I would first and foremost like to say that I was truly excited about the assignment to interview a professional in the training and development field. Immediately I knew that I wanted to interview one of the people that I have come to admire and a large influence on my choice for this career path. For her confidentiality I have chosen to call her Dr. Smith
Dr. Smith is not only a professor of organizational training and development, but she is also a full time corporate trainer. Companies who choose to outsource for their training needs frequently turn to Dr. Smith. She is certainly a veteran in the field and has been working in program planning roughly twenty years. With plenty of experience under her belt she has had share of non-traditional adult learners. One of my favorite things I enjoyed about her class was the real life stories that she would share in the classroom. I remember her always saying “now it’s easy to talk about and analyze the training process within these four walls, but it’s a whole other ball game when you get out there in the field.” As a result I knew this would be a very enjoyable and enlightening conversation.
What most surprised me were the plentiful training horror stories she described to me. One in particular was when she was first assigned to create training program and was given no indication that she would be working with multiple adults who had a variety of disabilities. This particular classroom included someone who was completely confined to a wheel chair and someone who was legally deaf. Even the smallest things for example, were affected by these limitations. In this particular incident her program included activities that required individuals to stand up and move around and use fine motor skills. Unfortunately many of them could not participate in these activities and she had no plan B or C.As a result she said she has never felt more unprepared or utterly embarrassed in her entire life. At this point in the interview she expressed the extreme importance of knowing the context and limits of the environment and of your participants.
The most significant thing I gleaned during the interview was the importance of flexibility in the program planning field. The interview stressed the magnitude of being able to “roll with the punches” as she was not always aware of every non-traditional learner that would be included in her programs. Also, I was educated on how imperative it is to the success of a training program to know your audience and plan everything with them in mind.
Over the years Dr. Smith has become increasingly popular in creating programs that focus on business etiquette. As a professional in the field, Dr. Smith is known for several areas of expertise such as: dealing with difficult co-workers, generational differences in the work place, and general business etiquette. As a result she has multiple programs that she reuses for multiple organizations. She explained that even though she uses the same program idea over and over, no one program ever resembles another. She is forced to manipulate activities and learning approaches to the needs of her audience. Dr. Smith has more specifically dealt with adults confined to wheel chairs and those diagnosed as legally deaf. In particular she explained that many of her activities she is unable to use with disabled adults due to movement restraints.
As for the deaf individuals that she has trained, she presented the biggest barrier being the interpreter. First, she said programs tend to run longer than expected when an interpreter has to relay everything that she says. This is just one instance in which she must alter the program to meet the needs of her audience. Another interpreter that she has encountered is for those learners who do not speak English. Here, she is typically worried about meaning translation and understanding. Her worry is that her participants may be missing out due to translation issues. Again when discussing this topic she reminded me of the importance to remain flexible during the process and prepared for alterations at a moments notice.
As for evaluation, Dr. Smith has limited evaluation tools. Since she is outsourced by the company the only major feedback stems from her reaction surveys. Another way she is able to judge whether the program was successful or not, is how frequently she is asked back to an organization. Personally I couldn’t imagine doing program after program with no in-depth evaluation tools to determine my success. She takes it with strides and accounts her popularity to her programs’ success.
One of my favorite parts of the interview was the time spent discuss the source of her ideas. She explained that typically they come from her participants and things she observes. She insisted that she has learned as much from her classes as they have learned from her. “Some of my most successful and popular activities and programs have come from previous programs and even the students themselves.”
Finally, we spent a large portion of the time discussing some of the things that have surprised her over the years. The topic of disconnect was something that shocked and puzzled Dr. Smith. She explained that above all else she deals with executive level individuals who seem to be completely disconnected from their employees. The stake holders in the organizations typically provide her with expectations and guidelines before the program planning stages. “Once I get into the classroom I often think to myself do they even know their employees, this can often leave me feeling extremely frustrated.” We ended discussion of this topic with Dr. Smith saying, “fortunately the good and rewarding experiences have far out weighed the bad.”
Fortunately for me I was able to interview an individual who has worked with multiple non-traditional adults in a corporate field. Overall I have gleaned significant insight from this experience. Number one, the importance to always remain flexible, secondly the value in planning with your audience in mind, thirdly to learn from your previous programs, and finally to cater to your adult learners’ needs as much as possible. I would like to quote Ms. Smith with something that I feel sums up what I have learned from the interview, “I have never delivered two identical programs, and am proud of that because if I did it would mean that I was planning for myself and not my audience.”