Training the Trainer
Developing In-House Instructors
Imagine that your organization is about to roll out a major software upgrade which will save a lot of time and money. However, if the launch is to be successful, everyone in the company needs to learn to use the new software.
The software company has provided a trainer to teach your people to use the new platform. However, there are thousands of people in your organization, and, with only one trainer, it will take months to get everyone trained.
A faster approach is to use this trainer to teach, say, 10 people from your organization how to train others in the new software. If each of these people trains 10 more trainers (and so on), then you can quickly have hundreds or thousands of trainers available to teach people the new system, meaning that you can introduce it quickly and effectively.
In this article, we'll look at the benefits of training your own in-house trainers, and the steps that you should take to develop these new trainers effectively.
Benefits and Uses
The Train-the-Trainer (TTT) approach is a widely acknowledged method used in various industries, including education, public health, and even global affairs. The TTT approach allows one experienced trainer to train a large group of new trainers quickly; and these new trainers will then, in turn, go on to train tens or hundreds of others.
There are many benefits of using the TTT approach in your organization.
First, training your own trainers provides a quick way to train large numbers of people. Think of this approach as a pyramid; if you train 10 trainers, and they train 10 trainers, you can train 1,000 people in a very short period of time.
Internal trainers are often more effective than outsourced trainers, because they have a much deeper understanding of your organization's culture, customers, and mission. They're teaching their own colleagues, and they can structure information so that it's relevant to organizational work and goals. This familiarity can decrease the fear that some learners may experience at the start of a change effort, and it can increase retention and understanding.
Training your own trainers can also be highly cost-effective; if your internal trainers have spare capacity, the TTT approach can cost very little, particularly as day-rates for internal team members are often lower than rates for external people. However, if you are training your own trainers, it's important to make sure that you aren't taking them away from higher-value work.
A TTT approach also improves the skills of the people who you've chosen to become trainers. These people will increase their knowledge, develop their skill set, and build their self-confidence which, in turn, will mean that they're of higher value to the organization.
There are some drawbacks to this approach. First, if the new trainer fails to learn the correct information in the first place, they can spread misinformation to the people they train. This is why it's important to test your future trainers before they leave the program, to ensure that they're passing on the correct information and procedures.
Also, if you select a number of internal professionals to become trainers, you risk taking them away from their "day jobs." Make sure that your trainers have spare capacity, or that they're able to delegate urgent or essential tasks when they're training others.
Organizing Your Approach
To set up a TTT program, follow the steps below.
1. Choose Your Trainers
Start by identifying the people in your organization who will make the best trainers.
It can be tempting to choose professionals who are already highly skilled in the subject that you want them to teach, but you may want to consider doing this only when you have information that needs to be explained by an expert.
Often, it can be better to choose trainers who are able to teach, and who are able to relate to others effectively. If your information doesn't need to be explained by an expert, these "soft skills" can be far more important than technical knowledge.
Choose professionals who:
- Have empathy.
- Are respected by their peers.
- Have high emotional intelligence.
- Are good communicators.
- Have strong public speaking skills.
- Are good facilitators, and are able to accommodate groups with varying learning styles, skills levels, and abilities.
- Are patient.
Make sure that the people you choose have enough time available in their schedule to teach others. You might need to arrange for some of their work to be delegated to others, so that they have the time that they need to coach others.
2. Clarify Goals and Metrics
When your future instructors have completed their own training, what skills, knowledge, and behaviors should they be able to demonstrate? How will you know whether they're proficient in these areas?
Before the class assembles, clarify learning objectives for the group, and let them know how you'll measure proficiency. A useful way of doing this is to use the ABDC Learning Objectives Model, which helps you identify a learning outcome for your group. You can also use Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives to identify the knowledge level that your trainers must attain, in order to teach effectively.
3. Conduct a Training Needs Assessment
Before the session, communicate with your trainees to understand how experienced they are as trainers, and how much they know about the subject you want to be taught. Once you know everyone's current skills and competencies, you can organize the type of training that you need to deliver, in order to meet the learning objectives that you identified in Step 2.
Remember that you'll need to train your trainers to teach people of all levels of ability – so certainly address their own training needs, but also ensure that they're equipped to address the full range of other people's training needs.
4. Teach Adult Learning Concepts
It's important that your new trainers understand that people have different learning styles. Some people learn best by using a hands-on approach, while others may want to understand the theory behind a subject first, for example. The best trainers share information and skills in a way that allows everyone to learn effectively. Make sure that your group knows how to disseminate information in a variety of different ways: 4MAT is a useful tool for doing this.
Another approach is to ask your future trainers to reflect on the best training that they've received in the past. What made it special? What did the instructor do that made the information real and relevant? Encourage your trainers to think carefully about this experience, and ask them to identify how they can incorporate this information into their own future training sessions.
5. Organize Active Learning Activities
Your trainers should have as much hands-on interaction as possible during their training class. They need to understand what they'll be teaching, and they need to practice teaching this to others.
Consider using active training techniques such as role-playing, perceptual positions, and group projects to help learners engage and understand information. And make sure that everyone gets a chance to "teach" during the session, while the instructor observes and offers feedback.
6. Mentor the Trainers
Once your in-house trainers have finished their training, allow them to teach a real class, while the experienced instructor observes. This should be done just before sending these new trainers off on their own. Doing this helps you ensure that they're teaching the correct information, and that they are correctly applying the strategies and teaching techniques that you've taught them.
7. Evaluate Results
Once your TTT program is complete, make sure that there is an assessment method in place to evaluate its effectiveness. Use Kirkpatrick's Four-Level Training Evaluation Model to design this evaluation. Then, analyze the program's impact and trainees' feedback, so that you can improve it in the future.
Train-the-Trainer is a proven approach for training large numbers of people. However, also consider other approaches that help you train many people at one time – for example, e-Learning, or webinar-based training.
Using the Train-the-Trainer (TTT) technique is a cost-effective and productive way to deliver training within your organization, and it allows you to train a large number of people very quickly. With this approach, experienced trainers teach in-house team members how to deliver training to others in the organization.
When you use a TTT approach, it's likely that students will retain and absorb more information, because their peers are teaching them, rather than an unfamiliar instructor.
To develop a TTT program, follow these steps:
- Choose your trainers.
- Clarify goals and metrics.
- Conduct a training needs assessment.
- Teach adult learning concepts.
- Organize active learning activities.
- Mentor the trainers.
- Evaluate the results.
When choosing your future in-house trainers, keep in mind that abilities such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and patience, are often more important than their current level of knowledge of the information that they are teaching.