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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Trainer-Manager Hybrid Delivers Impact

get supervisors/managers in your classroom for better results

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

While there is little doubt that a great deal of training takes place informally, and still more is delivered directly by supervisors, or even by the best performers among peers, many core topics are covered by "trainers." These may be individuals who work for a training department; consultants brought in from the outside; or staff who have other roles, but have acquired explicit responsibility for teaching others how to do their jobs more effectively.

When we formalize the training, relying on one of these internal or external specialists to lead the delivery, we are looking for specific skills. Yes, certainly, the goal of the training is to transfer knowledge. But many people within, and outside, the organization possess the knowledge in question. Only a subset of those individuals go beyond knowing things to being good at getting other people to know them, too.

But beware of drawing too sharp a boundary between the amateurs and the pros, in training delivery. More specifically, try to have a supervisor in the room for most formal training events. That person's role is to answer questions, give up-to-date and highly relevant examples, perhaps suggest case studies, and generally help push the activity beyond dry knowledge to applied knowledge.

Now, the first objection is that the supervisor's or manager's time is too important. That excuse -- and that's all it is -- discourages participants, reduces the credibility of the facilitators, and generally reveals shortsightedness at the management/executive level.

When someone from the next level up the org chart is in the room, it sends a powerful signal that the training is important, that participants are expected to listen, learn, and apply what goes on in the workshop or seminar. When supervisors contribute examples that connect general principles and best practices to specific situations, participants know that they are expected to perform differently when they get out of the classroom.

But when supervisors and managers do not participate, or show up to get things started and then run back to their desks, where they have "more important things to do," they make it clear that the time of the participants is much, much less valuable to the company than is the time of a single supervisor. And, unless you have a very knowledgeable trainer in the front of the room, they miss many of those explicit connections between the lessons of the seminar room and the situations and demands of their regular working days.

And even that may not be the main reason for ensuring that managers bring their special knowledge and experience into training sessions. When a supervisors are present throughout the event, and make contributions to the discussion, it becomes much harder for them to undermine those sound principles within their own departments.

We know how common it is to have one set of principles and standards for employee practices explained in the classroom, and a different set reinforced on the front lines. Managers don't necessarily go out of their way to work against the training message (although that definitely happens). But they take shortcuts, or resist change, or just do not realize how far the rewards and punishments they hand out distort the work behaviors the organization's leadership hopes to see from their employees.

I know your company can come up with a million excuses for not having more experienced people -- not training professionals, but managers, supervisors, or highly experienced peers -- in the classroom.

But few of those flimsy excuses can compare to the benefits available from getting them regularly involved in your training activities.

© 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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