Author's note: (I've written this post sometime Septemer 2010 in my other blog. I'm now transferring all my articles here.)
So, you want to be a trainer, huh?
One time or another in your career, I'm sure you've been fascinated at what makes trainers tick. You've wondered what're needed to strive as one, and what competencies are required in order to be one. And at one point, I'm sure you've even wanted to be a trainer yourself. Let's find out what you exactly need in order to pursue your aspirations as a trainer.
The main advantage of pursuing a career in training and development is that the competencies required are universal across all industries. The core competencies for a trainer is almost entirely the same as the retail, manufacturing, construction, pharma, etc. industries. This therefore means that getting that trainer role in your organization is a stepping stone toward other industries and is a forward step towards more opportunities.
Going back to our "entertrainer" skillset, being product experts and being wildly entertaining just won't cut it. Your communication skills, are indeed very important, but they're not the end-all-and-be-all of trainer competencies. What you need is working knowledge on the competencies we are about to discuss.
1. Strategic Thinking and Partnering
Trainers are strategic thinkers. You can be a strategic thinker in a way that you need to develop a strong business acumen; and a good know-how of how training the process directly affects the business. Understanding how Revenue, Gross Margin, Overhead cost, staffing, ROI, etc.; would certainly be a great leverage for you in your push for a trainer role. Moreover, you also need to work on your office network; as trainers do not only work with their trainees, managers or the training department. Trainers go "cross-country" by strategically partnering with Operations, and with the Human Resources Department-especially Recruitment, Records, Workforce, and Employee/Labor Relations. Fostering a silo mentality is, and will always be, a trainer's downfall.
2. Instructional Design
Trainers are also instructional designers; though some organizations can actually afford dedicated ones. But, if you're aiming to be an all-around practitioner, you need to research on how to conduct Training Needs Analysis and familiarize yourself with the inductive learning process through employment of the different adult learning methodologies. In a nutshell, Training Needs Analysis (or TNA), is the use of data to uncover gaps that can be potentially addressed by training interventions. In simpler terms it is identifying and addressing the employees' training needs.
Adult learning methodologies, on the other hand, are the media as to how these needs are translated into effective learning experiences. These methodologies bank more on autonomy, introspection, realization, drawing out familiar experiences, and sharing from the learners. An ideal module design is that the facilitator is just around as a subject-matter-expert; while participants do most of the training/learning themselves.
3. Project Management
Once your design has been created, it is now time to implement your intervention. This involves a little bit of project management as you now have to organize resources and begin planning your implementation. A tip with project management in training programs: involve your stakeholders, particularly the management team, in implementing the program. Instead of them just doing the sign-offs for the project, give them deliverables as well.
4. Facilitator of Change and Learning
Contrary to common belief in our industry, this competency is only 20% a trainer's skillset. As a trainer, you are expected to be a facilitator of change, or better yet, an advocate of change. In an industry as dynamic as ours, changes are constant, and some processes and facts a few hours ago can become obsolete at the snap of a finger. As a trainer, you are expected to be the forefront of change as you can evaluate process and competency gaps and recommend viable, and sustainable solutions.
Being a facilitator of learning means your ability to manage learning in the classroom - 'nuff said.
This is the most overlooked part of a trainer's skillset. You, as a trainer, need to be knowledgeable as to how your training program affected performance. You would need to be able to conduct effective surveys, create effective tests - written or practical, assess if the learners are applying the change through their behavior, check the performance trending, and of course, compute for the actual Return of Investment. Moreover, you would also need some skill in doing analysis as to why your program was successful or unsuccessful.
I hope this helps you out in your push to become a trainer. As you can see, being an "entertrainer' just won't cut it, and you would need a stronger base on training theories to ensure your success. Good luck!