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A Beginner's Guide to "Train the Trainer" Courses-HRDQ Blog

A Beginner's Guide to "Train the Trainer" Courses

One of the many goals of any good company should be its staff's progressive training and encouragement. A business is nothing without its employees, and treating those employees well helps to foster loyalty and productivity.

It's well-known that one of the primary driving forces behind employee turnover is a sense of stagnation. When employees feel they have no further career progression within the organization and are not provided additional training or skill-building opportunities, they are much more likely to leave for greener pastures.

Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker, often encountered the question many business owners have:

"What if we invest in training our employees, and they leave?"

After all, investing in your employees is just that; an investment. If they leave, they take their skills and knowledge with them.

Zig's response was;

"What if you don't train them, and they stay?"

That is to say, a business that does not invest in its employees will have sub-par employees. Your business hurts more from poor employees than it does from the occasional good employee leaving.

All of this is to say that one of the most important things you can do for your workforce is invest in training programs. Training your employees in everything from the skills they need to do their job, to more effective communication with their teams and your customers, to emotional intelligence and more; they're all critical for modern business success.

Let's get started!

Where Does Training Come From?

Isaac Newton has a famous quote that he once wrote in a letter;

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

This phrase dates back to the 12th century, at least. It means that we, all of us, progress only by building on what has come before. Nothing that we take for granted today would be possible without the work, education, investigation, and growth of those who came before.

When you want to train your employees, that training needs to come from somewhere. That means education is essential for all employees, from senior employees and managers to subject matter experts and standard employees. 

Where Does Train the Trainer Come From

This need for training begs the question; where do those subject matter experts learn?

True subject matter experts, the first-party sources of information, are employed in research positions worldwide. Some work for universities and conduct studies and surveys to build the knowledge corpus. Others take up practical experimentation roles and try theories out in real situations. Still, others are simply conducting their research to push the cutting edge of their field.

These first-party experts are relatively few and far between. They are the giants of our time, the people whose expertise is unmatched and who become the sources of skills and knowledge passed down. They may produce training courses, give speeches at conferences, or write textbooks from which others can learn. They often conduct their experiments and publish the results, leaving it to second-tier academics and experts to sort through and convert these results into training materials.

It is exceedingly rare that your company will employ a first-party expert. Some high-profile companies do, of course. For example, companies like Intel, IBM, and AMD in the computer space all have research departments looking for new ways to push the envelope for technology. 

Most businesses smaller than these global corporations do not have the resources to hire and fund such a first-party expert. Thus, you must bring in an outside source of training.

Who Trains the Trainer?

Here's an interesting Latin phrase from the first or second century;

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" can be translated as "who guards the guards themselves?"

More broadly, in popular culture, this phrase is used as "who watches the watchmen?" and expresses the problem of unchecked power from those in positions of authority. Oversight is necessary, whether superheroes in popular culture or police officers in real life.

Who Trains the Trainer

A similar phrase might be "who trains the trainers?" Your company has supervisors, leaders, and managers who need to train the people beneath them. Thus the question becomes, where does that training come from? Again, hiring first-party experts is unlikely to be truly valuable. While a speech can deliver theory and a first-hand consultation can help some individuals come to a realization or epiphany, for the most part, these first-party experts are not experienced in teaching or training.

For that, you need dedicated training materials. Whether formulated as textbooks, courses, or assessments, other existing subject matter experts can proctor these training materials.

For example, assessments such as our Supervisory Skills Questionnaire and What's My Leadership Style packages offer "train the trainer" options. 

Every good assessment needs to be proctored effectively for the knowledge and training to be adequately conveyed. Otherwise, you may be encountering the training equivalent of an Ikea instruction booklet: vague, prone to error, and with no reinforcement.

It's ineffective and inefficient to hire high-powered trainers to train your entire workforce. Instead, you "train the trainer" by hiring these consultants to prepare your leadership. Once your leadership has been introduced, they can train their teams and reports.

Who Should Be Trained?

Everyone in your organization should receive ongoing training, continued education, and opportunity.

For example:

  • High-level managers and executives can pursue learning more about management and strategic thinking. 
  • Mid-level managers can learn more about upper management, tactical planning, and training. 
  • Lower-level employees can learn everything from the advancement of the skills they need to do their job to the skills necessary to transition from a first-hand worker to a manager of others.

For "train the trainer" programs, it's essential that you send the right people to be trained in the first place.

Who Should Be Trained

Who is best to train as trainers for your organization?

  • Teachers and facilitators for onboarding, mentorship, and ongoing training.
  • Existing trainers, if you have any on staff. Project managers and team leaders can transfer knowledge to their reports.
  • Anyone in a middle or upper management role can trickle down their knowledge.

