Train The Trainer, Before Training Others
By Jim Hopkins
One of the biggest
misconceptions in the learning development world is if you are a
subject matter expert in something that you can be a trainer. Not
everyone that really “knows their stuff” make good trainers,
facilitators, teachers or even the people that design training
materials. Just because you know about something does not mean you
know how to help others learn it well enough to perform the same
tasks. The secret to successful training is training the trainers
before they train others.
There is an entire
skill set that belongs to the person conducting the training that
includes knowing how adults prefer to learn, and the best ways to
build the bridge from knowing to doing. We call these adult
learning principles and they are the keys that will open both the
door to success if applied correctly and the door to failure if they
are ignored. The people that design training programs must also
understand these principles so that they can be incorporated into
the appropriate learning activities that train the skills and then
reinforce or apply the skills to the work environment.
The good news for
both training roles are that these skills can be taught and learned
if they are included in the professional development plans of a
training department. If they are left to chance then the results of
all training is left to the roll of the dice.
Many of us in the
training and development profession began our careers coming
straight from line functions in the organization and were tapped
because we were good at our jobs. The common thought was if you
were good at something (a subject matter expert) you could then be
taught how to be a trainer. Although I agree pretty much with that
statement, I later modified that approach when I began running
training functions and needed to hire staff. In addition to hiring
for subject matter knowledge, I looked at something I called heart.
I knew I could teach someone how to train another person, but I also
wanted to see if they had the desire to share what they knew with
Some humans are
down right stingy with their knowledge and abilities. They feel
that what they know how to do is only valuable if they keep it
locked up inside and they are the only one that benefits. Finding
people with the right heart means that they see the value in more
people knowing what they know, and thus they are willing to share.
The only caveat I’ve discovered that prevents training a subject
matter expert to be a great trainer or instructional designer is a
lack of a heart willing to share.
So let’s assume you
find the right person, and they not only want to train others to do
what they can do, but they have the right knowledge to pull it off,
it is very important you arm them with trainer skills either in
instructional design and/or training facilitation before you let
them lose on your employees.
Let’s look at the
need first to training the trainer before training others. Think
back to recent training events at work and ask yourself if you were
engaged? Did the activities make you interact with the subject
being taught, or could you multi-task at the same time? After the
event, were you able to implement the new skills rather quickly, or
did the new skills rather quickly leave you? Did the training
materials used in training add to your learning process before,
during or after the event, or are you asking yourself right now,
what training materials?
If your answers to
these questions were positive then the people involved in your
training are skilled in not only the subject, but in the ways of
adult learning. They are also being managed by people that make
sure that training events support learning objectives and training
department employees are being trained, coached and mentored to be
on a continual learning path themselves. This is outstanding news,
and you should be most pleased with your company’s training efforts.
However, if your
answers were not positive, and you actually look for reasons to
avoid training events at your company, then you have a dysfunctional
training department. Yet sadly I need you to realize that you are
not alone. Nearly every time I conduct an audit of a training
function, I must note a lack of professional development in the
training team. When I discover training materials that are a bunch
of handouts, or worse a four inch manual of text, I know that there
are no instructional design skills around. When I hear trainers
detail out stories of their training experience I see a lack of
learning as the result. And when any of these poor practices are in
place there is usually a manager running the function without a clue
they are missing a complete skill set too.
So before you worry
too much about the color of the next binder that holds your training
program materials, take the time to make sure that the contents will
add value to the learning process. Before you pluck an all-star
employee from the line and expect magic to occur in the classroom or
webinar, give them the skills to facilitate an engaging event.
Before you even consider closing a training function because you
cannot identify a return on the investment, see if the manager of
the department has the skills to lead adult learning.
Taking the time to
train your trainers before you let them train others will not only
yield better results, but make the learning experience for everyone
a lot more enjoyable!
Jim Hopkins is
the President/CEO of JK Hopkins Consulting (www.jkhopkinsconsulting.com)
and author of the new book The Training Physical. Contact Jim at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 562-943-5776.
[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]