Train the Trainer: What Is It and Why Do You Need It?

Making a Case for Training Trainers…

When clients call and say their trainers or subject matter expert (SME) instructors need help to be more effective when facilitating training, we ask if they’ve been through a train the trainer course or instructor development workshop. The answer is always a resounding “YES!” When we do a bit more investigating, we find out that their facilitators have studied the content of the training they will be teaching but not the process of facilitating training itself. Training the trainer and instructor training courses provide individuals with not only the practical instructional design skills, platform techniques and confidence they need, but also with critical skills to facilitate learning and ensure retention. Taking the process a bit further, trainer certifications ensure an individual has demonstrated competency in the essential skills needed to get results in the classroom.

Essential Elements of a Train the Trainer Process

Skilled workers are harder and harder to find. To stay competitive, productive and profitable, organizations need ongoing, results-driven business training. It takes corporate trainers with practical skills and up-to-date training strategies to do this well.

A train the trainer process provides instruction, coaching, and feedback to prepare those who deliver training, including full-time trainers, subject matter experts, supervisors, and managers, either in a classroom (physical or virtual) or on-the-job setting. Keys to effective training the trainer courses include:

  • Skilled modeling of adult learning principles and delivery techniques, including how to help adults learn and remember, processing and facilitation techniques, classroom set-up and management, and handling difficult participant situations.
  • Researched, up-to-date and well-designed program and materials that are mapped to the professional competencies defined by Association of Talent Development (ATD) and the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction (ibstipi).
  • The application of a client’s own content throughout the program and for any final skill demonstration project.
  • The opportunity to receive both facilitator and peer feedback and coaching.

Demonstrate Competency through Train the Trainer Certification

Successful demonstration of key competencies through a certification process is recommended as part of training the trainer for those who conduct training for more than half of their job duties. Often, too, an outside client or the industry dictates that instructors have earned a certification. Our Certified Training Facilitator (CTF), Certified Total Trainer (CTT), and Certified Technical Training Specialist (CTTS) are examples of train the trainer certifications. 

When we certify trainers, we use all or part of a five-step train the trainer process that we’ve fine-tuned over 40 years, detailed below. The benefits of this train the trainer model include more effective trainers, higher learner retention and greater transfer of new skills and knowledge back to the job:

Step One: Instructor Selection

Just like hiring an employee, trainer candidates need to be screened and interviewed. We work with clients to carefully consider the qualifications needed and to develop key selection criteria for corporate trainers. Clients are urged to select their best and most experienced employees for this type of training assignment.

Step Two: Learn the Content

Once selected, we ask that new instructors participate as a learner in the training they will be teaching. Experiencing the training process and learning the content through the eyes of a novice is critical to their success as a trainer.

Step Three: Train the Trainer Workshop or Certification

Depending on the focus, this could be anywhere from one to five days in length and include a variety of content from our train the trainer courses, from adult learning to instructional design, facilitation to transfer of learning, virtual training techniques to evaluation. At the heart of this process are train the trainer tips, practical techniques to use adult learning principles, facilitation skills, and basic classroom management skills. Our through workshop handout materials provide a train the trainer guide for the course itself as well as future reference. A certification program will involve a skills assessment through demonstration of competency, usually on the last day of the workshop.

Step Four: Revisit the Content and Training Process with Eyes of a Trainer

The trainers who successfully complete the above steps are then invited to attend a walk-through of all of the materials needed to train the program such as Leader’s guides, participant materials, and visual aids. This is usually conducted by a professionally certified Master Trainer. Often the new instructors will conduct train-backs and receive feedback from the Master Facilitator and peers based on a skill performance checklist.

Step Five: Prepare to Go Solo!

Instructors prepare individually and in pairs to team-train their first workshop. A Master Trainer observes the new facilitators and provides feedback and coaching where needed. 

Any train-the-trainer process is best taught in the delivery mode the training skills will be used in so critical skills can be more easily modeled by the Master Instructor: in a physical classroom for those who will train in a live classroom and online for those who will teach virtually. 

What you can expect from a corporate training partner

Your training the trainer efforts will be successful with the right training development partner. The Training Clinic is one of the most recognized corporate training companies in the US and has over 30 years of experience helping clients achieve success with practical and useful training. The Training Clinic provides 1-5 day train the trainer workshops and certifications for instructors who teach soft skills (customer service, supervisory skills, interpersonal skills, etc.) and for trainers who teach more technical, job-specific skills like safety training. When we come on-site we customize our workshops in two ways. First, we customize the workshop content to meet the instructional objectives of the client. Second, we customize examples in the exercises to make them specific to the services the client provides. There is typically no charge for this level of customization.

Our signature courses include Facilitate Training with Impact!, Effective On-the-Job Training, Designing Effective Training Programs, Transition to Performance Consulting and Managing the Training Function for Bottom Line Results

We begin crafting a train the trainer by completing a brief needs assessment to ensure the train the trainer program received is "on target' and personalized to the organization's needs, including a timeframe. We believe in learning by doing, not just by listening. All of our workshops require a high level of participation by the learner. The transfer of skills to the workplace is stressed through action planning during each workshop. Methods of presentation include micro-lectures, discussions, case studies, non-threatening role-plays, exercises, practice, video, and inventories. Class exercises and case studies are customized to the client's industry, again typically at no additional charge to the client. Our content is current, reliable and fresh and incorporates our own research, “state of the art” practices in the industry and feedback from clients, past participants and our instructors.

Build a high quality, local training team and improve leadership skills…

Implementing a train the trainer process in your organization not only prepares your corporate trainers and maximizes learning, but also provides a powerful skill set and opportunity for growth and development for supervisors and managers who act as instructors in their respective roles. These folks are (or should be) doing training all the time with their employees. Why not give them the skills to get it right the first time? 

Maria Chilcote & Melissa Smith

The Training Clinic