One of our clients, who is a senior leader in L&D, said to us recently after having had a difficult conversation with a regional manager about a botched training session, “If she can deliver training better than my staff can, then she should. If we aren’t exceptional in the classroom, we should look for different jobs.”
This client understands one of the fundamental challenges in-house trainers face—demonstrating expertise and earning the trust of the learners and the business units they serve.
“If we aren’t exceptional in the classroom, we should look for different jobs.”
As an L&D leader, you understand this well. It’s your job to make sure that every one of your trainers shines in the classroom, virtually or face-to-face. Every training session must be conducted with efficiency and an eye toward business results.
Not an easy thing to do. There are a few reasons for this.
Reasons L&D’s Reputation May be Lackluster
Varied Experience in the Field
The background and experience of your trainers can be vastly different. Some may have years of practice in the classroom, but little formal training in L&D. Others may have a grasp of curriculum development and adult learning, but little real-world classroom experience. Some may be accidental trainers who fell into training and liked it enough to make a career of it. This variety means that each person may have gaps in some key areas and may over-rely on some strengths. The result is that training can be uneven and wildly varied in its sophistication and approach.
Lack of Understanding of Why Training Matters to the Business
Trainers may not understand how the work they’re doing contributes to the business. Training touches everyone, including new hires, managers, and leaders. And if those people are frustrated by the training they’re receiving, the L&D function isn’t serving the business as well as it needs to. And that leads to a lackluster reputation for L&D.
Training to the Rescue
To fill in the gaps, improve consistency, and achieve business results requires nuanced training for your trainers. A successful train-the-trainer program focuses not only on what and how training is delivered. It also creates a trainer mindset that is learner-focused, business-savvy, and curious.
Such a train-the-trainer program addresses
- Business Results. Everyone in L&D needs to understand the business they serve and the specific initiative each training program serves. This is the north star that should guide everything.
- Brand. The training should help you define your L&D brand. To do that, every train-the-trainer program should begin by agreeing on two sets of goals.
- The first is department-wide. Answer this question: Building on our company’s brand, how do we as the L&D team want to be perceived by our internal clients and learners? Treat this list of attributes as your brand and let it guide your work.
- Second, each trainer should be asked to set their own goals. Taking the department’s brand into account, how does that individual want to be perceived? These goals should be used to guide the feedback and recommendations given to each trainer.
- Everyone’s Strengths and Weaknesses. Training should take each trainer’s natural abilities and inclinations into account. Not all trainers are alike and everyone improves along a different path. Training should amplify an individual’s strengths and shore up areas of weakness.
- Learner Engagement Over Gimmicks. Training should help trainers engage their learners in a genuine conversation. Trainers need to understand and apply the skills required to get out of their heads and stay laser-focused on learners. This focus on engagement should also help trainers understand why many traditional trainer tactics should be banished: memorized openings, ice breakers, forced fun, and sandwiched feedback, are some of the most egregious examples.
- Practical Instructional Design. If trainers are developing their own materials, your train-the-trainer program should offer feedback on curriculum-development best practices, including creating slides and other media that help them deliver their material cogently and cleanly. Far too often slides stand in the way of clarity.
- Content Delivery that is Internalized. If off-the-shelf training is offered in your curriculum, trainers should be encouraged to discover the whys behind recommended approaches and tactics. Only when trainers ask their own questions and get satisfactory answers can they make the content their own. Once that happens, they can answer questions from their learners. (HINT: If training suppliers provide a script or otherwise insist on canned delivery, you may wish to look elsewhere.)
- Learner-centric Delivery. A good train-the-trainer program should teach trainers to customize their training to meet the real challenges faced by their learners. Training shouldn’t feel like a boxed lunch. Instead, it should be like a custom pizza: based on a solid approach, but topped with the ingredients learners need to do their jobs.
In sum, there is a solution if your L&D department’s reputation is hovering in the neutral-to-negative zone. Elevating everyone’s training abilities—to question, to adapt, to apply, and to engage—will make your company’s employees look forward to training. They will see it as a way to truly get better in the context of your organization’s needs and aspirations.