If you can, do; if you can’t, teach. That phrase has always sat uneasy with me. I first heard it from a fellow student of mine while studying art in Herefordshire College of Art and Design. He was referring to how the tutors at the college wouldn’t be there if they were any good at their calling. I always felt that was rather unfair – it is so hard to make a living as an artist (you only seem to make any decent money after you’re dead!).
Recent reports have brought into question the quality of L&D departments which reminded me of that phrase – and again, it sat uneasy with me. I think trainers are being given a rum deal from the anti L&D fraternity. It is clear that things need to change but is it really all the fault of L&D? Clive Shepherd, in his recent post “Rather than getting depressed, get going”, looks further than L&D at possible causes. In fact, I started penning this post before Clive’s was posted but he is so much more eloquent than I.
I know I may be biased, but I also feel the need to come to the defence of our trainers out there so I’ll continue with what I started before I read Clive’s post.
The speed of change is such that trainers do risk becoming the dinosaurs of the learning profession (see “Trainers of the Future” by Nick Shackleton Jones). If they continue to stick their heads in the sand (mixed metaphor but you get the gist) and fail to adapt their skills to become more learning facilitators rather than trainers they do themselves no favours. The future is more about helping people learn to learn and continue doing so.
I have heard first hand from trainers saying that they have been given the directive to design and deliver a training programme when they aren’t sure there is actually a training need. They try and convince the powers that be that it isn’t possible to deliver the amount of subject matter to an audience that large in such a short space of time but have no choice but to ‘work miracles’. They know they are not providing the best learning experience that they could deliver given half the chance, all too often they have their hands tied. I feel their frustration, they are full of enthusiasm to put new approaches into action only to realise that without the support of others in their organisation they will find it like swimming through treacle.
Nick Shackleton-Jones’ post also refers to trainers becoming more active in seeking out ‘the good stuff’. It is true we can’t carry on delivering the same old same old when information is at our fingertips (YouTube, Google, Twitter). I also believe that ‘learning professionals have a central role to play in the organisations of the future’.
However it is also the responsibility of the Company Owners, Directors, Team Leaders, Managers and Supervisors to provide the necessary support. They must empower learning professionals to create a streamlined learning culture, after all it’s their organisation that will benefit in the long run.
Let’s cut trainers some slack and give them the support they need to move forward.