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The Changing Role of the Trainer

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The changing role of the trainer has little to do with costumes, superman or a click of the fingers; Annie Hayes spoke to Martyn Sloman, Adviser, Learning, Training and Development at the CIPD about the challenges.


It is a subject that has permeated discussions at almost every level within the profession so what is happening to trainers and have they got the skills needed to cope with the changes?

Martyn Sloman, of professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) told me that the transformations we are seeing are to do with changes in the business model.

“There’s a lot more emphasis on knowledge and skills. There’s a significant change in the mindset. The partnership model argues that knowledge and skills is a collaborative process. The role of the trainer therefore becomes one of ‘support, direction and acceleration.”

The concept that learning and development takes place solely within the confines of a classroom went out with the dark ages. Today organisations understand that ongoing learning is an essential element of the modern workplace and it therefore makes sense that trainers adapt themselves and recognise that learning and development will occur with or without them, at any time and in any place.

The partnership model that Sloman talks about therefore rings true but Sloman warns that not all trainers are happy with the changes that are happening.

“There are some who are frightened of the change but there are also many that recognise what is needed. There’s no change in the job role as such or the function it’s more about a broad development of responsibilities.”

And anyone, warns Sloman, that restricts themselves to stand-up classroom based training has limited ambitions anyway.

“There’s a lot more emphasis on the transfer or learning.”

As for the skills required to keep pace with these changes, Sloman cites the following:

  • Building relationships.

  • Influencing skills.

  • Understanding the business.
  • Indeed at the heart of the new model is the concept of continued professional development, a subject matter close to the CIPD’s heart and one that they have tried and I think successfully captured in their phrase the ‘thinking professional.’

    And it’s those professionals, the ones with the ‘light-bulb’ moments that will do well. I wondered what part evaluation played in the new model. Sloman’s views are somewhat controversial but perhaps worthy of a few flicks of the switch.

    “If you’re properly aligned to the business needs and the organisation recognises the value of the training and development there shouldn’t be any need to be obsessed with the figures after the event”

    It is impossible to isolate the effect of a learning outcome says Sloman so why the obsession with evaluation and return on investment?

    And according to the latest CIPD survey, despite its hype, evaluation is not actually occurring in the workplace either.

    Anything beyond Kirkpatrick’s: reaction, learning, behaviour and bottom line doesn’t happen he says.

    So why not?

    1. Are trainers lazy?
    2. Are they stupid?
    3. Or do they have other demands on their time?

    Trainers will be pleased to hear that Sloman favours the last option!

    “If you’re doing a good job you don’t need to go in with the figures afterwards, it’s as simple as that,” he says.

    Martyn Sloman will be speaking at the CIPD’s HRD conference on Tuesday, 4 April between 13.45 and 15.00 about the Changing Role of the Trainer.


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    Annie Hayes

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