Outlook for the Learning and Training Profession

There is an interesting infographic showing that Education/Training Consultants is one of the Best Jobs in America. It is based on the Bureau of Labor's Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. In fact, if you go to the Bureau of Labor's page on Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Managers and Specialists, it reads in part:

Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists occupations. College graduates and those who have earned certification should have the best job opportunities. Overall employment is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Some of the reasons listed for the projected growth of the learning/training profession includes:

  • Workers need to be trained on new legislation and court rulings that revise standards
  • Employers are expected to devote greater resources to job-specific training programs in response to the increasing complexity of many jobs and technological advances
  • As highly trained and skilled baby boomers retire, there should be strong demand for training and development specialists to impart needed skills to their replacements

But as we all know, the learning/training profession lost a number of jobs due to the recent economic woes — the report even indirectly acknowledges this:

Like other workers, employment of human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists, particularly in larger companies, may be adversely affected by corporate downsizing, restructuring, and mergers; however, as companies once again expand operations, additional workers may be needed to manage company growth.

Yet, it seems we sometimes take the biggest hits and are often the last to be called back to the workforce. Why? The biggest reason is that we often fail to directly address problems that impact the organization's performance. Managers in line departments want people who can solve some of their problems. In most cases they are not worried about ROIs or other fancy formulas — they simply want the problem to go away. Every problem that disappears is one less task they have to spend time on. Yet when given some of the simplest training problems we often go astray and rather than delivering a solution, we deliver some cute learning program that offers no real impact.

What are you doing today that shows your real worth to the organization?


Sean said...

Hi David,

I think your assessment is fairly accurate — especially the tendency among some to develop something clever rather than something effective.

Part of the reason I think is that training professionals tend to be early-adopters. We're always on the look out for the new, the innovative, and the exciting.

The desire to introduce new techniques, be it blended solutions or e-learning or Web 2.0 is sometimes overwhelming. I've worked with lots of training teams that have been desperate to create podcasts and wikis and e-learning solutions regardless of the business issue in order to seem more up-to-date and relevant.

Until we as T&D professionals learn to better focus on the business issue, the requirements, and the returns (both financial and otherwise), I think we'll continue to be expendable.

Donald Clark said...

Hi Sean,

I agree that we should be early adopters; however, at the same time we still need to ensure that our efforts align with the needs of the business – I think this is where we most often error.

Sean said...

Hi Donald,

Sorry I wrote David earlier. Not sure where that came from.

You're absolutely right about business alignment. We really do have to better focus on the business issues and requirements.

One more thing that I would add to the list though is 'outcome' and 'achievement'. In order to align our efforts, we really need to be outcome focused and agree how we measure what've provided. Once we can demonstrate our achievements and how we contribute to the success of a company, we become more relevant and more essential to the execution of vision, change, transformation, employee retention, morale, and much more.

Mike Kunkle said...

Hey Don, how are you? I popped in today and caught this post... right to the chase, as usual. And right on target.

I'm running a customer-facing, training P&L today, so it's been a little different than my usual employee-focused training role, but we still need to deliver training that is on target, worth paying for, that satisfies internal and external customers, and produces revenue to meet budget projections. We're just judged more on customer satisfaction metrics and revenue.

In this role, our additional value-add (my opinion) has been my department's focus on process improvement and preparing for future scalability to avoid problems that we see coming. What's funny is that even when educated about situations, risks, future issues and our mitigating plans, some (not all) organization leaders don't seem to care as much about avoiding problems that don't exist yet. It's almost better, it seems, to allow it to become a problem, and then fix it. ;-)

Having experienced this oddity, I thought of it immediately reading your comment about line managers just wanting help with their problems. And I agree that despite years of articles, white papers, book, conferences and proclamations, much of our industry still hasn't made a transition to a true performance-oriented mindset and problem-solving methodology.

Go figure, eh?

I also wonder a lot about what our business education system is doing. If it were up to me, business education and manager training would be laden with the problem-solving, organizational performance improvement stuff that our real performance gurus live with daily. I don’t know what this might mean to our industry (although I think we'd always need centers of excellence for some things), but I think it would bode better than line managers who don't understand HPT working with "training" departments that don't understand business needs.

Stay well, Don... I'll be back.

Mike Kunkle