How to be an effective trainer

Simon Kent looks at what
it takes to be a top trainer in today’s business world

In a function which is becoming
increasingly specialist, the trainer who aims for the top must decide precisely
what kind of top trainer to be. On the one hand, the ultimate job may be
director of global training and development for a blue-chip company.

On the other hand, your career
peak could be at the professional heights of any of a number of specific
functions which exist within large training departments and dedicated
consultancies.

These roles include the
assessment of training needs, the design and development of training solutions,
and the implementation and delivery of solutions. "Usually individuals
have skills or expertise in one or two of those areas," says John Aves,
chief executive of Forum Europe. "Facilitators obviously have great
communication skills and so on, but that doesn’t mean they perform well in
other parts of the training function."

Whichever of these aims appeal,
opinion is united that trainers will only be successful if they make a real
contribution to the strategic direction of their client or employer. An essential
checklist of things you need to do and to be aware of to be successful follows:

No trainer is an island

"Training cannot stand in
splendid isolation," says Martyn Sloman, training and development adviser
at the CIPD. "The function is inextricably linked to HR and HR is in turn
firmly linked with people management and performance as a business driver."

In some instances,
organisations have placed managers from other business functions at the top of
training departments in order to secure a direct link between training
activities and organisational strategy.

However, trainers can gain this
outlook for themselves: "An MBA enables managers to achieve the right
mindset for business," says Professor Malcolm Hicks of Henley Management
College. Hicks also highlights the MSc in HR development, a qualification which
is becoming increasingly common at business schools.

Nick Cotter, director of
consultancy Trans4mation, extends his interest in business matters beyond
academic achievement: "I’m a member of the CBI, the IOD and the
CIPD," he says. "These organisations focus on the nature of our
business ñ development has to be there to serve the end goal of making people
perform more effectively."

At the same time, Dave Andrews,
of Impact Training, regards academic achievement as simply a marker that the
individual is able to undertake that process. "It’s more important that
trainers have emotional intelligence and maturity," he says, "Success
is more to do with life experience than it is knowledge alone."

Are you credible?

While a business education may
boost your credibility among senior management colleagues, trust and respect in
other areas can only be won through first hand experience. "Subject matter
can be key to gaining credibility," says David Bebo, director of Marton
House training and development consultancy. "If you haven’t actually sold
anything, for example, you will find it very difficult to teach other people
how to sell."

"Top trainers have a lot
of personal credibility," agrees Paul Kearns of Personnel Works. "One
thing they have in common is that they’re not just theorists, they get up and
do things and make things happen."

The training function has
little room for gurus who pontificate on how to develop employees rather than
actually developing them. Even within a consultancy, successful trainers must
have a practical approach to each new challenge. "Good trainers need a
strong intellectual outlook together with the energy to apply that intellect to
create a real value adding solution," says Ralph Houston, managing
director of Fielden Cegos.

Come the revolution

There is no doubt that top
trainers need to understand the potential benefits of IT use in training. This
understanding must go beyond simply appreciating the new training platforms to
cover the formulation of a blended approach to learning.

"The rise in blended
solutions means that people who are good traditional trainers ñ good at face to
face programmes ñ need to take on board the e-learning challenge," says
Professor Hicks. "A successful, blended solution means understanding the
range of interventions you can make and the outcomes achievable through each
intervention."

"It is essential that
trainers understand the modern business environment and the way technology can
enhance training, knowledge management and performance support," agrees
Martyn Sloman.

Training departments are
already mastering a wide range of interventions ñ classroom teaching supported
by pre-attendance home study, online tuition and one-to-one support via e-mail.
It is only by understanding the full range of interventions that trainers will
successfully design a blended approach which delivers the most appropriate
support to employees at the most appropriate time.

Does your network work?

The success of some stand-up
trainers can be accounted for by virtue of their charismatic personality and
ability to network. Dave Andrews believes personality is very important since
an effective trainer needs to have an almost instant rapport with their
trainees.

Network-wise, careers are certainly
enhanced by knowing people of influence within the profession and spreading
knowledge of your own talent and success among other people. However,
networking also means having the best training solution providers at your
fingertips, ready and willing to work with you. "You cannot be a jack of
all trades," says Nick Cotter, "You can’t excel at both indoor and
outdoor training activities and everything else required by the training
department. Successful trainers build-up networks of skills and competencies,
so they can access the source of training best suited to their organisations’
needs."

Putting it together

"The top trainers of the
future are not necessarily good stand-up trainers," says Paul Kearns,
"They are business people who understand how organisations work. They’re
good managers, organisers and administrators and that needs a different
skillset from hands on training."

The top trainer of the future
should have:

l An academic qualification in a
business discipline.

l Hands-on experience of business
operations outside the training function.

l An up-to-date knowledge of current
thinking on training issues  from
classroom teaching techniques to e-learning technology. They may not need to
apply this knowledge directly, but they will need to know when such knowledge
is relevant.

l A significant network of colleagues
across the training profession. The network includes hands-on trainers and
dedicated analysts, who can be called upon to provide high-quality services
whenever required.

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