Training and learning and development market still on a bull run

HR recruitment agencies are bullish about the jobs market for training and learning and development professionals – especially in certain specialisations.

Training professionals thinking about changing jobs will be pleased to know that most recruitment experts say the learning and development job market is buoyant at the moment.

At Reed Training Professionals, business manager Kate Fisher reports that her team is currently working to fill more than 100 vacancies. Most in demand are sales development or IT trainers.

“If you have good experience in sales training, you are in a very strong position for finding a new job,” she says.

“Sales people are the hardest to train. They tend to be get-up-and-go people and often see training as unnecessary downtime. There is a shortage of good sales trainers who are able to deliver training that catches their interest.”

According to Fisher, the top sales trainers are being offered multiple roles and are in a strong enough position to be able to negotiate better pay with employers eager to secure their services (see case study below).

At specialist learning and development recruitment company Essence Resourcing, director Paul McMurtie also says companies are looking for sales trainers as well as learning and development professionals with experience in leadership development.

“The main skills being sought are those that impact the bottom line. There’s a bit of a squeeze going on in the economy, and companies are looking at how they can maximise their existing talent, rather than recruit more people,” he says.

With companies eyeing tougher trading conditions over the next couple of years, McMurtie says an increasing number of businesses are demanding a return on investment from their training initiatives. He says a recent vacancy for a sales trainer with a high-street retailer stipulated a bonus that was tied to the profits made by the sale teams under the trainer’s charge.

With companies wanting to minimise their long-term risk commitments, contract and interim roles are also common, says McMurtie.

At specialist HR recruiter Beamant Leslie Thomas, consultant Christine McCorry has also seen an upturn in demand for leadership development skills. Especially noticeable, she says, has been the growth in companies looking for learning and development experts with experience of one-to-one coaching of senior directors.

“This reflects the fact that coaching is now widely accepted in many of today’s businesses,” she says.

According to McCorry, the trend towards trainers as business partners is also well established, and even the learning and development professionals at officer level are now expected to demonstrate business sense, and an ability to develop training programmes in line with their organisation’s strategy.

In many cases, this means tying learning and development into employee engagement and talent management strategies, says Neil Andrews, leader of the learning and development practice at specialist HR recruitment firm Hays.

“Companies are looking at ways of keeping their most-valued staff, and want learning and development people who can help set up talent management programmes and manage people within that,” he says.

At recruitment company Executive Performers, consultant Tina Suttle-Smith has also witnessed a trend towards leadership training being linked with talent management and recruitment.

She says learning and development professionals who have experience of developing, delivering and reviewing e-learning systems are also in demand.

But Suttle-Smith differs from other recruiters in reporting a slow market for learning and development recruitment and, as a consequence, a 10% dip in learning and development salaries.

This flies in the face of the experience of most recruitment specialists who contributed to this article. For example, Andrews says learning and development professionals are “no longer the poor cousins of HR”, and can command the same pay as HR professionals in other specialisms.

McMurtie says he is recruiting for learning and development roles with pay ranging from £30,000 at the bottom end, to packages in excess of £70,000 at the top end.

For £70,000-plus, a learning and development professional will be expected to take on managerial responsibilities, says McMurtie. “They will be expected to pull together resources within an organisation and develop a training strategy. They need a strong commercial awareness and client-facing skills.”

A training job paying around £30,000 is more likely to be an operational role involving “design and delivery of training initiatives.”

McMurtie says: “In either role, employers are generally looking for real experience and demonstrable results rather than potential.”

Case study: Reed Training Professionals

The shortage of good sales trainers means they are in a strong position to negotiate a rise in the advertised salary, according to Kate Fisher at Reed Training Professionals, who recently oversaw the recruitment of a sales trainer for a leading accountancy firm based along the M4 corridor.

“The client company was a well-known, attractive brand, so we knew the role would interest some strong candidates,” said Fisher.

Following a round of telephone interviews, five people were shortlisted and attended interviews hosted by the company’s sales director and HR manager. Prior to the meeting, candidates had been given a title of a course. At interview, they were asked to give a presentation outlining the training programme they had devised for that course, and to emphasise how the training would deliver a return on investment.

The client liked two candidates – both of whom had been offered jobs by other companies. After two weeks of discussions, one candidate took the job, having negotiated a salary increase from £35,000, to £45,000.

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