Trainers and Job Satisfaction

By Kirk, James | Training & Development Journal, December 1988 | Go to article overview
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Trainers and Job Satisfaction

Kirk, James, Training & Development Journal

Trainers and Job Satisfaction After working 20 years as a public school teacher, I started to wonder if I would be happier as a human resource developer. I'd heard training and development touted as a highly satisfying profession made up of people from diverse backgrounds. Yet my associates cautioned me: "Training isn't all it's cracked up to be," adding to my confusion. I wanted to get the true picture for myself.

I decided to launch my own investigation into career satisfaction among trainers. I mailed questionnaires to 500 HRD practitioners, randomly selected from the 1986 ASTD Membership Directory. I wanted to find out if HRD people really are more satisfied with their training careers than they were with their former fields. I wanted to know what job satisfaction among trainers can tell us about American workers in general. Of the 361 responses I received, 240 had at least five years of full-time HRD experience; they formed the data base for my study and this article. Most were male and 31 to 40 years old, with five to ten years of training experience (see Figure 1).

By and large, a happy lot

I discovered that practitioners who have switched into HRD positions from other fields are significantly more satisfied with their current positions. Statistical analysis of the survey results generally finds trainers a happy lot.

According to the survey, HRD practitioners tend to give training higher marks than they give their former positions, because, in part, HRD gives them the chance to do different things, make use of their abilities, try their own methods, and earn satisfactory pay compared to the amount of work they do (see Figure 2). Earlier studies also have reported higher relative pay and control over the work environment as factors trainers like about their jobs. Overall, the respondents were only slightly more satisfied with the way co-workers in the training profession get along with one another and that their duties don't include doing things against their consciences. The opportunity for steady employment rated a slight decrease in satisfaction levels. Respondents reported that extrinsic factors (the work environment) and intrinsic one (the work itself) improved about equally when they switched to HRD careers.

Why training?

No well-defined path leading to careers in HRD emerged from this study. Before switching fields, the respondents had worked in a variety of fields, including management and teaching or counseling. The largest percentage entered training as non-professionals in clerical, sales, or production-oriented jobs. Most practitioners seemed to have entered the field "through the back door." They gained experience in other fields before becoming trainers, as opposed to entering HRD straight out of college. Many people reported they first became involved in training activities on a part-time basis. Such prior work experience appeared critical to landing a job in training. The experience itself seemed more important than the particular field.

People in the survey became trainers for many reasons: "I did some training in previous jobs and enjoyed it greatly"; "I changed to HRD from education because teaching children under the present conditions was no longer satisfying"; "HRD seemed more appropriate to my needs"; "I really wanted to work with people"; "Professional work is more fulfilling than clerical work."

The survey responses revealed no single rationale for entering HRD. Yet, in contrast to other studies, practitioners surveyed here displayed relatively high levels of satisfaction with their previous jobs. It did not appear that adverse conditions in their other careers, such as plateauing or performance pressure, unduly influenced them to "escape" their former jobs. Their career moves seemed to have been influenced more by an attraction to the training field.

Measuring job satisfaction

To measure whether today's human resource developers are more satisfied with their training and development careers than they were with their former jobs, the 240 full-time practitioners completed two Short-Form Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaires.

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