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June 2020
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The Quintessential Accidental Trainer
TD Magazine

The Quintessential Accidental Trainer

Crystal Hong

Title Operations Training Specialist Company YRC Freight

Location Overland Park, Kansas

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LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/crystal-hong-m-s-phr-438a0156

Education Bachelor's degree, journalism (University of Kansas); bachelor's degree, communication (University of Kansas); master's degree, industrial and organizational psychology (Kansas State University)

Favorite Quote "In a crowd, there's always one." —Unknown

As a supervisor at a call center, Crystal Hong was called on to create job aids, design training materials, and even facilitate leadership development sessions. That's when her career shifted. Drawing heavily on her communications and marketing background, Hong became primarily responsible for L&D at all subsequent employers. Today, this former theater kid finds creative release in designing and facilitating engaging training experiences for employees as YRC Freight's operations training specialist.

What do you believe are the key factors to designing a successful training program?

Always center on the participant. Consult with subject matter experts who are your target participants or who have been your target participants in past roles. Take your consultation a step further by immersing yourself in their environment to better understand the factors that will impact training transfer, as well as the factors that might impact the learning process if you are using an instructional method like on-the-job training.

I strive to form collaborative, in-their-world relationships with my target participants—especially as an L&D professional in industries like manufacturing and transportation, where the divide between my working environment and theirs is obvious. Challenge yourself to think outside the box when creating mental models and learning activities for your content, remembering that adult learners are anything but one size fits all.

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What tips do you have for reinforcing training after the sessions have concluded?

My biggest tip is to continuously cultivate an experiential, supportive learning environment that comes to the participants. I suggest regularly pushing consumable resources to participants like articles, exercises, and videos. I also suggest scheduling follow-up conversations to discuss how participants have transferred the training to their jobs, what else they need or want to learn, and so forth. I think it is an L&D professional's responsibility to intentionally maintain relationships with participants after the prescribed time together.

What advice do you wish you were given when you entered the L&D profession?

I wish I knew that a career in L&D was even an option for me and that such a career would greatly benefit from and blossom out of fields like communication studies and journalism instead of solely orbiting HR. The knowledge, skills, and abilities typically attributed to communications and marketing are also key to L&D. The advice I wish I were given—and that I give to those I now mentor—is simply there are many paths up the mountain and that the mountain is yours and no one else's to map and conquer according to your definition of fulfillment, happiness, life, and love.

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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