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Retaining trainers.

THE TOPIC OF THIS COLUMN ASSUMES that you want to retain your trainers.

In the real world, of course, you may have some trainers who are mismatched to their jobs and whom you want to see cycle out of training and into a position for which they are better suited. In this case you can apply the usual management methods to the situation. Let's assume you have done so successfully, and all your remaining trainers are valuable contributors whom you wish to retain. What management actions can you take to achieve the goal of increased retention?

I suggest that there is a best answer, and it consists of implementing an ongoing cycle of interlocking tactics.

First, you provide a continual stream of developmental activities (or assignments, or projects) that increase the store of what the trainer can actually do for the organization. This keeps the trainer involved, challenged and growing.

And since the trainer's value to the organization is continually increasing, he or she should (emphasis on "should") receive significant increases in compensation and prestige. This, in turn, positions the trainer for more advanced developmental activities.

That's it. In theory it's a pretty simple model, and the model is structurally sound.

One point deserves emphasis. The cycle of trainer (you could substitute "employee") retention begins with professional development and then works its way around to more professional development. You could write a book entitled Employee Development, change a few sentences and call it Employee Retention. The concepts are almost interchangeable--supposing that your baseline compensation, benefits and work environment are competitive.

To some managers, this model of trainer retention may be a new and useful idea. Other managers have surely worked it out for themselves, but are very likely running into snags with implementation. It's a fact that most organizations do not facilitate the orderly cycle of increased skill acquisition resulting in increased rewards.

Let's take a look at three of the most frequent snags. They share a common characteristic: None of them has simple solutions with a high likelihood of success. But that's OK--it's always worth a manager's time to define and isolate a problem, even if it can't be readily solved.

First, plain old work volume may make it extremely difficult for the manager to provide a trainer with challenging, growth-oriented assignments. It's easy to imagine a manager saying, "I'd love to have you learn distance-learning authoring tools and begin creating intranet-based courses, but in the meantime we've got a one-week, new-hire processing course that I need you to deliver at least 40 times in the next year." This is a very real problem: Few training departments have adequate staff to free people for learning and growth assignments. In this case, the best that the manager can realistically do is to keep the need for development at the forefront of his or her mind, and make the most of any opportunities that arise.

Second, when awarding salary increases and promotions, the manager is frequently constrained by irritating and inflexible pay grade and salary range guidelines. These structures may be necessary in some organizations to assure parity among divisions, but I have never met a manager who liked them. The pervasive move toward broadbanding in recent years recognizes that the inflexibility of the older system was detrimental to the organization. (In fact, I see it as the beginning of the deconstruction of the entire pay grade system.)

The answer? Working within the system, the manager can usually request to have a job regraded. This requires a lot of time and work. The manager has to perform the creative exercise of rewriting the job description, and then someone in the human resources department compares key areas of the job description with (supposedly) comparable jobs in the same employment area.

More managers choose to go outside the system. It is commonly known, but seldom acknowledged, that almost all organizations award exception increases when it is plainly in their interest to do so. When appropriate, it is the manager's responsibility to fight for an exception increase for a valued employee.

A third common snag is that the organization's mandate to the training department may not include delivery of high-level, technical or fun subject areas. Many organizations believe, for example, that only salespeople can train salespeople, or that they need consultants to train managers. I take violent issue with this mindset, but it is not uncommon. The trainer can do little to deal with it; the manager must patiently and persistently sell the value of his or her department within the organization. And then, when new and challenging assignments come to the department, the managers must delegate them appropriately and, of course, ensure proficient execution.

Andrew Hubbard is national training director for Irwin Mortgage Corporation in Indianapolis. He can be reached at andrew.hubbard@irwin
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Title Annotation:Training
Author:Hubbard, Andrew
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2004
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