The Train the Trainer approach has expanded its reach into many contexts, including laboratories, schools, hospitals and the corporate world. Its breadth speaks to its intuitive design and ease of adoption, as Train the Trainer simply involves "initially training a person or people who, in turn, train other people at their home agency," according to a report by the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. In other words, one subject-matter expert shares his or her expertise with a group of trainers from your organization. This group then uses this information to instruct others.
There are a huge number of benefits to this model of training instructors. Instead of relying on one individual to go through a lengthy training process, you can build a team of instructors and enablers so your training initiatives can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time. At the same time, you're giving your enablers tools concerning not only what to teach, but how to teach. Per an article posted to the Houston Chronicle, "Instructors learn to lead discussions, listen effectively, make accurate observations and help participants to link training to their jobs. They learn to maintain eye contact, maintain a positive attitude, speak in a clear voice, gesture appropriately, and maintain interest and dispel confusion."
Thus, the main tenets behind Train the Trainer are twofold: First, you can spread knowledge more efficiently among your staff. Second, you can capitalize on the teaching tactics that help people retain information quickly.
Even with its intuitive method, however, there are certain things to keep in mind when using the Train the Trainer approach.
#1: Choose the right individuals to be trained
Train the Trainer allows you to address a larger number of employees while staying in budget. More teachers can translate to less money spent on travel, since employees can all learn from someone in their local network. Further, having multiple trainers enables you to initiate multiple learning tracks or classes going on at the same time, accelerating the completion of the objective overall.
In order for this to work, however, you need to choose your champions according to more than just their location. As you're reading this, you're probably thinking of certain people who carry some authority among your staff. If you have the time, consider your employees' backgrounds, especially whether anyone has teaching experience or is practiced at leading meetings. Think outside the box as well; even a skill such as organizing events can be beneficial, especially when you're asking someone to develop a series of learning modules or ensure that every employee participated. And, of course, make sure all your designated trainers are willing to see the task through to the end.
#2: Be prepared for mistakes
Train the Trainer is a learning process. Even if your participants have years of experience in teaching, they may not have done so in the corporate environment. As with any learning process, if you don't allow your trainers to make some mistakes, they may be hesitant to try something new again. And the same goes for the managers overseeing the initiative. Allow enough time for preparation and practice. It's incredibly rare for something to go smoothly the first time you try it, even if you've spent a lot of time choosing the right trainers and researching the perfect subject-matter experts.
#3: Be prepared for constructive criticism
Whether you're giving it or taking it, constructive criticism will play a direct role for you throughout the Train the Trainer process. Your trainers will be learning from someone who specializes in presentation. So, if they're told that a joke isn't landing or that they need to use a different method of demonstration, they should be prepared not to take it personally.
The end goal of Train the Trainer is to maximize efficiency, not necessarily to introduce creative learning methods. At the same time, learners do connect with trainers when they are being genuine or authentic, so look for these traits when you're critiquing a trainer within your department.
#4: Track results
As new trainers, your employees are most likely eager to know how well they taught and what they could do better the next time around. Even if they led training through in-person meetings, create reports using tracking analytics to show them who is seeking the next steps, or who is following up with "homework" assignments. You can also use tactics such as gamification to encourage friendly competition and reward progress.
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