TRADITIONALLY, a trainer's main responsibility was to impart standard work-related training to employees. Not any more.

Trends in corporate training suggest that corporate trainers now play a strategic role in the growth of the company that they work for. This allows them to be more involved with the company's short- and long-term business goals, which eventually have an impact on the bottom line.

Companies like Canon Singapore have identified the importance of training to its overall success.

Canon's Business Imaging Solutions (BIS) Group, responsible for the sales and marketing of the company's business solutions in South and South-east Asia, set up a Regional Training Centre (RTC) in 2002 to meet its one-stop training needs.

Over the past six years, the training centre has played an increasingly strategic role in tackling a variety of business challenges.

In addition to conducting traditional training programmes, such as inducting new hires, the team participates in strategic functions such as setting key performance indicators for the company and formulating marketing strategies to help drive product sales.

For training to play an effective strategic role, the Regional Training Centre identified eight key areas that corporate trainers need to focus on:

1. Keep in close contact with staff at all levels

Find out the challenges that they face and what the causes for these are. This will equip you to be a better strategic adviser and provide the basis for the training-needs analysis of each staff.

2. Know the current marketing strategies of the organisation

Knowing the company's short- and long-term marketing plans will help you design a training syllabus that is closely aligned with corporate goals and geared to help staff achieve them.

3. Know your competitors

Find out about their product and marketing activities. You need this information to prepare a training syllabus that deals effectively with the competition.

4. Keep up-to-date on industry trends

Find out the latest developments in the industry through mass media or specialised publications and seminars.

Understanding the drivers and trends of the industry will help you formulate an effective training syllabus and put you in a stronger position to advise the company.

5. Monitor the sales performance of the company and be quick to identify trends and cycles

Certain times of the year may be considered "lull periods" in an organisation due to corporate buying patterns.

Overcome these down periods with internal campaigns to motivate sales teams or training to enhance your team's strategic message.

6. Accompany staff on sales calls

Do this to stay in touch with the market and to understand the issues that staff face.

It also helps you to gain the respect and trust of the staff and puts you in a better position to find out the underlying issues that contribute to the challenges they face.

7. Learn from other industries

Many great lessons can be learnt from industries outside your own. Benchmarking from other industries provides new ideas and solutions to help you be more effective.

8. Invite management to be change agents

One of the greatest obstacles to the success of an organisation is staff's resistance to change.

A management team that leads by example makes it easier for the rest of the organisation to internalise and accommodate change.

Mr Alan Chng, vice-president of the BIS Group, says: "The whole purpose of training is to support the ever-changing needs of the business.

"As a result of the evolution of Canon's corporate training over the past six years, the Regional Training Centre has successfully expanded its role in staff development to address the changing business requirements of the company and, at the same time, have a positive impact on the bottom line." The role of corporate training has never been more important in giving businesses an edge over the competition.

From imparting company-specific knowledge and skills to sharing best practices and tactics, effective corporate training will better equip your organisation with the tools to succeed in today's market.