Cover Image
close this bookDesigning Human Settlements Training in African Countries - Volume 2: Trainer's Tool Kit (HABITAT, 1994, 182 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe lecture
View the documentVisual aids
View the documentQuestion and answer
View the documentDiscussion
View the documentDemonstration
View the documentSimulation
View the documentThe case method
View the documentCritical incidents
View the documentRole-playing
View the documentInstrumentation
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentNominal group technique (NGT)
View the documentForce field analysis
View the documentAction planning
View the documentOther learning transfer strategies
View the documentPerformance analysis & needs assessment
View the documentTraining impact evaluation
View the documentTraining the staff to train
View the documentCoaching
View the documentTeam development
View the documentRole negotiation
View the documentIntergroup conflict intervention
View the documentOrganizational goal setting
View the documentA closing note

Training the staff to train

Learning Emphasis




Organization Focus




Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself

- Chinese Proverb

There is no debating the importance of training as management’s most essential strategy for preparing people to perform and keep performing competently. For many decades, training has been regarded as basic to continued organizational success. It is used to develop new skills, update obsolescent skills, and serve as a remedy for knowledge or skill-related performance deficiencies on the job.

But who carries out this vital function? In this age of work specialization, most managers would argue that training should be done by trainers. Trainers, they contend, should train just like managers should manage, planners should plan and engineers should, well, do whatever engineers are supposed to do.

While training is a highly specialized activity, this fact should not lead anyone to conclude that training is the exclusive domain of the training professional. Quite the contrary. Within every organization there are individuals who could be assigned training responsibilities and trained to carry them out competently.

There are a number of practical reasons for the assignment of selected training functions to managers or subject-matter experts than to people hired for their training expertise.

· In many cases it is easier, less time-consuming and more economical to train subject-matter experts to train than to provide internal or external trainers with the necessary subject-matter expertise.

· Trainers with subject-matter expertise and experience as organizational insiders tend to have greater credibility as instructors than trainers with experience only in training technology.

· Managers and others with hands-on training responsibilities are more likely to support the training function financially and in other ways than managers who do not participate in training activities.

· Managers and supervisors who advocate new behaviours and work practices as trainers are far more likely to support on-the-job application of new behaviours and work practices by their employees.

There are several questions to answer when considering the regular involvement of managers and other non-trainer personnel in the training function:

1. What training functions and responsibilities do we want to shift to non-trainer personnel?

2. What do people without training backgrounds and experience need to know to perform competently?

3. What attributes or capabilities should we look for when selecting managers and subject-matter experts for trainer responsibilities?

4. What is the most cost-effective way to assist non-trainer personnel in acquiring the necessary trainer skills?

A TRAINING ROLE FOR NON-TRAINERS

What is the most effective way to use non-trainers to expand the capabilities of your organization’s training unit? Before answering that question, lets take a minute to examine what trainers do for their organizations. A short list of functions might include such things as:

· conduct needs analyses,
· design programmes,
· develop training materials,
· make presentations,
· create learning environments, and
· evaluate programme effectiveness.

Although a non-trainer could be trained to perform any of these functions, it makes more organizational sense to use non-trainers in areas of training which can take advantage of their specialized knowledge and skills. A finance manager, for, example, might be recruited to develop and teach a course on some new method of budgeting being considered by the organization. As a result of planning the course, the manager becomes more knowledgeable about the new method. In the process of teaching the course, the manager becomes an advocate for the new method and becomes committed to its prompt and effective implementation by the organization.

If managers and subject-matter experts are doing most of the training, what happens to the training department? Have no fear. The training department would not disappear. However, its character and activities would change. The training department would become a key source of expertise for helping managers do the training. For example, a regular staff trainer would coach the manager in the learning process, presentation methods, how to choose an appropriate mix of training techniques, and lesson-plan development. No doubt the staff trainer would supervise and monitor some of the manager’s training sessions and provide feedback on opportunities for future improvement. In other words, the trainer would become a consultant to the manager:

WHICH NON-TRAINERS TO USE

Which managers or employees of an organization should be chosen for trainer roles? While no guarantee of successful performance, there are some qualities that are generally accepted by training and development authorities as valid predictors of success in the trainer role. Below are some characteristics to watch for when considering staff members for trainer assignments.

