Advice for Those New to Learning and Development

Learning & Development. Training. Talent Development. Staff Development. Human Resource Training Department. People in this line of work fall under many different names. Studies show the vast majority of people in the US that work in the field of training did not pursue that field intentionally. Maybe you are in that group – suddenly finding yourself in a cool job but without a lot of formal training on doing training. Or, maybe you chose Learning & Development purposefully as your career. In either case, in order to save you from the mistakes of your peers, here is some advice as you start out in this fantastic field of work:


  1. Show those around you how eager you are to learn and grow. Ask questions about everything. Be teachable. In doing so, you begin to develop a wide body of knowledge about your company and its people, and thus greatly increase your value.
  2. The answer is always “no” if you don’t ask. Do you want to attend an L&D conference, buy new software, get a new camera, or plan a huge training event? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. But do it with a large dose of humility and a solid grasp on how that thing you are asking for will benefit the company’s bottom line.
  3. This is business, not charity. Your job exists to improve the people around you so that the company makes more money. Never lose sight of that. In L&D it can be very difficult to map a clear return on investment (ROI) to particular training activities. There are just too many factors that play into the outcomes. Show clear ROI when you can, and always strive to clearly communicate the benefits of different activities. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice on how to show results better.
  4. Seek wisdom. There are a wealth of fantastic resources out there that will make you better at your job. Scores of great L&D blogs, free webcasts, exceptional paid conferences, books like Disney U, The Accidental Instructional Designer, and Telling Ain’t Training, and even just picking up the phone and calling others in your field are all resources you can tap to keep from reinventing the wheel. Take advantage of them. Set aside a little time each day to educate yourself. Making this a priority that doesn’t get shoved aside when you are busy will pay off incredibly well in the long run.
  5. Fail often. If you never fail, you are playing the game too safe. Don’t be afraid to try new things, take new approaches, and be a little crazy. My favorite Thomas Edison quote is “I’ve not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” A word of caution though: failure only helps if you learn from it. Analyze everything you do for ways you can do it better next time. Only then is failure a positive thing. (And be sure to communicate your failures and their lessons to your boss so they see how you are growing.)
  6. Don’t be an order taker. Never assume that “training” is the right answer, until you’ve analyzed the situation and definitively determined it actually is the solution to the problem. If a manager comes to you and asks for training on a certain topic, have a conversation about why they want training. In doing so, try to identify other possible causes for the skill gap. Maybe that staff member isn’t selling to their potential because their computer crashes every day and their phone has a short in it. That’s a lot easier and cheaper to fix than designing sales training for a person that doesn’t need it.
  7. Strive for perfection, but be okay with falling short. Done is better than perfect. Every writer, artist, designer, actor, and public speaker will tell you they can always go back and tweak one more thing to make it “better.” If you let that tweaking stall you out, you’ve gone way too far.
  8. Study adult learning theory. Science is teaching us a wealth of information about how adults learn. This info, when understood and properly applied, can dramatically change how you design training activities. Every minute you spend understanding better how adults learn will make you better at your job.
  9. Understand the two most important words in training are “Show me.” Assessing the effectiveness of your training is critical, and the best way to do that is to have the learner demonstrate their understanding of new knowledge.

Learning and Development is an incredibly rewarding career field. The job is literally to help others reach their full potential. It’s like being a teacher without all the discipline problems, and with more funding, pay, and technology. Try to be a little better tomorrow than you were today, and be better today than you were yesterday.

Working on all of these at once is a lot to ask a new trainer. Which two can you pick and start improving? How can I help you?


This entry was posted in Analysis, Authoring, Communication, Development, Learning Theory, ROI, Training. Bookmark the permalink.

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