The Competencies: How good a training manager are you?

Bruce Maples introduces quality standards for training managers as he continues his series on ibstpi Competencies.

We’ve been looking at the training competencies produced by the International Board of Standards for Training Performance and Instruction (ibstpi). I introduced this series in an overview of the “standards”, as they are often called, and last week we took a look at the competency standards for instructors and trainers.

This week, it’s the managers’ turn, and I have to say that all you training managers better strap yourselves in, because this set of competencies sets the bar at the SuperManager level. Let’s take a look and see how well these competencies apply to real-life training management.

Managing training, managing trainers
Table A shows the Training Manager Competencies as promulgated by ibstpi. If you read through this list, you can see that the job of the training manager is divided into two parts: planning for and managing the training itself (1-6), and working with and managing the training staff (7-15). I think this accurately reflects the two-pronged nature of the training manager’s role, and, in fact, I think it should be carried over into evaluations of job performance for training managers.
  1. Assess organizational, departmental, and program needs.
  2. Develop plans for the department and programs.
  3. Link human performance to the effectiveness of the enterprise.
  4. Apply instructional system design and development principles.
  5. Assure the application of effective training principles.
  6. Evaluate the instructional design, development, and delivery functions.
  7. Apply the principles of performance management to own staff.
  8. Think critically when making decisions and solving problems.
  9. Assure actions are consistent with goals and objectives.
  10. Adapt strategies and solutions given change.
  11. Produce effective and efficient solutions.
  12. Develop and sustain social relationships.
  13. Provide leadership.
  14. Use effective interpersonal communication techniques.
  15. Communicate effectively orally and in writing.

The competencies having to do with the training task also follow a natural progression. We begin by assessing the training needs of the unit(s) we are responsible for. We then develop plans to meet those needs, being sure to tie our training objectives to performance that will actually enhance the effectiveness of the unit(s). Next we build or obtain training that fits into those plans and that exhibits good instructional design. While the training is actually taking place, we make sure that the trainers are following effective training principles. Finally, when it’s all over, we evaluate the design, development, and delivery of the training, and start the loop all over again.

I like these. You could take a brand-new, wet-behind-the-ears training manager, show her the first six competencies, and say, “Do these six things at a high level of competence and effectiveness, and everyone outside your staff will consider you an excellent training manager.” And in truth, any training manager that carries off 1 through 6 will be managing the training task very well.

Of course, an astute person, even though they are a new hire, would ask the obvious follow-up question: “What do I need to do to be considered an excellent training manager by the training staff itself?” The answer, of course, is simple—“See competencies 7 through 15.” And that’s where your newbie training manager may begin to feel overwhelmed.

A Reagan-esque training manager’s mantra
It may just be me, but as I read through competencies 7 through 15 for the first time, I got a sense that the persons putting together this competency set got together and asked themselves, “What are all the qualities of a good manager that we can throw in here?” It’s almost as if they are telling all the training managers out there to “Just Be Good.”

Not that these are not good standards for managers; they are. Every one of these nine competencies is needed and valuable. I’m just not sure they are as specific to managers of training teams as I would like.

Where is the competency for “Ensure that your staff stays current in their chosen technological field”? How about “Stay abreast of the market rates for trainers so that your compensation package remains competitive”? And the ever popular “Provide your trainers with both positive and negative feedback, instead of ignoring them when they do well and chewing them up when they slip up”?

I still believe these competencies are valuable. I would still like to see them included in job evaluations for training managers, especially the first six. I just think that the competencies dealing with managing the training staff are too generic to be as helpful as they should be.

Having said that, I still believe that the emphasis on the two tasks of the training manager is a good idea, and I would encourage all training managers to take some time on a regular basis to evaluate your performance as compared to these competencies. Are you paying enough attention to the training task itself? Are you a leader for your team in your insistence on good instructional design? Do you know what effective training looks like, and do you help your trainers be as effective as they can be? Are your people skills as good as your planning skills? Do you take good care of both your clients and your staff?

In my column about instructor competencies, I made the point that we trainers need to be educators, not just instructors. My sermonette for training managers would be that you need to be the top educator, not just the head salesman or the classroom scheduler. Set your sights high: aim at being both a great educator and a leader of great educators. That’s a goal worthy of your time, your thought, and your best effort.
Bruce Maples is an author, trainer, speaker, and consultant living in Louisville, KY. To share your thoughts on the issue of Competencies, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Bruce.

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