Training the trainers

How to make experts into great teachers

Think back to your time at school. Who was your most engaging teacher? What was it that made them so memorable? While we like to think that it’s people with the most knowledge that make the best teachers, the reality is that other factors count for just as much, if not more.

In-house corporate training is a part of work for all of us. From a simple induction to specialized CPD sessions, we all come into contact with training in the workplace and, for many managers, sharing their knowledge as informal trainers or mentors is a part of their jobs. ‘Train the trainers’ has become a common phrase in the learning and development sector because this. So, if we are using a system like this, how can we help these experts make the transition from doing to teaching?

First impressions count

In his book ‘Blink’, Malcolm Gladwell explains the extent to which first impressions affect our opinions on a person’s abilities and to what extent we are likely to believe him or her. There’s an important lesson we can learn from this: staff who deliver training need to have the soft skills to back up their knowledge and engage their trainees from the first contact.

Understanding the bigger picture

Even if people deliver a very specific kind of training to their own staff, it’s not enough to focus on one process alone. Context is a vital part of the learning process. An expert may be able to answer detailed questions on their area of specialism, but a good teacher will be able to provide a context for what they teach to motivate the learners, helping them see how what they do benefits others or the company as a whole.

Extra support

Time constraints often mean that staff members who need to fit training sessions around their everyday commitments aren’t able to prepare the kind of teaching materials that a full-time professional trainer would. Providing the trainers with pre-prepared presentations and handouts is a sensible way to ensure consistency of information and to lighten their workload. Collaboration between trainers on building up a bank of learning materials is another way to do this.

E-learning is a useful tool in this area as it ensures consistency and is an efficient way to distribute training and learning materials throughout a global company.

Structured learner feedback

Even when delivering internal corporate training, the trainees are our customers. Collecting feedback on the trainers is essential for managing their performance and helping them develop their skills and delivery. It’s also a useful way to find out which areas of the training materials need work or more detail.

Tracking learning outcomes and performance

A popular trainer isn’t always the best trainer. Although engagement is important, it isn’t always the people we like most that are the best teachers. In terms of tracking the effectiveness of training, standardized testing and staff performance figures are an important part of working out the ROI for any training program. By looking at the time spent delivering training and its effectiveness, we can work out whether our training structure works or whether a different delivery method would work better.

Becoming a great teacher or trainer takes time and experience for most people but, by keeping these main points in mind, it’s possible to give staff a helping hand on training others effectively and incorporating that training into their everyday commitments.

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