One of the most fascinating things about being in the learning and training world over the last five years, is to bear witness to the evolution of the many hats that we wear. When I first began my career at The Container Store, I saw myself not only designing and delivering trainings, but I saw my skills shape in investigative observation. I saw myself as a project manager to keep instructional design projects on a deadline. I saw myself learning retail math as I tried to calculate how many hours a potential training class would pull employees off the floor – and how many sales and dollars that could possibly cost the store. I saw learning management system administrator to be able to correctly manage the system which delivered our trainings. Over the last few months, I’ve found another concept – and thus another title – that I get to add to this list: ‘performance consultant’.

When I first heard the term performance consultant, I was a bit put off. It seems that this would be more of a Human Resources function instead of falling within learning and development. But as I have come to learn more about the term from research and colleagues, I’ve come to appreciate that it more closely mirrors my contributions to an organization and what I love most about being in learning and development. In fact, to be a great instructional designer, my opinion is that you need to be an excellent performance consultant.

Here’s the thing: a great instructional designer may already be a performance conslutant without already knowing it. Many instructional designers, or those who have been in learning and development, know the old adage: “training is not always the answer”! Sometimes the solution to a business issue is wrapped up somewhere else…When we start to look at other options besides training, that’s where the instructional designer becomes the performance consultant.

That’s why it’s imperative that instructional designers or those in learning and development functions launch into a research phase (call it the ‘A’ of the ADDIE process – or ‘analysis’ if you like) before diving headfirst as an ‘order taker’ into planning training. I’ve found that in my transition to becoming a performance consultant, rather than just an instructional designer, has required me to become more discerning, curious and less likely to accept the surface/‘first answer’ for the truth about performance/business issues when I receive a request to design a training.

I’ll do another post soon on how to evolve from just an instructional designer to a performance consultant, but I encourage you to take the steps above and question if you are truly just a ‘training order taker’ or whether you are truly interested in identifying performance or business issues that can be creatively solved for far less time, money and people resources that training development often requires.

The performance consultant title will only grow in importance as the field of learning and training continues to grow…or at least until we find our next ‘hat’ to wear!