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August 2017
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TD Magazine
Balancing Act

Lisa Vallad on how to create training content and manage people.

Lisa Vallad is the training and user support manager for the Colorado Operations Resource Engine operations team, which provides daily system and business support of the state of Colorado's enterprise financial system and its vendor self-service system. Vallad has more than eight years of experience working in talent development, and is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) and a Certified Public Accountant.

Your role combines managing the daily activities of a user support function with guiding how the function develops its training. How do you think those responsibilities interact with each other?

It helps us work together as a team. When you think about user support, they're the ones who receive calls and emails about questions people have with the system, so we need their help to identify their training needs. For example, if our user support team keeps getting the same question during a certain time period, we know that it's time to develop either a training program or some FAQ documents to help them.

What are some strategies that you use to balance your people management and content creation responsibilities?

Having moved from a training and development practitioner role to a management role, the hardest thing to realize is that you can't put your hands on everything anymore. I have to be strategic by stepping back, looking at my team's conflicting priorities, and figuring out what emerging issues we need to address.

One of my mentors has a saying that I think about a lot in this role. He always asks, "Why build a battleship when a rowboat will do?"

What is the most memorable experience you've had since starting as a government leader in talent development?

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One of the first courses that our team developed was an online program, and we needed to pull in subject matter experts from across all the different agencies in the state. That's when I realized how different each agency was, how differently things operated, and also how many people are here that have vast institutional and historical knowledge.

For an internal training program, it amazed me how much involvement we saw from people at high levels of the organization. You just see a lot of people with a ton of knowledge and passion. They take immense pride in what they do.

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As someone who holds professional certifications, how do you think the process of obtaining them has influenced your career?

The process of becoming a CPLP has influenced my career in three ways.

First, it is a practical application of training and development, tying theory to practice in a way that my master's degree couldn't. Second, having a CPLP influences training decisions, as I am constantly aware of best practices throughout our entire training and development cycle. It reinforces the why of the training cycle, not just the how.

Lastly, the CPLP certification has enabled me to advance my career since more and more employers are listing it as a preferred or required qualification for incoming training and development staff.

As someone who's relatively new to government, what advice would you give to someone else who's also just starting out?

Embrace everything as a learning opportunity, stay humble, and especially recognize that there are people out there with a lot of institutional and historical knowledge who are willing to help you.

You need to make sure that you leverage the experience of these people. They've often spent their entire careers in government, and they can provide you with insights and information about business processes that makes it possible to get things done.

About the Author
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.
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