Face-to face training has to remain a vibrant and credible tool to be of any
real use to the audience. But is it getting the attention to detail it
deserves? Asks Margaret Kubicek
IT training manager, DLA
There are 150,000 professional trainers in the UK, but only one in 10 is
believed to have received any further soft skills training or development after
initial qualification, according to the latest figures from The Training
Foundation, an organisation providing skills development for training
For many organisations, it is still the norm to employ subject matter
experts to run courses. But training budgets are continuing to be squeezed, and
organisations are requiring evidence that their expenditure is paying dividends
in the workplace. We asked readers how organisations can assess and improve the
performance of their trainers.
After a course has taken place we don’t do ‘happy sheets’. We send questionnaires
out in the first week, do random phone calls to a number of people and floor
walk to visit participants at their desk. It is critical for assessments to be
done by people with knowledge of training and the importance of training within
the company context and ethos, rather than simply relying on ‘happy sheets’.
Until two years ago, when we were looking for new trainers, we would just
look at their technical skills. Now we have completely changed our approach:
the technical skills come second. The way we’re training our trainers is quite
radical. What we’re finding, in fact, is that the technical knowledge can be
taught more easily than the soft skills.
Director of corporate development, The Training Foundation
As organisations come under more stress, it is tempting to say, ‘we can’t
afford training, so we’ll get one of our experts to deliver it’. When you look
at what makes training effective, research in the US estimates that body
language contributes 55 per cent of effectiveness, and 35 per cent is to do
with voice and manner. The residue is down to content knowledge, yet this is
the area that receives the most scrutiny.
As an organisation, you need to decide what standard you are going to set
In the IT training world, the Institute of IT Training runs an accreditation
programme for internal training departments and external training providers.
The IT industry had to grasp this nettle first because it grew very rapidly,
but this is a trend that is rolling out into other sectors and rightly so.
Training and development manager, Centrica IS
We have dedicated trainers with extremely good communication and training
skills and we team them up with subject matter experts. They work together in
compiling material and designing the courses. When it comes to delivery, the
trainer has overall responsibility, but the subject matter expert is there to
back them up on the technical side and put across the business view.
Training manager, Claire’s Accessories
I have attended courses that illustrate, from a business perspective, how
dangerous it can be to use an external trainer who you haven’t had any trainer
performance feedback on from others, or without having previously viewed part
of their delivery. One in particular was on Excel, led by a typical ‘techie’
who knew his material. I was trying to learn the subject matter, but was
actually put off by his delivery.
Building rapport is a key soft skill because people buy into people first,
and the product second. So from the trainer’s perspective, if you don’t build a
bridge to them, you’ll never be able to bring them across.
Training and development consultant
Involve your trainers as much as you can in decisions about how the courses
are going to run, and encourage debate between managers and trainers. Involve
them in developing the course and rolling it out so they are not just delivery
agents. Have regular brainstorms about training tactics – better ways of
promoting yourself and raising your profile without raising the expectations of
the delegates too much, for example. These kinds of activities will keep
trainers motivated and encourage them to broaden their skills.
Head of education development, University of Central England
I believe the use of emotional intelligence by a trainer can transform a
session. Unfortunately, it is still a neglected part of the trainer’s
repertoire. The value of the trainer’s subject expertise and his skill in using
a range of methods can be lost if he doesn’t know how to create a positive
emotional climate and how to respond genuinely to a group. I’ve been a
participant on courses which were a disaster despite the presenter’s
unquestionable expertise, because they were not emotionally literate. I am
convinced that this use of emotional intelligence can be learned.
What do you think? If you have an opinion on face-to-face training, write to
the editor. Or if you have a topic you’d like to have discussed on our Talking
Points page, let us know in no more than 50 words. Write to Stephanie Sparrow,
Editor, Training Magazine, by e-mail: stephanie. firstname.lastname@example.org