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Blame the trainer

April 14, 2010

It is time to shift our gaze from the student and onto the person(s) directly responsible for the delivery of the training program. I’m focussing on the trainer, but this could equally apply to anybody who had a role a play in the student’s induction into the workplace. Again, this is not an occasion to simply highlight the trainer’s shortcomings (again some of these will be through no fault of their own). This is your opportunity to provide feedback, development and improve the likelihood of achieving success the next time around.

Again there are six areas to look at.

Training: Sure, some trainers have a natural flair for passing on information or stepping the uninitiated through the machinations of the workplace, but when it comes to actually training some one properly, there a few skills that turn the amateur into a professional. Most of us know the basics of adult learning  (we are adults ourselves and we learn stuff every day right), but its when things get a little more difficult that you need a few extra skills or ‘tips of the trade’ to turn failure into success. Additionally, we want all of our training to be effective, efficient, consistent and in harmony with the workplace.

ASK: What training do they have? Have they been briefed in local administrative procedures? Have they attended any refresher training? Do they follow contemporary trends (blogs, periodicals, magazines, recent books etc) or are their methods outdated? Do they seek additional opportunities to improve their skills? Have they trained other trainers?

Experience: You may be tempted to immediately opt for the most experienced person when it comes to mentoring. Although this is generally true, experts can forget what it was like to be under training and often don’t understand how difficult it is to complete relatively simple tasks without a solid foundation of other related skills. Don’t get me wrong, experience in training is as equally important as experience in the workplace and it takes time for trainers to learn how to balance ‘letting go of’ with ‘holding onto’ the the student’s leash. Don’t just consider time in the seat. Consider also the types of students they have had, the specific challenges they have faced and their outcomes.

ASK: How long has the trainer been mentoring? What was their success rate? Have they dealt with previous failures or struggling students in the past? How long has the trainer been in their current role? Do they have other OJT or classroom experience? Have they been assessors or developed the workplace standards for the organisation? Do they have a wider background and fulfilled different roles in the organisation or are they limited to this one solely? How long since they have attended any training of their own and felt the pressure of an impending assessment?

Practices: Training is more than just what we know. The whole purpose of this blog is to inform trainers that what we do during the training is just as important. Training will extend beyond the actual sessions and weigh on the student’s mind well into their home life. It is also much more than just show and tell. How they correct the student, report their progress and offer remedial advice can be more influential than the actual information being passed.

ASK: Did the trainer give adequate instruction, demonstration and feedback? Did they record training efforts and activities under taken? Did they report regularly? Did they pre-brief and debrief? Did they offer remedial action? Did they try to learn what the student responded positively / negatively? If so, did they adjust their technique? Were they consistent? Did they plan? If so, was the plan adjusted with student progress?

Skill: It goes without saying that the trainer must know the area that they are teaching, but to what level? Is basic competency sufficient? Should the trainer also complete a qualifying period to ensure that they have a solid grounding in the ‘real’ conditions? The reputation of the trainer and their ‘perceived’ expertise is critical if they are to command some respect from the student. We also need to continually practice our moves to keep them sharp. Not only that, jobs evolve with new equipment, standards and practices. Trainers must keep up with the latest trends and challenges to teach the avoid teaching outdated methods.

ASK: How long has the trainer been competent in the area being taught? Are they experts or high performers that have some additional tricks of the trade to pass on? Are they respected or sought after as a trainer? What about co-workers and supervisors, do they share they same enthusiasm and respect for them? Does your process of assigning trainers involve a higher standard in the area being taught? Have they worked in the role recently and even if so, was it enough to keep themselves at the ‘expert’ end of the competent scale? Do they adapt to new challenges readily and are they themselves ‘proven learners’?

Personality: It happens far more often than we like to admit – some people rub us the wrong way. As a trainer, we need to adjust our stance to suit the student and the task at hand. Additionally, we must pay attention to details and be rigorously disciplined with our approach to training. We must also be steadfast in workplace standards, but flexible enough to be open to suggestions. Confident in our knowledge in ability, but humble enough to accept that we too have something to learn during the training process.

Ask: Is the trainer flexible, empathetic and have a open view on the various socially accepted diversity aspects (religion, culture, relationship status etc)? Do they accept feed-back? Do they act on it? Can they respond to the student’s needs and balance that with the needs of the organisation? Do they strive to be better mentors? Are they nice? Open? Reliable? Honest? Do they have a sense of humour? Do they come across as confident, but not arrogant? Flexible, but not pushovers? Tough, but compassionate?

Communication: As the arbiters of what constitutes success or failure during training, the student will learn to adjust their own actions based on the feedback and advice that we give them. As such, it is critical that we give them clear, relevant and reliable information. Students will become confused if our feedback is inconsistent or irregular. Likewise, sugar coating poor performance won’t protect them, it will leave them more vulnerable. Focussing on one aspect of the training or only on the shortcomings can give them a false impression of their own overall performance. The student’s greatest challenge at this stage is accurately self assessing their own performance and this skill can only be learned when the trainer does likewise.

ASK: Was the feed back given specific? Was it regular? Was it accurate with performance indicators, not just general ‘lift your game’ pep talks? Were the daily / weekly reports consistent with the student’s progressive evaluations? Were the shortcomings identified in the assessment consistent with those highlighted during training? Was the balance of positive feedback and remedial advice in reporting consistent with the student’s performance or too positive/negative? Was the student aware of their own shortcomings? Did they think that they had the advice/opportunity to succeed?

Once again, we are only looking a single part of the equation when it comes to solving why our training plan was unsuccessful. In the next post, I’ll discuss the training environment and the elements that will affect the outcome of your training program.

Download my free e-book: “IMPROVING YOUR TRAINING FROM WITHIN” Using the ‘hot wash’ to refine your training program.

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