We all enter into the training and development (T&D) profession for a variety of reasons. Some started their careers teaching in a K-12 classroom, others were managers and leaders in different corporate fields, others subject matter experts (SME’s) tapped to train new employees, while some entered the industry directly after their own training to become T&D professionals.
Corporate training can also lead some of us to move into administrative and management roles that may reduce the amount of time we actually spend teaching. Sometimes this is to manage a program or area for which you have formal schooling or an inherent interest. These programs not only come naturally to us, we often welcome the chance to shape a program of this type. What happens though when you are tapped to manage a program for which you have limited formal training and were not really interested in pursuing?
For me, the emergency medical care training program was that latter category of a training program. Emergency medical care (EMC) is a fancy term for first aid, and it is a program that had a training center coordinator when I transferred from operations into the training department at Security Industry Specialists (SIS) in March 2018. By May, I was asked to take on the role of interim training center coordinator (TCC) due to the current TCC going out on military leave. The request came a bit out of left field since my background was in education and security management, but within EMC, my training did not consist of more than basic first aid, CPR, and AED responder training. The role can be equated to being a department head in a K-12 school since it requires more administrative rather than teaching responsibilities. At the time, the program had between 13-20 instructors spread across the country.
By January 2019, the number of instructors had grown to 42 and it has hovered in the low 40’s ever since, with us being on track to grow to 53 instructors by the end of 2021. My responsibilities for this program were supposed to be temporary, however, by March 2020, the position had been made permanent, with our team member returning from military leave and in a better position to focus on developing our corporate employee training program.
So, after a little over three years managing a training program, a program I was, if not reluctant, definitely hesitant to take over, here are some of the key takeaways for how to embrace your non-training training role.
1. Learn All You Can
Learn all you can about every aspect of your new role. What are the compliance requirements? Are there internal processes that are already in place and successful? Are there internal processes that need refining? All disciplines require constant upskilling. If you are tasked with an administrative role for a discipline that you are not an SME in, then your learning curve will be steep. Steep learning curves can be a wonderful way to reignite one’s passion for professional development, so embrace the learning curve, read everything you can on the subject, and ask lots of questions.
For me, this meant reading the administrative manual, reviewing instructor guides, the previous TCC’s notes, and spending hours looking around the training center web portal.
2. Find Your Own Style In T&D
Your administrative style may not be exactly like that of your predecessor and that is okay. Frankly, it would be a bit less than okay if your style matched someone else’s to a T. You can take the best aspects of your predecessor’s administrative style and use them as a corner from which you build your own style.
By Q4, 2018 I had decided that I needed to change how some of the first aid training programs were managed. Much of these changes were to centralize requests and complete training records, as well as develop a new instructor manual that helped answer many of the recurring questions our new instructors had.
3. You Owe No One An Explanation
If you are put into an administrative role by your supervisor or those above your supervisor, they have their reasons. In all likelihood, you possess complementary skills, previous leadership or program management experience, or maybe you just have a light enough work schedule to accommodate a new job duty. Whatever the reason you are in an administrative position, you are in an administrative position. If and when someone does not like you as the new person in charge or questions your expertise, you owe them no explanation.
Given the type of program emergency medical care is, one former team member was asked, after not getting his way due to his way not being in line with program compliance, “And what is your medical training and expertise?” Such blatant attempts to try and put a person on the defensive are nothing more than a small-minded person’s attempt to bolster their own frail ego. Remind yourself, and them if need be, that your expertise is that you were put in charge of a program. End of discussion.
4. Eventually, You Are The Expert
If you are asked to administer a program, even one you were not formally trained in, you may find that over time you are seen as the expert in that program or area of responsibility. Whether this was the role you aimed to be in or you were in the right place at the right time, time either makes or breaks your longevity in your role.
As I made the administration of the emergency medical care training program fit into a format that I believed centralized the record-keeping, and made the program easier to follow for new and existing instructors, it became more and more apparent that a move from interim training center coordinator to training center coordinator was my position to lose. A new program that would require our team member’s HR expertise was ready to be developed and administered and would take up considerable amounts of their time post-military leave. The changes to the EMC program were met favorably, and the program was steadily growing in size and complexity. New trainers and instructors didn’t think of me as the replacement admin, but as the program’s admin.
At a certain point, the program you take on the responsibility to administer is your program, not because you were assigned the responsibility, but because you have charted its growth, overseen its successes, weathered it through adversities, and have come away being professionally invested in its continued success. Program administration is the not-so-glamorous non-training job within a T&D program. Embracing your non-training role can be as rewarding as your training role, especially if you bear in mind that your not-so-glamorous non-training role is a role that often makes the training role possible.