A train-the-trainer model, or the use of trained trainers, is a highly effective framework for training pre-selected instructors, or subject matter experts, that can be used to train other employees within an organization.
To understand how and why a train the trainer model works, we first need to understand the purpose of a trained trainer’s initiative. We’ll be diving deep into the advantages and disadvantages of a train-the-trainer strategy. We’ll have a look at key skills that a trainer needs to possess, call it the skills to succeed, and how to choose the right participants that will basically deliver training initiatives within the organization.
So expect insights, practical and simple examples that you will be able to apply straight away within your team and organization. In the end, the aim of this post is to open the way for a new understanding of the use of train-the-trainer models and strategies, towards a practical and effective framework for using trained trainers within organizations.
What is the purpose of having trained trainers?
Train-the-trainer models are very popular within innovative organizations that are focused on success. A train-the-trainer model has the ambition to build a selection of trained trainers that are subject matter experts who then, in turn, train other employees to become subject matter experts.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a train-the-trainer model?
The advantages of a train-the-trainer strategy are straightforward:
- Increase the availability of practical and subject matter expert skills – Investing in a trained trainer framework will increase the pool of skills across an organization.
- Cost-effectiveness – It is far more cost-effective to use a trained trainer that is a subject matter expert than it is to hire a consultant from outside the organization.
- Consistency – As an internal trained trainer is close to the ground inside the company they will bring a consistency of approach that may not always happen with an external trainer or consultant.
- Acceptance – Often feedback and instruction from a trained trainer, who understands the company and is respected, will be received more favorably than when delivered by an expert from outside the company.
- Focused learning – As an internal trained trainer is far closer to the company’s day-to-day operations they will be able to customize training course material to make them more relevant to the organization.
- Subject matter mastery – Investing in a trained trainer will increase the pool of subject matter expertise across the organization. This also includes the development of a competent trained trainers team and a collection of in-house subject matter experts.
The disadvantages of investing in trained trainers should perhaps be better communicated as sources of challenges. Basically, newly trained trainers need to have opportunities to deliver training courses and to practice their skills. A lack of these opportunities can quickly lead to frustration and will impact the motivation levels of trained trainers As a result, management support is always needed to ensure opportunities are created and balanced so as to also protect a trained trainer from experiencing overwhelm.
What skills are needed to be a trainer?
It’s not easy to transition from being an employee, and subject matter expert, and later on to become a trained trainer. And, it is important to note that what made someone a subject matter expert quite often is not the complete package for being a trainer that is able to instruct others to be subject matter experts.
As a result, subject matter experts will need to attend train-the-trainer training to enhance the skills that they may, or may not, have already developed.
Below is a selection of some of the skills that may need to be developed within a train-the-trainer course.
It should come as no surprise that effective facilitation skills are pivotal for trained trainers. At its simplest, facilitation is the process of making something easier or more possible. And, an effective facilitator, and trained trainer, will use their skills and experience as a protector of this process.
In fact, a trained trainer will need to be aware of the main obstacles to effective facilitation skills, the facilitation process, a range of facilitation techniques, an effective facilitation process, and the benefits of effective facilitation skills.
Today, presentation skills are required in every organization. And, just like with facilitation skills, a trained trainer’s ability to navigate and manage the presentation is crucial.
In particular, a trained trainer will need to have the tools and skills needed to deliver an excellent presentation and to know how to present with confidence.
Active listening skills
Many newly trained trainers often ask “how do I support different individuals within training sessions?”. This is because a trained trainer needs to be in a position to support a range of different individuals and situations while still achieving the objectives of the training program.
Of course, when we think of training situations there is a sense of delivery or that something from the trainer is being passed on to the participants. However, to be an effective trainer there is a need to develop a two-way stream between a trained trainer and the course participants.
As a result, mastering active listening skills will help trained trainers to make this connection. It will also maximize all aspects of their training. In particular, there are two main types of active listening skills (verbal and non-verbal) that trained trainers will need to be proficient in.
The use of questions in training sessions to improve learning is nothing new and dates back to the Socratic method of Ancient Greece. According to Benjamin Bloom, and his colleagues, there are six levels of cognition:
- Knowledge: rote memorization, recognition, or recall of facts.
- Comprehension: understanding what the facts mean.
- Application: correct use of the facts, rules, or ideas.
- Analysis: breaking down information into component parts.
- Synthesis: a combination of facts, ideas, or information to make a new whole.
- Evaluation: judging or forming an opinion about the information or situation.
Ideally, each of these levels should be covered in each course and at least one objective should be written for each level. Depending on the nature of the course that a trained trainer is delivering, a few of these levels may need to be given more emphasis than others.
Trained trainers must use questioning skills to encourage participants to think on their own and construct their own explanations. This will allow course participants to maximize their learning potential.
Being competent at completing a training needs analysis
A training needs analysis is the most valuable skill for any trained trainer. This is because if a poorly designed training needs analysis process is followed then the results are unpredictable and most likely dangerous for an organization.
A train-the-trainer model that also helps learners to enhance their overall training and development skills will ultimately assist them within a number of key business functions.
In particular, trained trainers need to know how to follow a successfully designed training need assessment process, understand what is training, be able to explore concepts like knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s), and be competent at raising awareness of focused approaches to training and development.
Knowing how to select and deliver training materials
There are many aspects to consider when selecting appropriate training material. In particular, a trained trainer will need to know about the:
- Aims – The trainer must first and foremost choose materials that are in keeping with the aim of the training session.
- Resources – The trainer must uncover what resources and materials are available such as flip-chart, projectors, etc. The trainer must then consider which of these best suit the achievement of the learning objectives of the course. We will explore this in more detail later.
- Culture – Some activities may be culturally sensitive and the trained trainer should recognize this diversity when planning the session.
- Ability – Checking the literacy and numeracy skills of participants is also very important. Equally, does any individual have a physical or intellectual disability that needs to be accommodated?
- Experience – Materials and exercises should be tested before the training event to ensure that the trainer is familiar with them before using them within the session. The trainer should also establish the level of experience that the group has with the subject material.
Knowing how to use training games and training icebreakers
Training games and icebreakers are an enjoyable way of reinforcing knowledge and skills within a training course. In fact, training games and training icebreakers can ensure learning becomes more relevant. These activities are also an ideal way to prepare employees to be job-ready in less time and ensure that skills can be practiced within a safe environment, without real-life consequences.
Knowing how to deal with difficult people
While conducting a training session, a trained trainer needs to be in a position to support a range of different individuals and situations while still achieving the objectives of the training program. In particular, a trainer needs to be able to employ strategies to ‘support difficult people within training sessions’.
Knowing how to evaluate training courses
Every year organizations and individuals spend literally billions of dollars on training and education programs. However, experience has consistently shown that little time or expense is paid to evaluate the effectiveness of the training that has taken place.
- Did the training program work?
- Was it worthwhile?
- Did the results justify the investment?
As a result, trained trainers need to be in a position to evaluate the effectiveness of their training programs.
How do I select the participants to be trained trainers?
The three steps required are relatively straightforward:
- Select the right people with the right skills – Although it sounds obvious, participants need to be subject matter experts that also possess, or are willing to learn, the skills of trainers outlined above.
- Availability – Candidates also need to be available, or released to be available, so as to act in the role of trained trainers.
- Prepare for mistakes – Candidates need to understand that mistakes and errors are also part of the process. As a result, candidates need to be open to constructive feedback and also to the importance of measurement of training initiatives.
Introducing a train-the-trainer method, or trained trainer framework, in an organization offers a considerable amount of benefits. In particular, this framework provides an opportunity for the development of subject matter experts across the organization.