Virtually the only people who do not need to attend "train the trainer" courses are those who would receive the training later. Your organization wants to send representatives to be trained, so they can come back and teach the rest of your workforce.

For example, using the two leadership-focused training programs above as examples, the leaders and executives within your organization are the best people to attend. These people can learn to be better leaders and train the people below them to be more effective teams. Some of those people may have management or leadership potential, which your newly-trained leaders can identify, and train those individuals for career progress.

What Training Should Trainers Receive?

The secondary question then becomes, "what training should your trainers receive?" Training your leaders to be better leaders helps them lead your teams but does not help them prepare your teams to be better communicators, performers, or workers. 

What Training Should Trainers Receive

Training in this sense comes in two forms. The first is direct skills training. Your leaders may take this training to teach your workers further; however, this may not be the best use of their time. Leaders don't necessarily need to know how to do the job; they only need to understand how to manage the people who know how to do their job. This disconnect between workers and leadership plagues many organizations that build internal promotion structures.

The other kind of training is leadership, skills, emotional intelligence, and other forms of teaching. For example, a robust Reproducible Training Library will include dozens or hundreds of training modules to train your leadership and management in a wide variety of forms of training. 

Training your leaders to be better leaders, training your employees to be better employees, and transitional training employees to become leaders; these all part of consistent growth within an organization.

What Are the Benefits of Training?

Training employees to train others and providing that training has many positive impacts on your company.

First of all, it fosters loyalty. Employees who feel that they are progressing in their careers are much more likely to remain loyal and employed with your company. Other companies looking to poach them will have to overcome their current benefits package and the potential growth within your organization. Turnover is inevitable, and we're not saying that you'll never lose employees, but many will turn down other opportunities that may not have as much growth potential. This process is all part of the methodology of upskilling.

Secondly, training your leadership helps them become more effective leaders. Leaders can provide better insight, vision, strategy, and guidance from top to bottom. Employees serving beneath influential leaders are themselves much more effective and productive. 

Investing in Training Programs

Good, consistent training helps foster greater productivity within your workforce. Individuals can work more effectively, more efficiently, and with better results. Teams can collaborate internally and with other groups with much greater effectiveness. This training further promotes successful work.

Leadership online training course can also teach your leaders what not to do. There are many problematic leadership styles and quirks in training that you should avoid for the most effective possible workforce.

Combined with a diverse workforce, a highly-trained workforce can think outside the box and leverage various experiences and perspectives to solve problems in new and effective ways. Not only does this make your company more effective, but it may also allow you to identify and capitalize on gaps in the market in ways you otherwise wouldn't be able to.

You can also avoid brain drain. When you train your employees, mainly when you teach them to instruct others, that knowledge becomes institutional. Even if an employee leaves – even if a trainer and leader leaves – the trained employees can then step up to take their mantle. 

Some employee turnover is inevitable. Of course, there are many reasons why an employee might leave beyond dissatisfaction with their station. 

Finally, training the trainers can be faster, more effective, and cheaper than other options. Instead of sending an entire workforce to a conference or training seminar, you can send one employee or a small team of leaders and trainers. Those individuals can then come back and share their knowledge with the rest. Whether you have a dedicated team of trainers or send out employees on rotation to absorb and distribute knowledge is up to your business structure.

Should You Invest in Train the Trainer Programs?

There are very few drawbacks to investing in the training of your employees. These drawbacks remain true whether you're training them directly or training others to train them. 

A crucial part of training a trainer is choosing that trainer in the first place. While most businesses will commonly select trainers from the management ranks, this isn't always the most effective form of training. Sometimes, peer training or team training can be a more practical option, and it all depends on what is being trained.

Investing in Training Programs

Training your leadership to be better leaders is one of an organization's best things. When your leadership is highly trained and highly skilled, they become more effective at leading their teams and your organization as a whole.

When looking for someone to train as a trainer, you want to look for two things. The first is leadership qualities. Leadership qualities don't necessarily mean your trainer needs to be somebody in a leadership position, but it could. Many of your best employees may also be good leadership material and are eligible for training.

The second quality to look for is the capacity to teach. While many people are practical learners, fewer are effective teachers. Being able to grasp, understand, and convey information so that others can absorb it is a specific skill that not everyone possesses. 

These benefits are just a few reasons is why "train the trainer" programs are so important. These programs allow you to identify and train the people who can teach the rest of your staff and use them to upskill your entire workforce to gain the maximum possible benefit out of training.

Are you considering hiring a trainer or promoting one of your employees to assume that role? Do you have any questions for us? Please share with us in the section below! We love hearing from our readers and make it a point to reply to every comment we receive. 

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