The New Training or Learning & Development Manager
You know the scene, you have been asked by your line manager to take on the role of company trainer. You accept. But what does this mean? You know that trainers teach people things they have not done before. So being a trainer is about sharing your experiences and skills… isn’t it?
Who needs to be trained?
Well actually… employees may need help improving in their current role, preparing for promotion, or developing their leadership skills, so this is often much more than just about sharing your existing skills, although this is how it starts. So if this is the future role you will be undertaking what skills do you need?
What do trainers do?
The term ‘training cycle’ is often quoted; a typical representation of a training cycle is shown here:
Therefore, to be a trainer we need to be able to:
Identifying training needs
Before we can deliver any training we have to understand the needs of either the individual or group of employees: What knowledge do they currently have? What do they need to know, and what do they need to be able to do? Identification of training needs (training needs analysis TNA) is the identification of the gap you as a trainer should look to fill. Of course, any TNA should be completed within the context of the culture and business needs of the organisation and not in isolation.
One step that is often overlooked in a TNA or gap analysis is the act of task analysis. A task analysis is a detailed look at the skill or role required. An effective task analysis can make the difference between effective and ineffective TNA. Often undertaking the ‘boring’ activity of completing a detailed task analysis can help us to identify the critical step, which if left out of the learning/ training plan means that learners know 99% of what we need them to but miss the 1% that makes all the difference. If you run a training course (say IT, systems or skills) and people keep coming back or productivity has not improved, then the chances are a critical step has been missed.
Once we know the gap, we can articulate this to managers, participants and learners and set targets. The ability to write a SMARTer goal should not be underestimated. Having clear goals can often mean the difference between effective and ineffective training.
Choosing training techniques
The use of self study, elearning and on-the-job coaching is reducing the need for traditional classroom-style delivery, although it still has its place. When designing training to fit an identified need we need to look at a blended solution.
This may include guided reading as well as a classroom or one-to-one coaching session. Often the delivery will be chosen for logistic and financial reasons rather than ‘best practice’. However, as trainers we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all available solutions.
For many trainers this is where the job starts and finishes. Many trainers are handed content to deliver and they spend the majority of their time face to face with learners.
Building your training delivery skills can take a long time. Many people believe that because they are competent in a particular role they can train others easily. This is just not the case.
As trainers we need to account for a range of factors – learning preferences and needs, the skills and knowledge each individual brings to the room, our strengths and weaknesses, the basics of learning psychology, how to structure a session and why these factors are important.
So unfortunately, a one-day presentation skills course will not be enough. Being a trainer who works with groups is a little like learning to drive: the day you pass your test is the day you start to learn to drive. There are many courses that can get you your ‘license’ to train solo… but that is when you as a professional start to learn to train.
It is all very well spending time and money on people, but did the training do what it was supposed to? The ability to measure learning and the success of training is vital to our profession. If we cannot show that we are adding value, why should they keep us on? Evaluation can occur at a number of levels. These are often referred to as Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation.
Most train the trainer courses look at levels one and two, a few look at level three. Level four is more often a learning and development managers role, rather than the trainer.
Using the training cycle is only part of the picture, and any use of this process must be within the context of business and organisational requirements.
The perfect train the trainer course
In an ideal world what should a train the trainer course cover? This is a difficult one, as different trainers will have different priorities. But the following is a good start:
- Presentation skills
- Facilitation skills
- Facilitating learning exercises and activities
- Giving feedback
- Managing questions
- Managing behaviour in the training room
- Using learning aids – flipcharts, models, videos etc.
- Training room evaluation techniques
Public train the trainer courses
There are many train the trainer courses available. One of the better known is CTP (certificate in training practice) from the CIPD. This is a level three qualification, it normally takes a year, and is based more on underpinning knowledge than delivering skills. It’s designed for those who are looking to build a career in training and development.
In IT training are two providers that stand out from the crowd – TAP from The Training Foundation and ELF from Matrix42. Both started in the IT world but have developed their products to the more general market. Both offer external certification for their courses. In both cases the programmes are a ‘pass/fail’ with unsuccessful participants not being awarded certificates. This is refreshing, as it is an attempt to improve the training delivery standards in the UK.
There are many providers which offer ‘self awarded’ certificates. There are also many that advocate advanced techniques… but lets get the basics right first and then develop!
Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI Ltd, a consulting and training company specialising in organisational development and the development of high performing teams and individuals. For more information go to www.rapidbi.com