Should I Train the Trainer for my training needs?

Devorah (she~her) Allen-Solorio, MBA, CPLP

That’s a great question! Training employees from day one is an important way to integrate them into not only their jobs, but the organization as a whole. Knowing whether it is a good idea to train someone internally to handle this needs some reflection.

One question is, what will employees be trained on? Well, most companies start with Onboarding (previously called Orientation). Today, Onboarding can last from one day to up to two weeks, depending on their level in the organization and the level to which you want them fully integrated into the life of the company. Will the internal person be able to onboard the new employee in a way that will create an excitement in the new-hire to stay and grow? Will they be a dedicated resource that will not have to set aside normal duties to spend several days doing the Onboarding?

Then you have job-specific training, compliance training and then (hopefully and very importantly) soft-skills and development training. Will the internal trainer be qualified to train on job-specific knowledge or skills? Will the internal trainer know the laws and regulations necessary for compliance in your industry? Finally, would your internal trainer know how to motivate adults? Command a room? Handle difficult participants? Impart the knowledge in a way that the participants will accept and even champion when they leave the room?

These are not academic questions. In asking someone to be a trainer, you are asking them to understand what motivates adults, how to engage them, to confidently stand up in front of a group of their peers and impart knowledge and passion. You don’t just want training, either. You want results! These are all skills that belong to a group of people that spend years learning them. Training people is as much art as it is the ability to create and hand out job aids.

So, it sounds like you are saying I should not do Train the Trainer.

Well, that depends. Train the Trainer can be a good option for a limited amount of training.

Train the Trainer can be a good option, for instance, for training Rules and Regulations (such as how to prevent bank fraud), Safety Culture and Procedures and on Prevention of Sexual Harassment (all compliance-related). Not to say that these are easy – they still require time and mentoring to learn and be able to convey in a manner that participants will accept – but it can be an option.

They can also impart limited job skills and knowledge (based on their own experience). We usually call these folks Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). They do not formally hold the role of trainer, but can be trained to impart their own job knowledge in a way that others can understand. I would spend at least a day or two training SMEs in adult learning theory and allow them to practice until they get the feel for it. Not all SMEs can be good trainers, although there are some out there that can be.

The more difficult training, which I personally do not recommend for Train the Trainer, is for soft-skills and personal development. This requires not only an intimate knowledge on material and course content that most people do not already know if they haven’t trained for it, but also an understanding of adult learning theory. A second reason is that an internal person, known as they are as a fallible human being from co-workers and management alike, is not likely to receive the support and acceptance as an expert worthy to speak on many topics. They are, in a sense, under a microscope and, as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt.

This may be an unfair judgement, to be sure, depending on the trainer. However in my own experience, participants are rarely forgiving to a fellow employee when they are asked to step into a role as expert trainer. In addition, a trainer should have experience in and the ability to create course content (for e-learning and/or for in-person training) that will yield a desired outcome, and even some experience as a consultant – having to navigate silos, inter-department collaboration issues and in navigating the world of HR and upper management.

What should we do then? If your budget allows, hire someone with experience in training, learning and development or talent development to fill the role of internal trainer. This person should have at least 2-3 years of experience in training others, and preferably, some type of certification. The Association of Talent Development has a few options. They offer the APTD – the Associate Professional in Talent Development. This is for those with 3 years of experience in the field or two years plus college or plus other ATD certifications. Then you have the CPLP – Certified Professional in Learning and Performance now being renamed CPTD – Certified Professional in Talent Development. This certification is for those with at least five years of experience and much broader knowledge in the field of human capabilities and much broader scope of knowledge in the talent development field.

Well, what if I don’t have the budget to spend $50,000-$100,000 to hire a training professional?

No problem! Then another good option is to hire an outside training consultant. There are many great consultants out there that are CPLP or CPTD certified or have a masters in teaching or training adults. Consultants generally become consultants because they are already experts in their field and want to work for themselves. Consultants will typically work with your HR team to find out what learning outcomes are needed and then work backwards to create course content specific to your company’s needs. Consultants also have prepared training on a host of subjects such as Teamwork, Communication, Problem Solving, Project Management, Leadership, Management, Customer Service, Leadership for Women, Diversity & Inclusion, Prevention of Sexual Harassment and a wide variety of other courses.

Can I afford an outside consultant? YES!

Many consultants will charge by the hour or a day rate and cover large areas (such as I cover California, Arizona and Nevada). This can be a cost-effective option as you only pay the consultant for the training you need. A good consultant can even help you create a training plan to be used for the following year’s budget (and the more budget the more training you can offer!). A training consultant can also do Train the Trainer for those subjects mentioned above and they can also train an SME on how to train their subject matter.

So, should I do a Train the Trainer? Should I hire a full-time trainer? Should I hire an outside consultant?

My answer might surprise you: YES to all three!

You can do Train the Trainer for those classes that you really need to do yearly, but you can have the employee do another job for non-training days. This person may even become a part-time trainer. They will need to stay abreast of changing regulations, or you can have an agreement with a consultant to provide yearly updates as part of a Train the Trainer agreement.

You can hire someone to be a full-time trainer that can deliver classes and train SMEs. Many times your internal full-time trainer will train on job-specific changes (such as new software), maintain training records and maintain the training budget so HR doesn’t have to. They are also always available for new job-specific training when you need them.

You can and should hire outside training consultants for: specialized training (such as Prevention of Sexual Harassment, Diversity & Inclusion, Workplace Violence, etc) and also to train on subjects your internal trainer may not have expertise in, or that you need a fresh non-employee perspective on, such as: Leadership, Employee Performance, Personal Productivity, Basic Project Management, personality assessments that will reinforce certain communication or teamwork behaviors, Presentation Skills, Problem-solving and much more.

Please contact me if you’d like to learn more about this topic, if you’d like to discuss Train the Trainer opportunities, Train the SME, starting an Onboarding program, creating an internal training department, or if you’d like me to come train as an outside consultant. My website gives details on all the courses I currently offer in both English and Spanish. I train any size group in-person, at your facility. I am professional and knowledgeable but also funny and approachable. I also offer consulting services on any of the above.

Please contact me at: devorah@allensolorioconsultancy.com