1. They should be good listeners. When they are listening, they should be attentive to both the content of what is being said and the feelings of people who are speaking. To find out if they are, check the ability of trainer candidates to listen for facts and ideas by asking them to recall something you recently discussed with them. In particular, pay attention to how well they pick up on ambiguous or contradictory ideas. Do they ask questions about them or do they just pretend they have understood. Watch their body language - attentiveness? show of interest? good eye-contact?

2. They should be able to deal constructively with disagreement. In a training session, trainers often face direct or subtle differences in opinion about theories, policies, and procedures. They must be able to respond with interest and a desire to learn more rather than with insensitivity or defensiveness. Think of a potentially disruptive situation that might arise in a training session. Ask trainer candidates how they would handle it. How do they respond? Are they likely to become defensive or combative when faced with differences? Or might they seek first to understand the basis for the differences and, then, patiently encourage the open-minded consideration of new ideas?

3. They should be ready to change their minds. According to one authority, the mental flexibility needed to be an effective trainer lies somewhere between lack of conviction and bullheadedness. What it boils down to for trainers is this: Does new evidence produce a change of mind or is it dismissed when it runs counter to old habits and conventional ways of thinking? Find some new theory or work practice that is supported by ample evidence and ask the trainer candidate to respond to its implications for local use. Pay attention to the response. Keep in mind that, lacking mental flexibility, trainers can’t grow, and they will have great difficulty promoting growth in others.

4. They should be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Good trainers must be able to ask questions. They do this to find out what people already know, how they feel about what is going on, and how well they have assimilated new information. At the selection stage, the primary interest is how comfortable the candidate is in asking questions, a lot of questions. Later, skills can be developed in using open, directive and reflective types of questions. By raising a subject the candidate knows little about, you can stimulate the candidate’s urge, or lack of urge, to ask questions. Again, the focus should be on the volume of questions and the candidates comfort with asking them.

5. They should be able to express themselves effectively. Being able to communicate ideas and information orally is critically important to the success of any trainer. But being a good oral communicator does not depend on having a big vocabulary or impeccable grammar. It does depend on choosing words and phrases that get the message across in the trainees’ own language so clearly the trainee cannot fail to understand. Good trainers do not try to talk people into things or out of things. Rather, they try to get people to think about things and how these things might be applied in their own work situations. To find out how good a communicator a trainer candidate is, ask the candidate to explain something. Evaluate what the candidate says for clarity of meaning and its potential for motivating others to thought and action.

6. They should have experience giving positive reinforcement. Effective trainers give positive reinforcement to trainees as the trainees progress toward their learning goals. They offer acknowledgment and reward for those things that exhibit comprehension or ways of applying new learning. Look for evidence that a training candidate uses positive reinforcement in non-training functions. A training candidate that does this in non-training situations can be shown easily how to transfer this valuable management skill into trainer performance.

TRAPS TO AVOID

On the other hand, selecting the right non-trainers for organizational training roles can be a perilous task. According to Dugan Laird, an authority on training and development, there are a number of traps to avoid. One of these is the good-worker trap. This is the tendency to select people for trainer roles who have distinguished themselves in other assigned tasks. While subject matter expertise is important, it is no guarantee in itself that the individual who possesses it can teach it to someone else. As Laird warns us, “organizations that fall into the good-worker trap may lose a good worker and gain a bad trainer.”

Two other traps mentioned by Laird are worth mentioning. One of these is the wants out - not in candidate. This means that some managers or subject matter experts may volunteer for trainer roles because they are bored with their current assignments and see training as an exciting escape. Unfortunately, their enthusiasm for training is often short-lived; they are likely to tire of the trainer role when the novelty wears off and may spend their time looking for a way out.

A third trap identified by Laird is the personality trap. This means looking for people with “good personalities,” whatever that means, to be trainers. There are two problems associated with this trap. First, personality traits are difficult to identify in other people. Even more important, personality traits lack job relevance. It is far more productive for training directors to spend their time looking for evidence of demonstrated skill; that is, seeking trainer candidates who behave in ways that suggest they have the skills needed for successful trainer performance (Laird, 1978).

