Managing Training across Changing Structures

When Charles Handy wrote the "Age of Unreason" in 1989 he predicted major changes in our understanding of the word ‘organization’. His vision of the growing importance of ‘shamrock organizations’ has proved to be accurate, and increasingly reflects the environment in which we work.

The shamrock symbolizes three different groups of people, each with different expectations, managed differently, paid differently and organized differently. In old style organizations the professional core was by far the largest leaf of the shamrock. But with downsizing, the need for flexible, movable structures and the ever changing range of specialist skills which organizations require, the knowledge professional core has become smaller and is complemented by larger numbers of contract and part time workers. This affects training managers in two important ways.

1. Downsizing of training departments has meant that training managers are increasingly finding the need to contract out whole areas of their training programme to specialist training designers and providers. Managing these contractor relationships effectively over the short and medium term is, for many, a new and challenging experience. DBA’s book Choosing and Using Training Consultants (1993, Gower) was written in response to a perceived need to support and guide training managers who now needed to manage this new challenge in their jobs.

2. The increasing size of the flexible workforce, with people working in part time and temporary jobs, also poses a challenge for training managers. At DBA we have experienced an increasing demand for induction training packages (even employees on short term contract need to understand the organization for which they are working!). We have also seen an increasing demand for new and more flexible alternatives to workshops, courses and group based training events. Such alternatives include:

  • training individuals to manage and take responsibility for their own personal development
  • training managers to coach and develop their staff on-the-job
  • developing self-study materials
  • advising on and helping to set up learning resource centres which support self-directed learning.

Such approaches to training and development can accommodate a wide variety of working patterns and timetables. They are needed to meet the development needs of a more flexible, changeable workforce.

Responding to the Changing Development Needs of Managers

As organizations change, there is a need for managers to learn new people management and leadership skills. Employees who work part time or on short term contracts or in job- sharing face different difficulties and are motivated differently from full-time employees. Managers need to engender commitment by motivating individuals, working more participatively with them, and finding new ways to enrich their working experience.

The challenge for training managers is to identify and then develop in managers the new mix of skills and attributes which this approach requires of them. Our work in identifying competences for managers has identified an increasing emphasis on the ‘softer’ management skills (e.g., team working, building relationships, persuading and influencing) as an important complement to the ‘harder’ skills of business finance, strategy and planning.

In the past, individuals sought advancement through promotion. As new organization structures take shape, the opportunities for promotion are fewer. Managers need, therefore, to find other ways to satisfy individuals’ ambition and desire for advancement. This can be done by building development opportunities into jobs, and enabling people to expand and widen their skill base and extend their roles and responsibilities.

For organizations who are already accredited to IiP or who are working towards it, it is essential that managers at all levels are able to identify training and development needs for their staff.

There is an increasing need for managers to take a more active role in the development of their staff. The challenge for training managers is to:

  • equip managers within their organization, with the skills and knowledge required to identify individuals’ development needs
  • coach and support skills development on-the-job.

At DBA we have seen the development of this trend in an increasing demand for our help in:

  • enabling and equipping training managers to fulfil a new role as internal training consultants to managers in their organization
  • designing and delivering coaching skills training programmes for managers
  • new approaches to teamwork.

The Changing Role of the Training Manager

Training managers are subject to several challenges which need to be met often within the parameters of reduced training budgets.

The technical challenge is to keep up-to-date with changes in legislation, company policy, new methods of training delivery and new subject matter (especially in Information Technology)

The strategic challenge is to monitor and respond to expected changes in skill requirements, and to deliver training which provides demonstrable, measurable bottom line results, both short and the long term.

The professional challenge is to keep up-to-date with changing practice, to manage ongoing continuing professional development, and to ensure that the organization’s trainers and line managers are informed and practised in applying the best in training ideas and methods. Gordon Lippitt has identified four roles for training managers in modern organizations:

  1. learning specialist and instructor
  2. administrator of training and development staff and programmes
  3. information coordinator
  4. internal consultant to the management of the organization.

Traditionally, the activities of training managers have focused primarily on the first two of these roles. As the need to contract out training projects and to equip managers with staff development skills has increased, so the focus has shifted significantly towards the last two of the roles listed:

  • the training manager as information coordinator:
    • managing and monitoring contractor relationships
    • enabling and evaluating line manager effectiveness in developing their staff
    • coordinating an organization-wide skills development effort.
  • the training manager as internal consultant:
    • identifying skill development needs for the future
    • advising on staff development methods and best practice
    • evaluating and improving the bottom line effectiveness of the organization’s training and development effort

This is the new profile which training managers will need to match as they help to steer their organizations into the new millennium.

If we can help you with any of the topics listed, please contact us.