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3 Questions for an HRD Leader on training

As trainers, we can offer our views on what we think is a good trainer, what is important for HRD, etc. Does that match what an experienced, German HRD Dept Head thinks? What is HRD’s view on training? I recently spent a few minutes with Jürgen Birkhölzer, Department Leader for Personnel Development in the Mail division of DPDHL. Here are three basic questions on training and his answers.

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What is a good trainer?

Jürgen Birkhölzer: A good trainer has a clear idea of what his targets are and that of his students. A good trainer has the right level of empathy so that he is able to walk in the shoes of his students. This is more the behavioral side. There is also a knowledge side. I think here a good trainer should be very qualified in their area of competence and the content of their training. A good trainer has to love the situation of dealing with people and has to be a good communicator: this is not only to lecture, like lessons in a university, it’s more building  sustainable levels of communication with the student and having a deep wish to exchange knowledge with the learner- it’s not just a one way process. If we look at a trainer whose job it is to work together with his learners to improve their behavior, like leadership or communication training, the being perfect aspect is not so important. It is more important that they are able to ask the right questions, that they are able to get students to realize their own ideas and have their own insights into the environment they want to focus on. Trainers are not able to change people, they are only able to change themselves; introducing self-reflection in the learners will help them work on their behavior. Overall, the communication or leadership trainer needs to be a very good psychologist.

What do training managers want from trainers?

Jürgen Birkhölzer: That’s a good question. The answer is connected to my daily work. We want our trainers to be available 24/7 as we have to meet our customer’s needs. That sounds easy but is very complex as we have a limited workforce in our internal training team and we very often have changing requirements. On the one hand, it’s our job to try to fulfill our business’s needs and on the other to steer the capacity of our trainer staff. We decided that for our trainers have to deliver 120-140 billable trainer hours per year. This gives us a clear perspective of what our capacity is, but we have to consider that we don’t have a stable request from our customer. In November and December and during the summer, we have no requests for training so we have to ask our trainers to go on vacation. In fact, I think the most important competence of a trainer manager is to find a balance between the necessary business idea to fill the customers’ requirements on the one hand, and on the other, to have the idea of resilience in mind that the capacity of your trainers is limited.

What is the most important thing in HRD in working with line managers?

Jürgen Birkhölzer: We have to look at this question from 2 sides: a line manager in an operational role and a line manager in a strategic role. Collaborating with strategic managers is the most important and relevant job HRD has to do. HRD has to provide services, training measures, processes and instruments and the whole world of HRD to fit business needs. HRD has to frequently clarify what is a business need with strategic managers. From my point of view, this is the most important relationship for HRD; the relationship to the business unit and the business in order to understand what is going on in the business now, and even more importantly, what will happen in the future. To support the strategic initiatives of the business with fitting HRD managers is a core measurement of HRD. So is the strength of the HRD relationship to the business and also how HRD manages to be intensively involved in what’s going on strategically.

The second point is the collaboration with the line managers. It is very important that line managers understand that HRD supports their daily business, that training and coaching supports them in being successful in their role. It’s not only the question that HRD costs money, it’s a question that in collaboration with the line manager, it is HRD’s job to explain what is the value-add of HRD and that the line manager has the opportunity to experience this value-add. HRD should not just be seen as a nice-to-have and that if you have cost-cutting in the department you must stop all HRD. In fact, it should be the opposite and that line managers say the last money we save is the money for the qualification for our people. This is the second most relevant task of HRD. They can provide as much high quality training as they want, but if strategic management doesn’t understand what the support of HRD means and the line managers don’t see the value added benefits, no-one will be successful.


A special thanks to Jürgen for taking the time to share his perspective with us.  What do you think about what he said?  Do you agree?  Let us know in the comments area below.  Also, make sure to check out our methods and tools section to learn more about how companies are approaching their training.