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Learning and Development: Thriving as a Department of One


The first step in thriving as a Learning & Development "Department of One" is to adjust your perspective. Being a department of one, believe it or not, is a gift! 

Ok. Before you DELETE this article, please indulge us a moment and read on.

Being a training department of one gives you an advantage. Because you don't have staff, you are forced to go outside of your department and rely on your relationships with others in the organization to help you achieve your goals.

Develop Partnerships
Developing relationships with others in the organization has many desirable results. For starters, it’s easier to gain access to management and support for your initiatives. Your partners also become advisors, sharing in decision making, which contributes to the success of planned interventions. Having partnerships within your organization promotes your unique ‘brand’ and helps clarify expectations as well as reduce the feelings of powerlessness and stress that sometimes comes with running solo. 

What’s Important to THEM: WIIFT
Spend time with managers or key stakeholders in an informal setting and ask questions to learn their perspective on what is important to them. Learning what they see as valuable and how it impacts their processes will foster a collaborative relationship. Move from the “trainer fix it” role to a consultant who is genuinely interested and curious about their performance challenges and needs.

Toot Your Own Horn!
If you are feeling under-appreciated, perhaps it is because others are not aware of how your training function contributes to the organization’s objectives. When the training function publicizes the results and accomplishments of the function, their efforts are seen and more appreciated by others! Our article “So No One Told You You’re A Marketeer!” and our webinar of the same name provide key tactics to publicize training department accomplishments while building key relationships within the organization.

Sort Training from Non-training Issues
When analyzing a training request you may have to work with Human Resources and the manager to discover the “training issue.” You might discover the need is really a performance issue and have to create job aids as a non-training solution. Sometimes the task at hand is discovering why people don’t perform and what to do to solve that issue. And the solution isn’t always training!

Identify Key L&D Roles Needed
Start your efforts by assessing the key training and development roles needed in your organization to support performance goals. This will help you determine your priorities when operating solo….what can YOU reasonably take on and what critical roles do you need to ‘outsource’ within your organization? 

By the way, looking at what you are doing – and not doing – can reveal an implicit function mission. Based on the major activities conducted in your department, what would you say is your purpose in the organization? That’s your function mission statement! Not what is needed in the organization to support performance goals? Time to review the organization’s vision and mission statements and be sure that everything you do is linked to those statements. …But that’s a topic for another article!

Recruit and Train Supporters
Developing partnerships with others may mean recruiting (begging, exchanging favors, etc.) and training folks on adult learning and facilitation skills, two skill sets that will make them better supervisors, managers and employees.  Now THAT is a true "gift" you are bestowing upon them!

Facilitating and partnering with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) helps to provide effective education which facilitates getting knowledge from the SME when fielding questions from trainees. Build the SME’s confidence in your desire to collaborate by asking them what “makes that thing easy for other colleagues.” Help improve the training content by identifying SMEs who can be coached to create job aides. Finally, recognizing their contribution and expertise in your interventions allows them to be the “brains” behind your content and fosters a relationship of collaboration between you and the SME.

The Gift of Being a Training Department of One
You see, my friends, your lack of staff forces you to reach out and train others sooner than you would have otherwise. In essence you are out there developing employees and allowing the organization to enjoy the benefits of this new skill set much quicker than someone with a staff.

Next time you are about to shout your familiar cry of "I'm only ONE person!" remember that you really are ahead of the development game AND reaping the benefits much sooner than someone with a full staff... Think about it!