4 Skills for Thriving as a One-Person Training Department
Being a one-person training department is a bit of a mixed bag. It comes with a lot of responsibilities—but also some nice perks. For instance, you’re more likely to have the freedom to experiment with creative training solutions. The downside is when a lack of time and resources is what forces you to be creative.
To survive—better yet, thrive—as a one-person training department, you’ve got to be a visionary leader, an accountable doer, an expert communicator, and a highly efficient taskmaster—all rolled into one.
Sounds like a big challenge, doesn’t it? Not to worry! I’ve boiled it down to four essential skills you’ll want to develop first. By focusing on these four areas, you’ll be better able to manage your workload, fully embrace the upside of your independence, and learn to thrive as a one-person training department.
Skill #1: Time Management
When you’re responsible for everything from leading workshops to troubleshooting the LMS, it can feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions. It’s exhausting. So how do you take control of your time?
Track Your Time
Tracking your time might seem like more work at first. After all, it takes discipline to track all of your activities over an extended period of time. But doing so pays off in increased awareness of what it really takes to do your job. I’ve found that time tracker apps are helpful, but something as simple as a spreadsheet or even pen and paper can do the trick. You can decide what mechanism works best for you.
You’ll want to log as much of your day as possible, including meetings, phone calls, hallway conversations if you work in an office setting, and the time it takes you to complete project-related tasks, create online courses, manage stakeholder feedback, and wrangle the LMS. Eventually, you should start to see some trends pointing to how much time you’re spending on producing results … and how much time is taken up with less productive tasks.
Set Firm Boundaries
Nothing throws off your best-laid plans faster than constant interruptions. That open-door policy might seem like a nice way to be seen as collaborative, but it doesn’t do you or your clients any good if you can’t actually get your work done!
If your office or cubicle feels like Grand Central Station, it might be time to set some boundaries by scheduling office hours—specific times during the day where you’re “open” for business and can take in requests.
Tools like MS Teams or Slack, email, texts, phone calls, and social media can all be great productivity enablers, but they can also be huge productivity drains.
One thing that mentally exhausts soloists is the constant context switching that comes with rapidly pivoting between topics and feeling a need to “drop everything” to give people their full attention. You might feel that being constantly connected demonstrates your value to the organization and shows everyone how responsive you are to their needs, but giving everyone in your org instant access to you makes it hard to manage priorities and even harder to manage expectations.
In addition to setting up office hours, consider the following:
- Use your smartphone’s notification features to silence notifications during specific hours where you’re likely to be most productive or most easily distracted.
- Earmark time for progress each day. Go offline so you can get into your creative flow or do focused work that gives you a sense of accomplishment.
- Use your email client’s snooze feature to schedule when you’ll respond to email.
- Schedule time for listening to voicemail, returning phone calls, and keeping your calendar organized.
Skill #2: Streamline Your Workflow
Being a one-person training department requires a lot of flexibility and creativity from you, which means you’re constantly adapting to shifting needs and priorities. It’s also likely that everyone expects the same level of care and detail from you. That’s why streamlining your workflow is an absolute necessity. Following are some ways you can start developing this skill right now.
Make Smart Use of Ready-Made Courses
When you’re a one-person training department, you usually have a lengthy backlog of projects. If one of those projects is about a standard business topic, like time management or information security, don’t waste time crafting that content from scratch. Instead, save time by using a course that’s already built.
If you’re an Articulate 360 subscriber, we’ve made accessing ready-made courses super easy! Rise 360 contains a treasure trove of beautifully designed, ready-to-go course templates you can simply brand with your logo and upload to your LMS. These course templates are complete courses full of rich and engaging training content designed by training professionals. Real content course templates cover many common business topics, like handling difficult conversations, workplace harassment, and information security.
Need a quick way to make your course content look professionally designed when you’re not a graphic design pro? Use a template!
Articulate 360 gives you access to loads of course templates, including:
- Professionally designed Storyline 360 slide templates in Content Library 360 to help your Storyline projects come together in a snap. Choose from dark or light themes and download the entire template set, or just individual slides. Every interaction is prebuilt so you can hit the ground running in no time!
- Gorgeous placeholder content templates in Rise 360. Just swap out placeholder content and images for your own, and follow the helpful writing prompts built into the template to skip outlining and designing a course altogether!
Not an Articulate 360 subscriber yet? Check out E-Learning Heroes! It’s chock-full of free templates you can download and customize for your projects.
