and take advantage of all the resources they offer. At ATD, there are dozens of learning certificates you can earn and their annual conference attracts more than 11,000 attendees from around the world. It’s a great place to network and learn about the future of the industry.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to give back by managing and developing a team of young learning professionals who are helping colleagues improve their performance through self-directed learning, collaboration, curation, coaching and communities of practice.
Do you have a motto/guiding principle when you work?
Stay curious. Keep learning.
Any final tips?
There’s less and less demand for traditional classroom trainers, although we’ll always need them. You’ll find more success as a learning professional who can create engaging, effective ‘learning experiences’ that help people learn beyond the classroom.
Dan Jones is a modern workplace learning and communications professional based in Switzerland. He’s available to help your employees and customers acquire knowledge, apply new skills and shift attitudes through modern approaches to workplace learning, communication and change management. See his LinkedIn profile, follow him on Twitter @DanielWardJones and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org