Re-Thinking HR-based Training Organizations: A Break from Tradition?

I like the concept of “re-thinking” training organizations based in HR, and I say this from personal work history primarily based in the training space over the last thirty plus years. The blended perspective I have comes from working both inside and outside of HR in training organizations. I found them to have a very different focus. On the inside, the training department focused on HR with creation and delivery of training shaped to further the HR mission and initiatives. On the outside, the emphasis was on HR too, but it was a very “different HR” – human readiness.

That opening statement does not discount the value of HR-based training efforts. My intent in this short writing, therefore, is expansion (re-thinking) of the scope to include producing tangible outcomes through sustained human performance in the work context. HR-oriented training is an important contributor to that capability, but the emphasis is more on the person doing the work than the work the person is doing. To me, that is a critical distinction to make. Human readiness is manifest in consistent, flawless execution of work – sustained capability.

For me it is a question of value creation, and value creation is common to both versions of HR. For the traditional HR model, value creation requires a different direction of focus. Human Resources has to look inward to those criteria that enable the business to survive – benefits, recruiting, compensation, performance management, diversity, training, employee development, succession planning…and the list goes on. Nothing on that list is irrelevant in pursuit of the mission, and yet, much of it is, by nature, inwardly focused to support the critical HR mission.

Working in a training organization outside of HR, in my case, the Sales and Marketing organization, gave us singularity of purpose – drive sales performance. Our training mission reflected the “work context” of a sales representative and therein we generated our value to the organization. We focus outwardly to not only a constituent stakeholder but also the environment in which that stakeholder had to perform. I am not saying traditional HR focus ignores that aspect of value creation; I am saying it is not elevated to a singular purpose. You may ask how does one boil down anything as complex as business mission to something as a simplified as singular focus? I argue that it can – and we should – if the singular purpose is sustained capability.

Re-thinking HR does not mean minimize the inward focus – it implies expanding the focus to look outward and into the work context. The “training mindset” needs to expand to embrace the concept of a “continuous learning” mindset. Learning in the work context requires innovative methods and technology that makes the right learning available to the right learner in the right amount at the right moment of learning need in the right format and to/from the right device(s). Oh…and to render those assets seamlessly, frictionlessly and ubiquitously, that truly “ain’t” your daddy’s HR Training Organization is it?

New competencies, expanded consultative discovery, root cause analysis, technology expertise…and again, the list goes on when you consider that re-thinking can imply re-tooling skill sets and methodologies. Organizations tend be viewed as machines that produce products and services – some for profit, some not. Having worked on both sides of the profit aisle, I honestly do not see much difference when it all primarily comes down to an implied mission where sustained human capability has a singular purpose. I firmly believe we marginalize maximum production potential without a “system” in place to drive sustained human capability.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning