‘So what is your job now?’ My grandma asked me.
‘I’m a corporate trainer grandma’, I said.
She looked at me perplexed and asked: ‘what does it mean?’.
Hesitantly I answered: ’when we have new people joining our company, I welcome them and I deliver a few weeks of training to them, explaining what their job is and how to do it’.
‘Ah, a teacher!’ She replied.
‘Not exactly’, I said as I moved uncomfortably in my chair. ‘It’s kinda different from one another.
‘Well,’ she said. ‘If people ask what you do, I will tell them you are a teacher’.
It was 2015, and we were sitting in my grandparents' bright kitchen. I was promoted to a new role as a corporate trainer a few months before and was so happy and excited about getting it. I worked towards this goal for about a year before I achieved it. But once I became a trainer, and introduced myself to people in social or professional gatherings, I noticed it was rather challenging to explain what my role was , with all its responsibilities. In defence of my grandmother, she was not the only one who didn’t “get it”.
What’s the problem?
I didn’t see it from the very beginning, but over time I started noticing that a trainer’s job, my job, was misunderstood in our organisation.
My colleagues kept telling me things like: ‘Being a trainer is such an easy job! I wish this would be my job!’. Or : ‘You are so lucky you finished an onboarding group, and now you have nothing to do until the next one.’
Other times I would get questions like: ‘Isn’t it better if people learn from more experienced colleagues how to do the job?’. Aa as well as statements such as: ‘the training doesn’t cover all the information we have to deal with, and is a waste of time’.
Slightly different, but equally aggravating were the times I would get training requests at the drop of a hat. The request might state: ‘we have no incoming volumes and the team has nothing to do, so they might as well get some training about something’.
Through the occasional frustration, I tried to remember that none of these responses was ill-intended. But it made me feel like I worked in a position which was undervalued. All my hard work “behind the scenes” of delivering an onboarding phase had gone unrecognised and unnoticed. And in essence, nobody knew exactly what my job was, what responsibilities it included, what was its scope, and what was its purpose. And I won’t lie, oftentimes it made me question it myself.
Is being a trainer a vital job? Does it offer enough value? Is learning and development a valid professional sphere?
Why is it important to talk about this?
As this article is capturing my own views and experiences, it is safe to say that I found these questions important (to me). I do believe, however, that the significance of these questions goes well beyond my feelings and personal experiences.
Learning and development is a massive industry, employing (I suspect) tens of thousands of people.
Every year, companies' reports show increasing amounts of money spent on employee learning and development. Reports, such as Linkedin’s learning yearly report, indicate a growing industry with an increased demand for learning professionals.
Going back in time to the beginning of the pandemic, every learning and development professional got a boost of confidence when L&D was deemed a necessity to millions of employees who suddenly found themselves working through “the new normal”. And it started to seem like things were looking up for L&D! Below is a chart displaying results from a survey conducted by Capterra showing that these numbers keep growing in 2022.
At the same time though, with such a big and expensive industry, one might think there would be a bit more clarity on what can be expected of the learning and development function. But in my view, this is still not always the case. Moreover, this unclarity often results in the feeling of learning and development professionals, that we do not have a seat at the table. Sitting at the table is the goal of many movements and organisations which are aspiring to achieve recognition and influence. In my opinion, if L&D is not well defined, and more importantly- well explained, its unique value cannot be demonstrated and proven. This results in it being pushed to the sidelines in some organisations, and due to that, having limited influence on decision-makers.
Since based on my experience, it was tricky to give a good definition for learning and development, I decided to reach out to others and see if together we can come up with a holistic explanation.