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Training Generalist vs. Training Specialist

Posted by Steve Flanagan on 4/19/12 4:38 AM
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Since my last soccer-related blog I am pleased to report that the soccer team I coach has played four games, resulting in two wins and two ties. After a very difficult start to the season (10 losses) we are really pleased that things seem to be coming together. So you might ask, “What changed?” Well, a number of things have changed; you might recall from previous blogs that we performed a gap analysis, developed an action plan, and also took a close look at our instructional style and coaching philosophy.


One thing that really stood out in our losing streak was a lack of fitness; we couldn’t keep up with our opponents. So we decided to bring in a fitness coach – a specialist in fitness and conditioning for soccer players.

In my soccer coaching career I have taken many courses and certifications that were extremely general. I learned to coach goalkeepers, defense, midfield, and forwards. I also learned the basics of fitness, nutrition, psychology, and tactics. I coached everything from soup to nuts, but was being a coaching generalist enough? Apparently not! As such, the coaching staff decided to bring in a fitness coaching specialist. After a few sessions, it really made a difference to our overall performance.

So back to training. I am often asked by participants in Langevin workshops, “Should I be a training generalist or training specialist?” It really is a difficult question in today’s training climate. There are still opportunities to be a one person training shop where you assume all the roles pertaining to needs analysis, design, delivery and evaluation. The caveat is that, as a training generalist, you might be able to cover a range of roles but you might also be sacrificing the depth of knowledge and skill needed in a particular area of training. And, just as we had to do for our soccer team, you may have to hire in the special expertise you need.

It can be very difficult to be all things to all people in the training world. Remember, if you chose to specialize by being an instructor/facilitator, you may need to be able to facilitate all types of instruction from traditional instructor-led classroom training (ILT) and on-the-job training (OJT) to a range of online solutions including asynchronous and live synchronous virtual classroom training.

If you chose to specialize by being an instructional designer, you may need to be able to design the full range of training strategies – ILT, OJT, job aids, and web-based training. So even if you decide to specialize in facilitation or design, you will still need to have a range of skills within that particular role.

Whichever path you decide to take, Langevin offers a variety of certification programs to meet your needs, from our Certified Instructor/Facilitator to our Certified Instructional Designer/Developer.. Which path will you take?


Instructional Designer Starter Kit

Steve has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and dreamed of being a pro soccer player. Steve translated his love of soccer and physical performance to the corporate sector and became a trainer. He’s had the pleasure of training within the government, large corporations, and as an independent consultant. Outside of training, Steve’s two biggest passions are his family and guitars, which he collects and plays!

Topics: needs analysis, evaluation, job performance, instructional design

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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