Trainers: Between the Rock and the Hard Place

Training can be misinterpreted by managers. It can be looked upon erroneously as the solution for a host of business productivity problems, and time or credit given reluctantly for attendance. Some managers see training as a way of moving forward. Some see cross training employees and enhancing professional skills of value only in times of trouble. So, why waste money?

Training is rarely given the problem-solving prominence it deserves; while giving the employee new or improved skills to do a better job, it can also point out what is not a training issue at all. Instead of accolades for serving the company interests well, employee training seems shunned by management as a waste of productive time, and a point of avoidance, derision, and refusal among employees for a variety of reasons. Potential boredom, the lack of desire to vary their routine and the fear of change are pretty basic. However, among those reasons, is the one they share with management: it is seen as either a waste of time or taking valuable time away from the “real” work at hand.

What should be a win-win for both groups becomes the opposite.

Managers can misinterpret a trainer’s intentions or be threatened by the training results should those results be negative to the company or management. What the trainer does in preparing the participants and management is crucial to alleviating this concern.

It is up to us to work with the managers and trainers-in-residence to find out what is truly needed by the company to make sure we can deliver it. Knowing the company’s frame of reference in the big picture, local management’s view, the training developer’s experiences and the employees’ attitudes toward the company’s concerns can all help us in the training process to prove its value.

I recently wrote a few blogs that focused on the need for the employees or trainees to be as much a part of this process as management and trainers. If a employee doesn’t want to be trained, or sees no value in it, chances are it will do no good anyway and management is bound to echo those sentiments once the lack of results are evident. Training with a great deal of local preparation works better than canned scenarios. Check out Training Brainstorm: Evaluating Trainers, Who Needs Training: Who Gets to Decide, and Was the Guy Who Won the Client’s Audition Better than You?

From a communications side: Isn’t this what it’s all about? Managers can’t communicate what’s needed; trainers can’t ask the right questions. Since we are the trainers, maybe we ought to be concentrating on asking the right questions. And, it’s not just a matter of providing the right information. It has to be about communicating that information in such a way as to be memorable and motivating.

If we want to be seen as successful, we have to bring the messages home so well they get to management and make it see the value of training.

Managers can also be threatened by training that illuminates negative issues–not training-related–that may be affecting productivity. At that moment, trainers can be right in the middle of the fray. Caught between the participants and management. Say the wrong thing and you’ll never work for the company again; say the right thing and you are the hero of the day and hopefully remembered longer than that.

Effective delivery of training also involves presentation skills that can soften that blow to management. We need to allow time to prepare our participants (and management) and present the material in a positive way–one that tries to eliminate or soften the negative issues–if we can. Some may not agree, but I think trainers need to be expert at presenting material in as much as they may need to be the subject matter expert, offering technical advice.

Remember that boring professor who knew so much, but lost you in 10 minutes? Knowing the answers is not the same as being able to communicate them well and for positive effect. If presenting isn’t a strong suit but analysis and providing solutions is, use a forum that best suits your methods. Perhaps a more intimate discussion forum with key management types.

Now, I see myself as a pretty good presenter, but I have to do a lot of homework on my subject matter. See my article When Learning Takes Place: PowerPoint vs Presenter and Training Assessments: Personality Counts, we come back to knowing our audience: participants and managers, and what they need and want. The practice, preparation and homework helps, whichever way we have to go.

For a look at the human side of training from my Cave Man perspective, please check out my book, The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development.

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