The #1 Mistake Even Good Trainers Make

The #1 Mistake Even Good Trainers MakeIf you’re a trainer, facilitator or workshop presenter, you might have discovered that your clients now expect more from you than just your training course. The traditional corporate training workshop is still common today, but you’ve got to offer more than just turning up, delivering your material, and walking out. Unfortunately, most trainers are still so focussed on their own material they forget the client’s big picture.

There’s still a place for in-person training courses, but they also have their limitations: Course content becomes out of date quickly, courses are scheduled only when there are enough participants and resources (trainers, budgets, and work schedules), everybody learns the same material regardless of their prior knowledge, and training costs a lot in lost productivity.

There’s one other big problem …

The other big flaw with the traditional corporate training course is that it’s good for developing skills, but not for sharing experience (and the wisdom that comes from experience). The modern workplace still needs skills training, of course – and that’s why they bring you in as a trainer. But it also needs ways for leaders and managers to accelerate the experience cycle of their teams. That generally doesn’t come from training alone, but the things that happen around the training. In fact, some research suggests about 90% of their development will happen outside the traditional training course.

That 90% includes things like mentoring, shadowing, group work, coaching, sponsoring, and other on-the-job experiences. As an external trainer or facilitator, you might not have the chance to be directly involved in these areas (because they are largely internal rather than external). But you should still be aware of them, and make your offerings fit in to them.

Your training course is not the only learning and development the organisation is doing for their people (unless it’s purely a “tick the box” compliance task – and who wants to be doing that sort of training anyway?). It’s just one part of their ongoing development, so you can get more traction if you align it with their broader programs.

For example, here are five other things an organisation or leader might be doing:

  1. Shadowing: Team members “tag along” with more experienced people (such as their manager) on various activities, observing what they do, and having a discussion and debrief afterwards.
  2. Case studies: Teams use case studies to explore typical scenarios they might face in the future.
  3. Online courses: Individual team members enrol in free or paid online courses to learn specific skills (but without having to wait for the organisation to provide the resources to run a training course).
  4. Student as teacher: Somebody attends a training course and then presents what they learn to the rest of the team. This embeds the learning for the first student and shares the knowledge with the rest of the team.
  5. Mentoring: People can get involved in mentoring programs – either a formal program offered by the organisation, or informal mentoring arranged by motivated people.

If an organisation truly believes these things make up 90% of somebody’s learning, it’s probably not surprising they don’t give a high priority to the other 10%. And that includes your training program.

How do you tap into that 90%?

Even if you can’t do some of those activities in the 90%, you can still integrate your programs with them. Often, all it takes is a simple conversation with your client. Ask where your training course fits into the overall learning and development, discuss what you can do together to tailor the training to fit, and plan what further actions the client will take to embed the learning.

For example:

  1. Shadowing: When somebody learns a new skill in a training course, how can they shadow somebody using that skill in the workplace?
  2. Case studies: After people attend a training course, ask them to facilitate a case study for the rest of the team, where they apply the skills they learned to the problem in the case study.
  3. Online learning: After a training course, identify online courses that takes them to the next level. If you have your own online courses, of course you will recommend them; but also research the many other options available now from other providers.
  4. Presentations: After somebody attends a training course, ask them to teach it to the rest of the team.
  5. Mentoring: If participants are also involved in a mentoring program, ask them to follow up with their mentors to share their training experience and ask for advice in applying it.

Don’t assume every participant will want the same thing. Everybody is different, and will want their own way of embedding the learning. If you have a small group, you and the client can design specific follow-up activities for each person.

Some of these follow-up activities won’t get you any extra work directly. But that’s not the point. You demonstrate your awareness of the big picture, build confidence in the client that your training will have a real effect, and position yourself differently from most other trainers and presenters.

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