Not Cease from Exploration

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

#86, HR Trainers

I've had a quasi-corporate trainer role now for something like 14+ years, all of it working in Human Resources.  The first stint of my traineriness was purely technical stuff, that is showing people how to "do things" on system, to complete processes, etc.  Over time that evolved into far less technical work and far more performance consulting, leadership development and some organization design.  I also look for opportunities to do work in compensation, employee relations and other HR disciplines.

The above is something of a set-up for a premise of sorts:  In the world of HR, there is a certain pecking order of positions.

1.  Head of Human Resources
This is usually a Senior Vice President role.  Often times, this person is the HR consultant to the head of the company.  This person is entirely responsible for the HR department.

2.  HRBP
Human Resources Business Partner.  These are usually Vice President roles, and they provide support to key senior business leaders.  They also supervise the staff that conduct the day-to-day work of HR.

3.  HRC
Human Resources Consultant.  Think of these are being daily HR support to the business and it's leaders.

4.  Specialists
These could be specialists in the areas of compensation (which can be very technical stuff), employee relations, benefits, organizational design (OD), organizational effectiveness (OE...technically what I do, at least according to my title) or others specialized fields.

5.  HRA
Human Resources Associate.  These are the folks at an HR front desk and the ones that do much of the daily work associated with helping employees solve day-to-day problems.  They are the unsung heroes of HR.

Continue on for roles 6-85

86.  HR Trainers (or the fancy name of "L&D", learning & development)
I say this as someone who has done/still does do some of this work, and I say it with much love.


Simply put, training isn't normally a glamorous gig and when you do this kind of work in an HR department, it's sometimes not actually respected all that much.  Why?  Well HR is a knowledge-based business; intellectual capital specific to HR disciplines means a lot, as does access to information.  It's also an area where the need for confidentiality reaches nearly epic levels.  The phrase "need to know basis" is effectively a set of marching orders, and more often than not, trainers simply don't need to know.  Heck, in my career (in the past, mind you, not now) I've actually been asked to leave meetings because I didn't "need to know" certain bits of information.  Less information = less valuable.  Training is also an occupation that many think they can do well, even if they actually can't; I've met very few HRCs who didn't fancy themselves to be great trainers (some are, some were, and some are not).

Now am I disparaging the training occupation?  Not in the least!  As I have told the trainers who have worked for me in the past, learning professionals have a well defined...and not always easy to find...skill set.  Despite what many may think, not everyone is cut out to be a trainer, and those that do it really well are genuinely talented folks.  Think about it:  A effective trainer must have well developed written communication skills, excellent presentation skills, the ability to engage in thoughtful analysis and the ability to creatively solve problems.  It's not an easy gig, period.

What to do?  Well I will first note that, despite (or is that "in spite of"?) the fact my own role has expanded beyond traditional training/learning stuff, I still do my share of that work, and I enjoy it.  Often that comes in the form of what I'll call "freelance facilitation", namely when someone who can speak well is needed for a particular program.  It's good work and it keeps the skills sharp.  Anyway, in my case, I've done my best to expand my role out, and these days I am proud to say that my responsibilities are pretty varied, and I do believe that I earn my pay.  For me, that's how I've dealt with the respect issue.  Others I've known have moved out of HR into more training-focused departments or have used the training gig for bigger career things.

Finally, I'll add this enormous caveat to all of the above:  A term like "respect" is highly subjective, and in my case it exists more so in my head than it does in actuality.  Put another way, my perception of a lack of respect has more to do with the words "my perception" than the word "respect".  As I get older...and hopefully wiser...I've learned not to care all that much about the past or the future, about how I perceive others or how others perceive me.  Instead I simply try and show up each and every day to find work that I enjoy and while also striving to be a decent human being in the process.

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