Train the trainer systems in the workplace

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This website is dedicated to vocational trainers and consultants designing and delivering workplace workplace induction and on-the-job training.


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The purpose of this train the trainer site

The intention of this website is to present uncomplicated resources and guidelines to trainers and consultants who are designing and delivering workplace inductions and on-the-job training.

We believe that workplace training need not be a complicated process.  Of course, it is human nature to complicate matters into an unholy and incomprehensible mess.  A symptom of this over complication of what should remain straightforward is when students have to attend specialised training in order to understand the terms used in the training.


The good the bad and the ugly in workplace training

When we say that the training needs to remain uncomplicated, we do not infer that it is acceptable for it to be incomplete and lacking. 

Effective train the trainer guidelines must:

  • Be free of jargon, acronyms and ambiguous confusing terminology.  If your students have to undergo instruction in order to understand the terminology you use in your course--you have clearly lost the plot.  Avoid clichés, obscure acronyms, and politically correct terminology.  Be honest with your learners and treat them as intelligent adults.
  • Offer clear and unequivocal guidelines about all the logical aspects of training-- from the beginning, the middle and the end of the learning session.
  • Provide the trainer clear and measurable techniques and strategies on how to assess the trainees and how to conduct remedial training.
  • Be stable and reliable.  The constant dismantling and reinventing of training guidelines is not a sign of "continuous improvement", rather it is a sign of confusion, poor research and lack of competence on the part of the designers.
  • Must be complete right from the outset.  A clear sign of an incomplete and poorly researched training programs is when the designers of the training are constantly piling up new (after thought) material on top of the released curriculum.  This unhealthy "piling up" creates a mayhem of confusion, further weakening the already unstable learning material.  

    Labelling the after thoughts new impressive names will not mask the real reason behind the "rewrite". 

    Launching a poorly researched and incomplete training program  ...
    • Causes unnecessary waste of vast resources and time.
    • Creates an atmosphere of confusion and frustration with trainers and their students
    • Creates an atmosphere of mistrust and lack of confidence in the training programs and their creators.


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Are you starting a new train the trainer program for your industry or organization?

When starting a new instructor training program for any industry or organization, remember the following important guidelines:

  • Typically the closer you get to the top of the organization, the less likely you are to find people who are actually aware of and knowledgeable about the practical aspects and needs of the organization or industry.  Administrators, executives and "industry experts" seldom deal with every day challenges in the workplace.  With a few exceptions, executives and "industry leaders " are totally focused on the profitability of their business, leaving the daily running to their subordinates and staff. 

    Be mindful that being focused on profit-making may also cause "industry leaders" to "overlook" certain aspects in the workplace--aspects that are important to the workers, but not so with the executives.

    With this in mind, when planning the curriculum for your train the trainer program, be sure to first interview the staff who actually perform the tasks that will be covered in the curriculum.  This is where you are likely to obtain ideas for all your "must know" information--the critical skills that all your learners must be able to perform.  Make sure to interview every person directly involved in that particular task.  If it is not possible for you to interview everyone, arrange for a questionnaire or for a "suggestion box".  If possible, arrange for a "reward" or a "prize" for those who provide the most valuable input.

    Once you have interviewed the people who are directly involved in performing the task, interview other people who are indirectly involved in the task.  For example, interviewing the cleaning staff of an engineering firm involved in welding, will provide you with extensive information about the waste, and also the hazards that are often inadvertently created by poorly trained welders.

    The next step is to interview the supervisors.  Be aware that supervisors are more likely to be guarded about their contributions, indeed the higher you move through the chain of command the more fluff you are likely to gather.

    The next step is to expand your research into the particular task you will be teaching and move to other organizations local, national and international.   You will find that trainers (especially professional trainers) are likely to be sympathetic and helpful.  Provided you are honest with them and provided you are willing to share your information with them, they will help you.  Of course there is a limit to the amount of information that can be shared for both commercial and legal reasons, so do not ask questions that you know are going to result in a firm refusal.   Networking with other trainers in your industry across the world is now easy.  Establish a Twitter account and follow training leaders, read their blogs and make yourself known to them.   Provided you do not threaten their market, and provided you have something to offer in return, you will create a healthy network of information.

