Trainer Utilisation – What does a good model look like?

I posted something on this topic a number of years ago, when there was a lot of discussion around the proposed changes to the TAFE award in Queensland, where trainers were supposed to only undertake face to face teaching duties for 21 hours a week, along with a host of other conditions, including non-contact time, professional development leave and the like.  I thought however it was it was time to revisit this topic again as I have seen a number of discussions about what models of trainer utilisation and employment look like in both the VET and L&D sector.

Firstly some background when I was training in the corporate sector (non-VET) the busiest year I had amounted to training (actual face to face in a classroom training) for 190+ days of the year and over 3000 people.  This averages out at about four days per week with the fifth day usually taken up with travel.  Now admittedly there was not a lot of formal assessment outside of the training itself, that was part of these courses, they were mostly enterprise technology courses on how to use large enterprise systems.  However I can tell you that by the end of that year I was tired and really needed to have my time off, but it was work that was needed to be done and clients were happy with the result.   On the other side of coin, I have had public providers say that we would have to have a number of different trainers to deliver a program of courses over a time frame of a month, because their staff couldn’t/wouldn’t do that amount of amount of training, either at all, or only if they were paid overtime for everything over what was in the award, which would have made the delivery uneconomical for everyone.  Now don’t get me wrong here I am saying that there shouldn’t be awards and that people should not be paid and paid fairly for the work that they do, however surely it seems to me that we need to really think about is what is reasonable utilisation and what does it look like when we need to balance it against the needs of the provider and business and in addition we need to consider the training/assessment work divided as well.

The training/assessment divide is an important one because for any number of reasons staff might be involved either, on a ad hoc or ongoing basis in doing more of one of these types of work during their week plus others.  In previous providers I have had staff who spent most of their time doing assessment work, primarily because the participants were either undertaking RPL or distance learning or other kinds of self paced work and the need for face to face training days was simply not part of the programs there were involved with.  I have had others who had a fairly even spread between the two and then of course those who spent most of their time doing face to face training, either because it wasn’t VET training or because that was their strength and we engaged others to undertake assessment work.

I guess what I am driving at here is should we expect that trainers and assessors are for the most part doing training and assessment type work (and professional development activities where necessary) pretty much all of the time that they are at work or is do we need to outline how much actually time trainers should be doing each of these activities, such as no more than 21 hours face to face in a week and what sort of organisational models support achieving the best outcomes for everyone.  I tend to lean towards not defining the amount of time that staff should be doing each activity, if they need to be delivering training for 5 days in a row that is what they should be doing, if they need to be assessing that is what they should be doing and so on for other activities.  Now some might say well what about time for research or training development or other such activities, if we don’t delineate how much time staff should be allowed to have to undertake these activities, all they will be doing is training and assessment.

I think for me one of the answers to questions such as this is What is the role?  If someone is a trainer and assessor then surely the majority of their time should be taken up by those activities and other activities should work in around what are their main activities.  Given that whether or not you are a public or non-public provider of any kind of training, be it accredited or not, the delivery of training and the associated assessment activities are what in the vast majority of cases produces the income stream that allows the provider to continue, should not this be the aspect that is given the priority in terms of staff utilisation.  One of the solutions to this that has been adopted by a lot of providers both public and private now, is simply to utilise trainers and assessors on a contractual basis, and  there is certainly value to be gained through these types of arrangements for everyone it seems.  I have had plenty of interviews and discussions with trainers who love the flexibility of being able to work on this basis, particularly in the assessment space where they are paid an hourly or per assessment rate and can essentially sit on their couch in pyjamas marking assessments if that is what they want to do.  That being said there are also advantages for everyone in the employee model, where staff can be assigned to other work like program development and similar activities when they are not undertaking training and assessment, but this then requires that the people who are hired as trainers have a range of skills wider than just delivery and assessment and the attitude to match those skills as well.

