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Covering for another trainer

April 9, 2008

Occasionally a trainer will be asked to fill in for another trainer during a short period of absence. Usually there is not enough time to effect any major changes and any effort to do so will be wasted on the student adapting to the new strategies. The key to success is to follow the lead of the primary trainer as near as possible whilst still applying the benefit of your differing strengths and perspectives.

Taking over

There are only a few minor differences from taking over temporarily to moving in permanently. You will still need to take the lead but in this case make it less intrusive and consider yourself more as a guest of the relationship than as a resident. The student will only be under your tutelage briefly and your goal is to get the best results in that period with the least damage.

  • Review: Review the training plan and the most recent training reports, including pre-brief and debrief notes. At the very least, look at the last three to identify what the most recent objectives were, what goals have been achieved and what remedial activities have been prescribed. It is easy to focus on the student’s weaknesses or failures but remember that their successes were built on their strengths. You will have a better chance at achievement by leveraging these to combat the shortcomings.
  • Coordinate: Quite often the primary trainer will be unavailable for a face-to-face meeting so this may not be an option. This is a compelling reason to complete training administration promptly and use the SCORE card or similar system. Hopefully, the primary trainer has such a system in place and you can refer to this for some additional information on the student’s current progress. I expect that in most cases this will not be the case – Which means is that you may need to combine this step with the student meeting to gain their input on the current strategies being used. This is not ideal as they are not ‘experts’ in this realm and may be ‘to close’ to the situation to provide an accurate assessment.
  • Communicate: Meet with the student prior to training (prior to the pre-brief if possible) to discuss the training and your plan for the period you will be covering. Reassure the student that you are not about to start changing the goal posts and at most, you will offer a different perspective for them to consider. You will be continuing with the plan that the primary trainer has established and there will be very little disruption from your usual regime.

During training

Your purpose during training is to cover for the primary trainer, not fix up their training. There will be things that you wouldn’t have done in the same circumstances but as long as it doesn’t contradict the training purpose, you should endeavour to assist the student without passing judgement on the training itself. This will be difficult but remember, if you criticise the trainer, their efforts or the student’s application of their advice, it will play badly for you. You will lose what relationship you have with the student, cause friction between their existing relationship with the primary trainer and potentially effect your credibility amongst the training team.

Standardisation issues are not for you and the student to debate. Take it up with the primary trainer and allow them to address the issue with the student afterward. If there is an issue that must be resolved, point out the correct way, the appropriate reference and leave it at that (ie no snide or deriding comments). If there is no reference, then who says what they are doing is wrong – arguments degrade training effectiveness 100% of the time.

After training

Document, document, document. Assume that you will not be be available to meet with the primary trainer to conduct a hand over and complete the SCORE card. Hand over all of your notes; pre-brief, debrief and those taken during training. You will also need to complete a training report for the training period, regardless of the length of your tenure. Even if it was only 30 minutes of training, all training must be accounted for.


Although you may be the substitute teacher during the training and less is riding on your performance, the student’s still matters.  The disruption will affect their performance and they may be ‘stand-offish’.  Poor handling of the situation will actually degrade you efforts and retard their progress. It is not uncommon for the primary trainer to have to recover some ground lost on their return. As a stand in trainer, focus on the objectives and remember, this is not about you.

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