Virtual training

How to Become a Head of Training and Development

The CloudShare Team

Apr 16, 2023 - 6 min read
How to Become a Head of Training and Development

If you’re a training and development professional looking to make the leap to leadership, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve put together a comprehensive action plan that will walk you through everything you need to know.

Even if there are many different paths to becoming a director of training and development — together, we’ll help you find yours.

Step One: The Mindset: Becoming a Head of Training and Development is All About Switching Your Approach

Making the Transition from Training Specialist to Head of Training

As a training manager, you primarily worked on identifying skill gaps then developing and delivering the training required to address those gaps. You’ll still be doing that as a head of training — the primary difference is that you’ll function in more of an oversight role. You’ll be overseeing the strategic roadmap and development of all your organization’s training initiatives.

So, you’ll need excellent people skills to provide guidance to your team and communicate with leadership, and strong project management skills to coordinate training program development, delivery, and optimization.

How to Think and Act Like a Head of Training and Development

The most significant change you’ll experience in transitioning from a training manager to a director of training and development is that you’ll change your focus. This means shifting from a ground-level, education-focused approach to a high-level, strategic outlook.  You’ll still need the creativity and flexibility you developed as a training specialist, of course.

The main difference is that you’ll need to apply them across a much broader scope.

Head of Training Manager Qualifications and Skills

  • Act as a bridge for collaboration between multiple departments
  • Assess your organization’s training needs and identify the best way to fulfill them.
  • Curate educational materials and training methods.
  • Act as a mentor to junior training specialists on your team.
  • Measure, report on, iterate, and improve your training program.
  • Report to and confer with organizational leadership.
  • Understand how to manage, motivate, and inspire your team of training specialists.
  • Actively listen to and engage with your team, especially regarding their questions and concerns.

Step 2: Know Your Role: What Does A Head of Training and Development Actually Do?

A head of training and development is essentially the ‘brains’ of an organization’s training initiatives, responsible for everything from onboarding new training specialists to coordinating directly with HR.

Head Training and Development Requirements and Responsibilities

Head of Training and Development: Business Scope

  • Align training programs and courses with core business objectives.
  • Define KPIs for your organization’s training.
  • Plan, develop, and implement training programs and courses.
  • Mentor and assist team members in pursuing their professional development goals.
  • Contribute to an empowering, learning-focused organizational culture.

Head of Training and Development: Management Scope

  • Manage training and development budgets and schedules.
  • Oversee, assess, and ensure employee productivity and well-being.
  • Collaborate with HR to develop workplace policies and documentation.

Head of Training and Development: Technical Scope

  • Evaluate and deploy training technology such as virtual labs.
  • Track and measure your training to understand student performance.
  • Connect training metrics with business success metrics.

Step 3: Understanding Your KPIs as a Director of Training and Development

Whether internal onboarding or customer education, training is ultimately a data-driven discipline. As a training and development manager, part of your job involves managing that data. That means knowing which KPIs to focus on.

Every organization — and every training initiative within that organization  — will have different objectives and KPIs. An effective head of training and development will understand this, and will know how to align training with business goals. They will also know where to direct their focus based on those goals.

Defining Success in Your Training Programs

  1. Determine your training program’s purpose. Options include:
    1. Customer Onboarding
    2. Ongoing Customer Education/Customer Success
    3. Employee Onboarding
    4. Professional Development
    5. Vendor Certification
  2. Identify core training metrics, such as onboarding time, completion rate, adoption rate, or time to completion.
  3. Identify business metrics to use as your key performance indicators, such as revenue growth or customer churn rate.
  4. Ensure you have the necessary tools and communication channels to track all relevant metrics.
  5. Adjust your metrics as necessary, using them to both optimize your training and demonstrate ROI.

Step 4: Critical Knowledge for a Training Director

Because training specialists work in such a broad range of industries, it’s difficult to identify any must-have training or certification programs. Generally, you’ll want to develop and maintain working professional knowledge of your target industry. In order to support virtual training initiatives, you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud infrastructures, particularly if B2B software is involved.

With that said, there are a few general certifications we strongly recommend both for foundational knowledge and for professional development:

Step 5: How to Become a Head of Training Manager Without Prior Experience

Assuming you aren’t transitioning from training specialist to director within an organization, it’s time to bring your resume out for a rewrite — but how exactly can you demonstrate value if you’ve never held this position before?

Option One: Start Small

  • Take on a temporary training director position at a friend or family member’s small business.
  • Apply for temporary or contract positions.
  • See if you can find any training and development veterans to provide mentorship.
  • Consider reaching out to established training leaders for advice.

The Job Hunt

No one likes looking for a job, but it’s something we all have to do. To land your first position as a head of training and development, we recommend the following process:

  1. Start by sending out at least 20 resumes in a week, along with personalized cover letters for each position.
  2. Assess how many positions responded and requested an interview within a week and a half to two weeks.
  3. Revise your resume and rethink your cover letters if you get lower than a 50-70 percent success rate.
  4. Continue until you attain at least a 50 percent success rate.

How to Create a Compelling Training Director Resume

We’ll assume you know about the most common resume writing mistakes — the buzzwords and phrases you should avoid. But what exactly can you do to ensure your resume accurately conveys your skills?

  • For training programs in which you’ve participated, focus on concrete ROI achieved.
  • Explain how you conceptualize and measure success in your training programs.
  • Emphasize relevant professional and career achievements.
  • Review the skills and qualifications mentioned earlier and ensure they are represented.
  • Consider any presentations, briefings, or community events in which you’ve participated.
  • Think of how you can highlight your interpersonal and leadership skills, not just your professional qualifications.

How to Ace an Interview for a Training Director Job

Now for the most nerve-wracking step: the interview process. Although the process and number of rounds will likely vary by organization, your success here will determine whether you land the job.

There are a few best practices we can provide:

  • Make sure you’re up to date on the current state of the training industry, including major trends and innovations.
  • Let your personality and charisma shine through — after all, you’re gunning for a leadership role.
  • Be willing to ask questions as well as answer them.
  • Be prepared for interviews with a wide range of different departments, including customer success, sales, marketing, finance, and human resources.

What To Expect During Your First 90 Days as a Head of Training and Development

You’ve done it. You’ve landed your first job as a head of training. Be proud of yourself — it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get here.

All that’s left is to ensure you thrive and excel in your new role. We can help with that. First and foremost, never underestimate the value of technology where training is involved.

A virtual training solution, for instance, is simultaneously a business enabler and a cost saving measure. It allows your team to connect their training to actual business outcomes, creating considerable ROI without significant overhead. Better yet, it empowers your team to create more engaging, compelling, and ultimately successful training programs, whether for customers, partners, or employees.

The Importance of Equipping Your Team With The Proper Tools

Never underestimate the value of technology where training is involved.

A virtual training solution, for instance, is simultaneously a business enabler and a cost saving measure. It allows your team to connect their training to actual business outcomes, creating considerable ROI without significant overhead. Better yet, it empowers your team to create more engaging, compelling, and ultimately successful training programs, whether for customers, partners, or employees.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a means of supporting virtual instructor-led training and self-paced training with scalable, customizable sessions that can seamlessly replicate live environments. Again, it’s about creating more engaging experiences in lieu of passive, boring slideshows.

Tracking and analytics are also a must, as these will allow you to both convey how your training contributes to core KPIs and also identify more opportunities to improve and optimize your courses.

Learn the Exact Steps You Need to Take in Your First 90 Days

Landed a new Head of Training job? Congratulations!

Stay tuned for our next blog in the series – which will give you actionable steps to ace your first 90 days on the job.