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Training the Trainer

Training the Trainer

To stay efficient, effective, competitive, productive and profitable, the successful organization must recognize the need for ongoing, results-driven training programs that help to keep its people both knowledgeable and up-to-date. This ensures that individuals and teams are able to perform their work technically and also work together in optimal ways from a human perspective and thereby readily deal with the fast-changing challenges that they must face every day.

Even though the business need for good training is clear, how these training programs are best delivered, especially in these cost-challenging times is not so obvious. Many old methods and practices have diminished or are disappearing (such as multi-day off-site face-to-face classes for example) in favor of new approaches (such as online course or short focused workshop delivered in just half a day perhaps). These newer approaches claim to reduce costs of delivery but do they really work? In addition, it is also important to ask whether the training content is as appropriate as it could be, and can it be presented in more interesting or compelling ways? Unfortunately, busy line managers rarely have time for such questions and as a result, well-intentioned training can miss its mark or fail to deliver a large part of its expected benefits. For this reason we need to pay much greater attention to the training professional and to their knowledge and expertise in finding and delivering the right kind of results.

Who is “the right” trainer and what should they know?

Although a trainer may have a wide variety of backgrounds, with equally varied knowledge and experience, the role they should ideally play in a modern organization has three parts. These are:

  1. Strategic expert: This means that they demonstrate their overall expertise in general training and human resource technologies and practices. This means that they themselves must be up-to-date in the latest delivery methods and channels for effective learning of any kind to occur. This may not mean being an expert in every approach personally but does mean maintaining a wide and up-to-date network of experts which can be drawn upon.
  2. Strategic resource: This means making sure that overall training and development efforts are linked to the organizations strategic goals. This is a “tricky role” as it means that the trainer has to appreciate what the goals are in a concrete way and then ensure that the content and delivery methods are “fit-for purpose” in the training event itself. This often means that the delivery method and content of any given program has to tailored or customized very carefully to ensure a good match (a process which trainer’s themselves call instructional design).
  3. Steward of the transfer of training: This means being a strong advocate for learning transfer and initiating practical partnerships with managers and trainees to ensure that transfer takes place. This is probably the most difficult role as it entails making sure that the recipient of the training is well prepared, their manager is actively involved to assist and that the trainer, him or herself, has taken account of the trainee’s individual needs—and all this BEFORE, DURING and AFTER any actual training event itself.

Although every training event will be different, in simple terms the activities of an effective trainer should include:

  • Aligning course(s) to the strategic plan or high levels goals of the organization.
  • Involving managers and trainers in the training design.
  • Building in pre-course trainee readiness strategies (such as pre-reading or pre-assessments).
  • Planning how ‘unlearning’ will occur (which may inhibit the application of new knowledge).
  • Ensuring that participants always know what is in it for them to apply the new learning successfully.
  • Providing strong follow through and support to participants after the training event is completed.

To do the above successfully a trainer needs the time and resources to prepare carefully and to remain involved with course participants well after the program is complete. In so doing, the organization reaps the benefit of the trainer as performance coach and absorber of excellent application feedback that can be designed into future courses.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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