This domain name is for sale. Bid or buy now.



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 another person.

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 ( and author of the new book The Training Physical. Contact Jim at or 562-943-5776.

[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]

Home      Recent Articles      Author Index      Topic Index      About Us
2005-2018 Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc   ▪   privacy statement