When Trainers Lead: Collaboration and Midyear Reviews

June 20, 2010

The trainers-as-leaders who serve as Chapter Board members for the The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) Mt. Diablo Chapter in San Francisco’s East Bay area took another leap forward last week by reestablishing a dormant connection: the Board voted to create a formal partnership with The Learning Café in the San Francisco East Bay Area.

This collaboration, for all involved, looks to be a positive and significant move in many ways. It reunites the Chapter with The Learning Café’s founder and CEO, Diane Fleck, who served as Chapter President nearly 10 years ago and who credits that experience with having inspired her to found her organization for workplace learning and performance professionals and others seeking to improve their business skills. It brings Fleck’s tremendous marketing and training skills to the Chapter at a time when Board and other Chapter members are seeking to increase awareness of the Chapter’s activities and offerings among its current and prospective members. It brings The Learning Café’s many workplace learning and performance opportunities more directly to the attention of those involved in ASTD locally and regionally. And it continues Chapter leaders’ current efforts to mine the Chapter’s past to assure its healthy future by reaching out to those who played key roles in the Chapter’s development over a long period of time before moving on to other endeavors.

Under the terms of the partnership, Fleck will serve as a formal marketing advisor to the Chapter at least through the end of 2010; help finalize and coordinate implementation of the Chapter marketing plan; and provide public relations support by including promotion of Chapter events in the form of notices within The Learning Café weekly online newsletters, which are directed to more than 7,000 people throughout the United States. The Chapter will keep The Learning Café’s logo on Chapter website homepage, promote The Learning Café’s activities and its Advisor Network on the Chapter website, and keep Chapter members aware of learning and professional development opportunities offered by The Learning Café’s through the Chapter’s own publicity efforts.

The timing for this important step couldn’t have been better. Board members, taking a midyear look back toward the Chapter strategic plan discussed and adopted during the first two months of 2010 after a nearly year-long effort to create the document, confirmed that the overall theme of seeking opportunities to add value to members’ involvement in the Chapter are well underway. Membership remains steady at a time when other ASTD chapters are struggling to attract and retain members, and innovative programming continues to provide what Chapter members seem to value most: learning opportunities which can be used in members’ own workplaces.

Collaboration and building a community of learning have been important elements of what the  Chapter Board set out to do when it was struggling to overcome challenges in 2007 and 2008. Consistent attention to this goal is now beginning to pay off for the organization, and all of us are looking forward to continuing to lead through collaborations for the remainder of the 2010 Chapter Board’s term of office.

Strategy, Alignment, and Training (Part 1 of 2)

January 7, 2010

It’s no surprise to trainers that aligning strategic plans with training plans makes sense; the real news is that the London-based Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) released nearly two years ago remains as fresh today as when it was written. It includes a detailed factsheet which, through a series of links imbedded in the text, serves as an easy-to-read primer useful to trainers, learners, and anyone else interested in effectively linking strategic planning with training.

Among the key elements in “Aligning learning to the needs of the organization,” written by Valerie Anderson (Principal Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Portsmouth Business School) and released in January 2008, is the reminder that “(l)earning, training and development professionals…need to work in partnership with senior managers, line managers and learners” to provide learning opportunities which are aligned with business needs as well as with individual learners’ career development needs. It’s a simple concept with little room for argument—so simple, in fact, that it often is forgotten as we all concentrate on resolving the short-term crisis du jour. Long-range planning, unfortunately, remains a sporadic-at-best process for many and results in strategic plans which sit, unused, on shelves or intranet sites—until they are retrieved as templates for the next strategic plan.

There’s a roadmap here. Anderson, in a section entitled “Implication for learning and development professionals,” offers a list of skills needed by training and learning professionals interested in long-term impacts: “developing a strategic understanding of the organization”; “clarifying the operational priorities that are important to line mangers in different parts of the organization”; “working effectively as part of a management team”; and “assessing the extent to which ‘year-on-year’ learning and training processes maintain a close fit with organizational strategic priorities”—items usually left to managers, supervisors, and other administrators rather than to the trainer-learners who implement staff training programs.

The beauty of Anderson’s CIPD report is that it offers ammunition for trainers and administrators supportive of all-inclusive, consistent, long-term training programs to meet their organization’s interrelated business and staff career-development needs. The essential corollary is that training is planned and implemented at all levels within an organization, not just by training directors or a small group of administrators—a tall order for contemporary libraries and nonprofits, where it is all too common for everyone to have multiple responsibilities and too little time to do more than respond to each in all but the most cursory way.

“Alignment,” Anderson concludes, “is a process rather than a singular outcome,” and the training which leads to alignment has to come from line managers as well as from those with overall responsibility for managing staff training.

N.B.: An earlier version of this article was originally posted on Infoblog.

Next: Preparing Line Managers to be Effective Trainers

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