So if we start to look at what a good model might be, I don’t think that it is a model where there are lots of full-time trainers and assessors delivering a range of different courses and I think this counts whether it is in the VET or non-VET sector.  Multi skilled people, who can train, assess, develop, sell, talk to organisations, manage other staff etc are becoming far more valuable, I think, when we think of full-time employees, as they can be utilised as needed within the organisation.  Now of course to be able to this requires that the organisation itself is not so stratified and siloed that staff cannot be plugged into tasks and project teams where necessary or that the person in charge of the training development team actually talks with the person in charge of the training team and makes these things possible.  All of that aside though I think the days of large groups of full-time trainers and assessors employed by any organisation public or not are at the very least on the way out if not long gone, particularly where those staff aren’t multi skilled across a range of areas.  So that leaves us with alternatives, which we are seeing happening more and more across a wide range of industries, not just training, where administration, management and coordination are handled by permanent employees, while the delivery and assessment activities are done on a contractual basis, usually with a core group of training professionals.  Where development of new resources and programs is either managed internally with project teams made up of internal and external resources or the whole development process is done externally and the provider is the customer and chief stakeholder.  Now these arrangements tend to have the benefit to the provider of only needed to engage people as necessary and not having to unproductive time or having to find other activities for staff during slow spells,  it seems to benefit the employee through their ability to pick and choose and allows them the flexibility to work when and where they want.  Although I am more than happy to admit there for employees, there is or could be the problem of having enough work to pay the bills, particularly where their skills might be part of a saturated market.

So I would be really interested in two thing;

  1. What models different people use in the market place to manage their staff, particularly their training and assessment staff, and
  2. What people think the best model is.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

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My First 90 days #first90 – A repost from linkedin

I wrote this piece a couple of days ago on Linkedin and thought I would share it hear as well.

http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-first-90-days-just-yourself-first90-paul-rasmussen

 

#First90

It is really tempting I think whenever you are starting a new role to want to show yourself in the best light, to be the best person you can be, to try and really fit and become part of the company culture. The problem is that sometimes what we end up doing is giving people a false impression of what we are like, of how to approach us and of how we work.

My single biggest piece of advice is that from day one follow just one simple rule

Be Yourself

Why? You are either going to fit or you are not, and the company hired you so they must have at least thought there was a good chance you were going to fit and in the long run if it is not going to work out for either you or the organisation would not it be better if everyone realised it as early on as possible when everyone can cut there losses with the minimum of damage.

There is also another much stronger reason for adopting this simple rule as well. You just might find that your job becomes far more than that, it becomes some where where get to enjoy what you do, form strong relationships and most of all actually have one.

 

Why I work here.

It is that time of year where everyone thinks about the year ahead and what they want to do and achieve, but sometimes amongst all of these thoughts and plans it is easy to forget the why behind the things that we do.  I was reminded of that today by a post by a friend on LinkedIn.  We talk about compliance and standards, about how to improve the things that we do, about best practice, trends and new technologies.  We talk about training needs and delivery processes, how to fund and manage learning.  We talk about policy and theory and academic positions and theories, informal and formal learning, elearning, mlearning and all of the things we would like to do or try it we had the time and the resources.   While this is all fine it is very easy to lose sight of the simple facts about the sector that we all work in, it is about the participants and more importantly every single day this sector changes people’s lives. Not just the lives of individuals but of their families, those around them and their communities.

We need to remember the person who failed at school but who has learnt new skills through a well structured adult learning program

We need to remember the staff who through the things that we provide are able to life their careers and their lives to heights they never thought possible

We need to remember the clients and stakeholders who get better quality of service and outcomes and walk away happy rather than disgruntled and take that happiness into other parts of their lives

And most importantly we need to remember that working in this sector more than many others gives us such an opportunity to have a real and lasting effect on the lives of others.

And I for one and grateful to have such a wonderful opportunity.

Trainer Ultilisation, trainer quality and learner outcomes

How many hours a week should a trainer deliver Face to face training?