Create a Style Guide for Custom Courses
Ever work on a series of custom courses that needed to look and behave consistently from course to course? If so, you may have found it frustrating to complete one course only to have to go back and tweak all the other ones you developed earlier to make sure they look or act like the one you just finished.
To avoid that kind of time-wasting rework, try creating a style guide right at the start of a project. A style guide helps you frontload many of the design conversations that can bog down progress when they happen too late in the development process. When you and your stakeholders agree early on how certain types of interactions should look and behave, you can be a lot quicker and more methodical in how you assemble your course(s).
Skill #3: Communication
When you’re a one-person training department a big part of your job is to lead conversations with stakeholders and managers. They, like you, are busy people. They need their time to be used productively. What can you do to make sure your time together is well spent?
Do Your Homework
Come to meetings prepared with questions—and answers when necessary. Anticipate decision-making sticking points that could bog down your momentum, and brainstorm some other options ahead of time to help keep the conversation productive.
Hold Trade-Off Talks
Project stakeholders often ask for late-breaking changes without fully appreciating that they’re opening up a can of worms for you! Instead of seeing your only two options as accommodating or rejecting their requests, consider this as your chance to help your stakeholders make smarter choices. By holding a trade-off conversation, you clarify it’s not that you can’t do X or Y by the deadline, it’s that there’s a cost or impact for doing X or Y.
Not only does leading trade-off talks enhance communication on a project-by-project basis, it helps you be seen as a solutions-oriented pro over time.
Skill #4: Be Your Own Champion
When you’re a soloist, it can seem to others that the work just magically gets done. Without someone who’s familiar with the day-to-day mechanics of your job, the entire process of course creation might not be appreciated by outsiders. Even your direct manager might have no clue what it is you actually do. Here are some ideas to consider that could help elevate your profile and paint a clearer picture of your role.
Make Your Process More Transparent
Your internal (or external) clients might not have the faintest idea what’s involved in creating an e-learning course. When it’s still early in the project timeline, walk them through your design and development process. Use an existing course as a case study to help them visualize what you do. You can even walk them through the project timeline and highlight parallels between the example project and the new project.
Measure (and Share) Your Impact
Whether you realize it or not, the impact of your work on the organization is being measured. Remember that sales training course you created last quarter? That may have had a positive impact on this quarter’s sales numbers. And what about that workplace safety project you worked on last year? I’ll bet someone is keeping track of the number of reported safety incidents.
When you’re a one-person training department, you might not have someone who advocates for you or champions the impact of training on the organization. What to do? Be your own champion! Structure your work around measurements that matter to your organization. Take the time to correlate your work with concrete performance outcomes—and then share those wins with the impacted teams as well as your own leadership.
It’s not easy being a one-person department. But hopefully these tips will set you on the path to solo success.
If you’re looking for even more ideas to help you succeed as an e-learning pro, check out some of these articles from the E-Learning Heroes archives.
5 Skills You Need To Create Better E-Learning
How To Improve Your E-Learning Skills
10 Tips for Becoming a Better Designer
How are you thriving as a one-person training department? What skills do you wish you’d had when you first started in your role? Share your ideas with us in a comment!
Want to try something you learned here, but don’t have Articulate software? Download a free trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.
Thanks for this article Trina, you've captured my work life perfectly all in one article. In the past I have had to capture each minute of the day to "prove" just what and how much I was accomplishing. More so the reason for this was to approximate the same cost if they were to bill the same work out. That proved to be a big eye opener to many, including myself. Scheduling "office hours" really helps. As you said, there are times you do need to just shut the door, turn off the phone, close down email, and just plain concentrate on work. I'm in this mode currenlty as a large project is due end of the month. The last and perhaps most important is Communication for me. Knowing how to approach your clients and assess truly what they need and what you then require from them will a... Expand
Wow, this started 6 years ago. I have been a one person training department most of my career and am now a freelancer still on my own. I like what you have written here and really agree with it. This is pretty much the issue with being in any business on your own, you have to do everything so what do you do first and when? I am happy that my clients know that I have other clients and respect my time. I have been fortunate to have projects that are due at different times so I can get the schedule right. The other thing to add is to take time for your self and others you enjoy being with. If you don't handle your own stress, it can be bad. Have other interests as well so you don't have a one track life. Get out and be with other people so you are not working all the time. It also help... Expand