HOW TO GET THEM TRAINED

The training of non-trainers to train can be one of the most important responsibilities of the training unit in an organization committed to the diversification of training. Before deciding how to obtain the necessary training required for competent trainer performance, the training unit should establish clearly what competencies it wants its trainers to possess. Assuming the focus of training for managers and subject-matter experts is programme design and instruction, a typical list of competencies, like the ones developed by Anthony J. DiPaolo and Amos C. Patterson, might include being able to:

· Understand how adults learn and properly apply the principles of learning in training situations,

· Apply methods to systematically identify and analyse training and performance problems at a basic level,

· Organize instruction and direct the trainee so that effective and efficient learning occurs,

· Use a range of resources and media during training presentations,

· Apply appropriate motivational techniques to attract and hold trainee attention,

· Use a variety of instructional methodologies, techniques, and strategies appropriate for trainees,

· Apply correct speaking and listening skills in a training setting, and

· Employ evaluation techniques to assess trainee achievement and to judge performance as a trainer. (DiPaolo and Patterson, 1983).

Managers and subject-matter experts with these or similar skills and the other qualities described previously should be able to design and direct training programmes leading to improved employee performance. With training objectives clearly in mind, the next question facing the training unit is how to equip their otherwise qualified trainers with these vital trainer skills. The alternatives include sending them away to be trained, bringing professional trainers on-site to train them, or a combination of the two. The combination approach we have in mind has these features:

1. After careful investigation, choose an off-site, train-the-trainer programme that meets the organization’s budget and learning (training objectives) requirements and send several members of the full-time training staff to the programme.

2. If no programme can be found that meets the organization’s requirements, employ a professional training consultant with good credentials and appropriate experience to design a train-the-trainer programme that does meet its requirements.

3. Arrange for the consultant and one or two members of the full-time training-unit staff to work as co-trainers to deliver the training. Schedule the training to accommodate as many of the managers and subject-matter experts to be trained as possible.

Change is never easy. Moving increased training responsibility into the hands of managers and subject-matter experts will require adjustments for everyone concerned. Busy managers may resent being asked to take on added responsibilities even though they are already accountable for the development of people under their supervision. Trainers may feel threatened by managers and others as intruders in their territory. On the other hand, there are benefits for both sides in joining forces to improve the relevance and job application of training and, in so doing, raise the credibility of training in the eyes of budget-conscious executives.

Notes

DiPaolo, Anthony J. and Patterson, Amos C. “Selecting a training program for new trainers,” Training and Development Journal, January 1983.

Laird, Dugan, Approaches to Training and Development (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1978).

Guidelines for Selecting Managers and Employees for Trainer Roles

Clearly, there are many people within any organization who have the potential to be in-house trainers. Many employees already have all the characteristics needed for success. Others could be successful as trainers with appropriate development and coaching. In both cases, the employees selected would, in addition to possessing the right abilities, have to be interested in a trainer assignment and be available to carry out periodic trainer assignments without sacrifice to other duties and responsibilities.

Managers who are interested in expanding the training potentiality of their organizations while reducing costly reliance on outside training institutions might proceed in the following way.

Step 1: Find people with potential

The checklist on the next page is an instrument for use in narrowing a list of candidates for trainer roles. It is to be used by an external training facilitator and the official responsible for making final trainer selections for the organization. The checklist is to be completed during a conversation with each trainer candidate to help the selection officials make proper selection decisions. The discussion that accompanies this tool provides more detail of what to look for when discussing the trainer role with various candidates.

Step 2: Determine their interest and training needs

Ask each of the candidates who fared well during the conversation step to read this volume. Suggest that they make notes on things covered in the volume that they would like to discuss or have discussed in greater depth. Ask them to make a list of subjects on which they would like to receive formal training and why they selected these subjects. We believe that the candidates who complete the reading and make some effort to complete the other tasks are further demonstrating their interest in becoming trainers.

Step 3: Discuss next step

Arrange a meeting of all the candidates. Lead a discussion based on the reading and their developmental needs of those present. Plan a phased program of trainer development based on this discussion.

Checklist for Selecting Non-Trainers For Trainer Roles

Complete this questionnaire on each candidate for an in-house trainer role as you carry out a conversation with the candidate about training and the trainers role. Make use of the detailed information in the preceding material on the six important trainer qualities to decide on an appropriate rating for each quality. The ratings range from “very well” for candidates who are highly proficient on a certain quality to “very poorly” for candidates who appear to have little proficiency.

1. Listens for content and for feelings


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Very poorly

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Very well

2. Handles disagreements


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Very poorly

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Very well

3. Accepts new ideas for consideration


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Very poorly

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Very well

4. Asks questions


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Very poorly

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Very well

5. Informs and explains


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Very poorly

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Very well

6. Gives feedback


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Very poorly

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Very well