How to Train Your Trainers

For Employees to Get the Most From Training, Trainers Must Be Exceptional.

We have all signed up for workshops with great expectations of the new tools we are going to get from the training. The workshop description and agenda match what we are looking for. The time fits our schedule and everything seems to guarantee that we will get exactly what we need. We show up at the appointed hour, and within 15 minutes we realize that we are not going to learn what we had hoped. Why? The trainer is missing the skills and abilities necessary to make this a rewarding experience for workshop participants.

Lack of good training skills shows up in other areas of the work environment also. Wherever and whenever employees need new information and skills, good training skills are vital. New hire orientation, teambuilding events, annual meetings, new project rollouts, legal updates, coaching and mentoring are all activities where a good trainer can make a big difference. Unfortunately, when trainer skills are not at a high level, the trainees are often thought of as not “getting it.”

If your company has a training department, you may be limited as to what you can do about the skills of the trainers. And you are even more limited if the workshop you are sending employees to is delivered by an outside company. There are some things you can look for if you are in a position to evaluate trainers. More importantly, these are some things you are your other managers need to have in place when training needs to happen in your own group.

Pick top employees to deliver training. In my experience, being a company trainer is a low level position that is not regarded very highly. Oftentimes, the training department is full of people that could not cut it in operations. Training needs to be a highly regarded part of the company that adds clear value to everyone. Give your best employees the responsibility for training others. High performers will seek out the skills they need to excel and those skills will transfer into effective training experiences.

Find a master trainer. Enlist the services of a master trainer to give your managers training skills and coach them. Master trainers know and exhibit the skills necessary for outstanding training experiences. Skills like managing time, telling stories, developing participation, asking questions, giving feedback, and modeling. Great trainers are not born; they learn the necessary skills and master them.

Set up a solid evaluation process. Way too much money is spent on training that is never put into action on the job. Work with your trainers to develop a training evaluation process that goes beyond the typical “smile sheets” that are handed out at the end of training. Hold your trainers accountable to deliver training in a manner that shows a return on investment for the company. Just like any other function in the company, training needs to show measurable results.

Do a training needs assessment. When people do training, they want to feel that there is a true need for what they are delivering. If they are put in positions to train “just to train,” they will not be totally motivated. Engage your employees and do a comprehensive assessment of the training needs in your organization. Once you have those results, build the training to meet those needs exactly. People skills, technical skills, management skills, etc. should only be delivered if they show up as a defined need. Trainers will appreciate knowing that what they are delivering makes a difference.

Give plenty of feedback. Sit in on some of the training that is delivered. See if it truly meets the objectives you had in mind. Get a list of the training behaviors from the master trainer and use it to evaluate your trainers. Give your trainers one-on-one feedback and coaching using the behaviors. Look for ways to continuously improve presentation, training and facilitation skills.

Tie rewards to training excellence. Give tangible and intangible recognition to the employees that exhibit outstanding training skills. Since all of your employees are trainers from time to time, ensure that their performance reviews, and the resulting changes in pay, are tied to training skills.

As employees move up in the organization, they are put in situations where they have to train others well. As a leader, it is imperative for you to ensure that your employees, full-time trainers or otherwise, have outstanding training skills.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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