How good are you as a trainer?

Some company and bureaucracy inductions are dreadful; if you’ve experienced one, you’ll wonder just where their training dollar actually goes. The whole purpose of training is to impart viable knowledge and understanding so that people gradually take the reins and assist company progress, while acquiring valuable skills as they go.

Model communicators – or are they?

Great trainers are model communicators. Their resumes are frequently broad and they’ve encountered many types in the human zoo over the years. They’ve usually experienced the best and worst of work conditions in their given industry.

The former is important because a high bar gives us all something to aim for. You never forget a wonderful workplace; among its go-to ingredients was surely training, or at the very least, the chance for a person to grow into their responsibilities and deliverables. Poor, or downright bad, work environments conversely sharpen a trainer’s empathy and makes them alert to company obstacles impeding its own progress.

Excellent trainers instinctively know that wherever and for whomever they’ve worked IS a training experience; they assemble knowledge, understanding and most of all a strong sense of how best to personalise other people’s learning. They also show interest in their trainees; they “interview” them (nicely) about their own backgrounds and knowledge, the better to gauge who they’re working with.

Sadly some trainers are lazy, unobservant and more interested in their own careers than their trainees. Some are impatient and dismissive of slow learners.

Everyone learns differently

Because technology has sped things up, people’s impatience and expectations have likewise accelerated. Many companies confuse speed with agility, failing to understand that comparative “tortoises” often pick up what the “hares” have missed. Aesop would certainly be dazzled at today’s hares, but might stick to his argument that speed doesn’t necessarily equate to understanding in depth.

Trainers need to mix up their approaches and exercises, so as to better see where different people’s strengths lie. They can then tailor the training to those people’s needs. Good trainers challenge the high achievers, yet are also patient, allowing reticent people the chance to bloom.

Reinforce the message

Maybe all of us who train others skip the all-important reinforcement of messages. Improved workplace safety entails greater hazard awareness training. Situational awareness does not spring from blindly rushing to complete a tricky task, or being allowed to enter a construction site without a hard hat.

Repetition, like rote learning, has its place for the simple reason is that after a while, one doesn’t forget it. We all needed to learn as children about not crossing when the light turns red or drinking from strange bottles in a dark cupboard. The gifted trainers will find creative ways to reinforce the messages, using skills to practice because repetition is not the only way.

Design habits that people can apply in a practical setting

Trainers should familiarise themselves with a given work environment. Know the people, processes and challenges they face. Specific skills and examples are always far more meaningful and identifiable than generalisations, which cost them trainees’ respect. They must ensure they know what their trainees contend with, every day, and the parameters within which those people are expected to operate.

The more realistic and relevant the scenarios, examples and role plays given to trainees, the more trainees will pay attention and engage.

It pays to know as much as one can about a given industry, and make the effort with plenty of questions at the outset.

Don’t just teach – entertain

People learn so much more when they’re enjoying what’s going on. Being sent somewhere for a day’s training can feel like a chore, or a bludge at best.

The astute trainer picks up on attendees’ subtle cues, and quickly commandeers attention. This may range from some warm-up anecdotes that get people laughing, showing a short video or podcast, to throwing them in the deep end with a fun activity that requires full engagement and shakes them out of blasé behaviour.

The effective trainer is not a lecturer. They are respectful, sometimes irreverent, but always relevant and engaging by involving participants. They provide activities, learning examples and opportunities for trainees to sharpen their awareness by “training” each other.

Trainers are candid about their own mistakes, prompting candour in attendees.

Always seek feedback

Aside from evaluations trainers usually hand out at the conclusion of the training, it’s good to scan the room and observe reactions to what’s being said along the way. A person’s subtle head shake, less subtle yawning, or use of a mobile phone usually indicates disinterest or dissent.

Invite that person – tactfully – to discuss what’s on their mind, and see what the rest of the room thinks. Trainees are often on the company’s frontline and know when the training isn’t relevant or disingenuously brushes over hard-won knowledge. In this situation, the trainer is likewise being “trained” and must evince humility and skills in mediating the discussion.

By showing they care for people’s input, the training becomes a valuable two-way street.

Trainers should be mindful of learning and improving themselves, each and every session with individuals or groups. We can all continue to improve throughout our lives.

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.

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