Train the Trainer – What is It and Why Does It Matter?

Many times, I’ve seen a situation where someone is skilled at something and is therefore deemed the appropriate person to teach others about it. This ideology is flawed because doing a certain thing is very different than explaining how to do said thing. Teaching is a different skillset than doing. I’ve seen the effects of this mentality many times in my Train the Trainer courses. A student-instructor chooses a topic they are very familiar with to be their practice session topic. It seems like a great idea until they find themselves standing speechless in front of their peers. They suddenly realize, I know how to USE a micrometer, but how do I EXPLAIN the workings of one?

You may have heard the phrase, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”. This is an inappropriate mentality as well. The phrase implies an uninformed or unskilled person should resort to teaching rather than doing. To be an effective training instructor, a thorough knowledge of the subject matter is essential. Adult learners will not give their valuable time to someone telling them they know nothing of the subject matter.

The effective training instructor will have BOTH the knowledge of the subject matter, AND the ability to teach/train. Effective training is so much more than simply reading the words from a PowerPoint to a crowd of captives. When we’re training, we are accountable for the outcome of the training session. We’re engaged with the students. We’re performing a balancing act of knowledge transfer, handling student questions, checking for understanding, managing time and so much more. That’s why it’s critical that our instructors have been trained on how to train.

The 2017 Training Industry Report from states that businesses in the United States spent $90.6 billion on training in 2017. 42% of that training was delivered by a face-to-face training instructor. 13% of companies surveyed said training instructors delivered all or most of their training for the year.

Businesses are investing a significant amount of money into training their workforce. It should then make sense that businesses want to see a return on their investment. The competency of outsourced trainers can be measured and poor performers should be managed accordingly. Many companies are relying on in-house training and therefore need to ensure their trainers are competent.

I recently provided a week-long training course to skilled laborers in an industrial facility. After day three, some students remarked that they were very pleased with my training techniques and it was a welcome contrast to the prior week’s training. They told me a vendor had sent “one of their engineers” to provide training on a piece of equipment. The “trainer” sat at a table and read the technical manual aloud for three days. I then understood why the students seemed so weary of more training when I arrived. Who wouldn’t be weary after an experience like that?

What is Train the Trainer?

A traditional train the trainer model is basically having a subject matter expert teach others both the subject, and how to teach the subject. Rather than simply teaching someone how to throw a curveball, the model suggests we teach someone how to teach others to throw the curve. The idea being that it’s more engaging, increases learner satisfaction, and improves the learning process. The student then becomes the instructor and teaches others similarly in a sort of top-down fashion.

The Planet Speaking℠ take on train the trainer is slightly different. We’re not as concerned with the actual subject matter as we are the training process. Bring any subject you need to teach, that part isn’t as important as the mechanics of being an effective instructor. For us, it’s all about how to get, and keep, the student engaged with the learning process. The advantage of our process over the traditional model is that a talented instructor, who’s attended train the trainer, can then teach any subject in an effective manner. Enter the professional training instructor.

Our process follows our Three C’s of the Effective Training Instructor:

  • Credibility
    • How to establish and maintain credibility
  • Content
    • How to create, and present effective training material
  • Classroom
    • How to manage the classroom environment

Planet Speaking℠ articles are meant to break the training fundamentals down into digestible chunks. One can pick and choose the topics where they feel there is room for improvement. The website was launched in August of 2018 as a means of sharing information as it’s developed rather than waiting for a completed workbook to be produced. Material is continuously being added. While the information is all relevant and valuable, the process requires application. The most valuable part of the Train the Trainer program is the teaching and feedback sessions that happen between the learner and our facilitator. Without this, the “curve ball” doesn’t actually get thrown. We will change the old phrase to make it more appropriate. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can do AND teach, train.”

Feel free to subscribe and offer your feedback as new articles are shared. Become a citizen of Planet Speaking℠.  Eventually, we will take the “best of” articles and compile them together to create a stand-alone workbook. We will be looking for reader stories and insight to be part of the final product. Until then, enjoy the process. May your laser pointer be always blessed with fresh batteries.


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