When someone new joins your business, are they left to sink or swim? Or are they put on a structured learning programme, supervised by a trainer who has received trainer skills training?
Too often, employees are left to muddle through, learning by their mistakes and picking up work practices (often bad ones) of others doing the same job.
Successful businesses realise training can raise productivity standards. They regard training as an investment, and not a cost.
By assigning a trainer, you are emphatically saying to a new hire that their job is valued. They are more likely to "get it right first time" and reach the required standard more quickly.
Even more importantly, their confidence and motivation to do well will improve. And their impression of your business will be much better than if left to their own devices.
I once asked an employee who had great trainer skills for her secret. She told me that she treated every learner as an individual. For example, some liked to use their own initiative as soon as possible whereas others wanted more guidance. She adapted her style to suit their needs. Here are other qualities of a good trainer:
In your role as a trainer, you need to have a strong sense of purpose and high standards in everything you do. If you cut corners, then your learners will do the same.
You should know more about the subject than those you are trying to teach, and always be looking to learn more. If you lack knowledge, this will be quickly detected and your relationship with your learners will suffer.
A strong working relationship between you and your learners is essential. It determines whether the process of learning is going to be a co-operative effort, an uneasy alliance, or a cold war. Be curious about what motivates learners, both inside and outside of work, without being intrusive.
When someone knows less than you, there is sometimes the temptation to feel superior, and even to patronise them. Be respectful of their efforts if you want to maintain a good level of co-operation.
If you set out to enjoy your work and use a little humour, it can go a long way to creating conditions for good learning to take place.
Enthusiasm is infectious and sets a good tone for the learning event. It does need to be balanced with composure - an over-enthusiastic approach may undermine your credibility.
The relationship with the learner is just one of a number of important communication channels. In order to do your job well, foster good relationships with key players throughout the business, who can support you and provide recognition for the importance of training and the work that you do.
A common mistake that new trainers make is that they present rather than facilitate in a group setting.
When you present information, you are in control. It feels safer. There is less risk of the training session going off on a tangent, or of not being able to manage a discussion between participants. The downside? It can result in tedious and ineffective training.
In one of my first training sessions, I listed important points on a flipchart, and described them to participants. They promptly fell asleep. The next time I was in that situation, I asked participants to give me their list of points. It was better than my own. And they finished the session with very positive feedback about me as a trainer!
The lesson learned was: "Ask, Don't Tell".
Of course, there has to be a balance between giving information in a training session, and getting the audience to participate. But where possible, turn your subject into a list of clear, probing questions that draw from the experience of the group. You will be surprised at what you will learn, how your training skills will improve and how beneficial the process will be for all concerned.
Download my How To Train Others eBook for comprehensive, practical advice. This 70 page guide is full of tips on trainer skills, based on years of experience in the training field.
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