What is a manageable, reasonable and maintainable number of hours a week in which a trainer can deliver face to face training, and does delivering very high hourly levels of face to face training have an adverse effect on the quality of the training and the learner outcomes?

So the old TAFE award in Queensland said 21 hours a week was the amount a time a trainer could be scheduled for face to face training, so in my book that is three days of training.  The rest of the time was for preparation, marking, administration, professional development and other related activities.  However and this I think is where the question gets interesting, what if the Trainer is a full-time staff member, so 38 Hours a week, and the training is all already developed, there is only a small percentage of marking/assessment involved and most of the administration is done by dedicated administration staff.  Is say 4 days of face to face a sustainable level, where the trainer wont burn out over a period of time and quality and learner outcomes wont suffer?

Before I continue I will say that I think 3 days of face to face a week (60%) of workload, is a good minimum standard.  I say this because I have over the years been involved in roles where the levels of face to face training were much higher and after a while (and really to be honest not all that long), the quality of the presentation and the outcomes for the learner decline.  In my single biggest year as a trainer I trained over 3000 people face to face and worked in excess of 190 days, which works out on average to be 4 days a week. (The fifth day of the week was more often than not taken up with travel)  This I can tell you from first hand experience is unsustainable in the long-term and perhaps even in the medium term.

The other part of this question then also relates to assessment.  Through our RTO we have a fairly large number of students, a lot of whom are doing, assessment only, RPL, distance learning for most of their learning, so for a number of our trainers rather than delivery of face to face training making up the bulk of what they do on a daily basis, assessment is the prime component and for others it is about s 50/50 split.  So therefore a follow-up question is, is it reasonable to expect a trainer might be fully utilised (100% 5 out of 5 days) doing only either face to face training plus assessment?  If that doesn’t seem unreasonable what then is a reasonable split between training and assessment or is it just a scheduling and workload issue at that point?

I have to admit that I have reservations however about suggesting that a trainer/assessor could be for all intents and purposes 100% utilised simply doing training and assessment, without there being a decline in the quality of both the training and the assessment activities and as a result a decline in the learner outcomes.

The final question then is should utilisation be made part of performance reviews, particularly in a situation where the trainer has no control over the amount of training or assessment that will be required on a week to week basis as it is really not about their performance, it is just a question of volume of work.

I would be really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks about this and how (if at all) they use trainer utilisation within their organisations.

HR and Diversity

Another really good post from Sukh. My organisation is one that has a huge level of diversity across most of it areas of work, including HR, which I have noticed for us means that we don’t often talk able diversity, simply because it is part of our day to day life, our corporate DNA so to speak. What I do find interesting is that Sukh has hit the nail on the head, when I think about my networks and connections and the conferences I attend outside of the organisation. We are all for the most past, either white middle aged men or women. I am not sure however that this means that diversity doesn’t matter to HR or that if diversity did matter HR would look very different. It might mean that as a profession we are not working hard enough to encourage people from diverse backgrounds not only to enter the profession but to want to share their experiences at conferences and such and work towards leadership roles. I agree that we should reach out more and do more to encourage people from diverse backgrounds and not just for legislative reasons or the like, but because highly diverse workplaces can really encourage different ways of thinking and doing things.

Thinking About Learning

After an enjoyable couple of days at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition, I’m quite buoyed about the growing understanding amongst HR professionals to innovate their practice, and how to make their practice more human centred. There were great stories from companies who insist on their managers being of the same level and with no extra pay than the people reporting into them, stories of companies who gave their staff breakfast everyday, stories of purposeful mentoring programmes to help women achieve senior levels, and stories of how to cultivate managers to be their best authentic selves.

And as I reflect, I’m struck at just how far down the agenda diversity is. Not in terms of the conference or exhibition – there were a good range of topics to address diversity, and a good number of exhibitors who were concerned about raising awareness of various topics about diversity.

Here are the…

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