    AND FINALLY consult with the "industry experts".  This is where you are likely to gather the maximum amount of fluff.  However, for obvious reasons, unless you address the needs of the "industry experts and leaders" all your efforts will be in vain.  The executives of the organization will be funding the training and unless the training includes their requirements it will not see the light of day.

    "Industry leaders and experts" are interested in making profit.  If you can demonstrate to them that a better trained workforce will produce more, and earn more money for them, as well as preventing  "down time" and costly accidents, they will support your train the trainer course. 

    Once you have gathered all the must know, could know and should know information you need about the task or series of tasks that you must include in your instructor training program, you are ready to begin writing your train the trainer course.

Have you been asked to "fix" a train the trainer program in your organization or industry?
  • Before taking on the job of "repairing" a poorly structured training program for your client or for your industry or organization, you must ask yourself these questions.  "Am I willing to do what it takes?"  "Am I willing to create enemies?".  "Am I capable of making unpleasant decisions?"

    From personal experience, when an industry leader hires a consultant or hires new staff to "repair" any aspect of their organization, they usually do so because they are under duress.  Business managers dislike allocating money to "unproductive" tasks.  Until recently even occupational safety issues were seen as being "unproductive".  Due to governments legislation, prosecutions and insurance requirements, the concept of occupational safety has now become the "norm" in developed countries. 

    So, whether you are a consultant quoting for a tender, or a trainer / assessor / auditor applying for a  "fix it" job, make sure you have the emotional stamina and the courage to deal with the likely outcomes of your engagement.   Correcting the errors of other people requires a strong personality and a firm commitment to a satisfactory outcome.  So if you cry easily and have the personality of Mary Poppins, I strongly suggest you do not apply for such jobs.

Once you are 100% clear about what is required, and you have your terms of reference in writing (we will discuss about this in a later chapter) you will be performing a similar fact finding exercise as described above.  However, in this instance you will be asking only two questions.

  1. What works
  2. What does not work

Even in the worst possible training system, you are likely to find components that are actually workable and efficient and logical.  The "floor" staff of your industry are the only real "experts" at this point.   They know "what works" because they are directly affected by the results of the training.

A word of caution here.  Unless you structure your fact finding carefully, and unless you confine the questions to "What works" first and then "What does not work", you are likely to waste vast resources and time during this process.   This is because many employees will leap at the opportunity to lament and complain about their working conditions, supervisors, trainers etc.

So make it perfectly clear that you are there to gather information about the training they have received and to outline what works and what does not work.

The next step is a rather harsh one, but it is one that must take place.  Behind faulty training programs, there you find less than competent or lazy trainers, developers and designers.  

These people must be identified and removed from the training environment   Modern employment strategies allow for staff to be retrained or relocated to different and more suitable departments. 

If this step is not an option because of legal or workplace regulation pressures, then it is best for the entire training department to be shut down and for the training to be conducted by an outside contractor. 

Attempting to remedy a training system (indeed any faulty aspect of an industry) without the removal of undesirables and the hiring of competent and enthusiastic staff will result in failure. 

During your gathering of evidence about what works and what does not work, you will discover many enthusiastic, competent staff members who have been overlooked for promotion.  During your effort to build the training team, make the promotion and retraining of enthusiastic and competent existing staff a priority.  


What is to come in the next train the trainer chapter

In the next chapter we will deal with PREPARATION.  The topic of PREPARATION in a training program can be compared to the laying of the foundations of a building.  If the foundations are weak and unstable, even the finest building will collapse in a heap at the least challenge.

Copyrights A. Wilon - 2013.  No part of this website may be reproduced without my written permission.



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