Identifying ways that you can rejuvenate your own passion for training is a great first step. Follow that by taking steps to create a happy training organization. The instructors are the true face of the organization, and having a staff of happy trainers can pay dividends. Even with the shift of curricula to distributed learning the need for instructor involvement remains a major component of the training organization.
Helping your instructors remain “happy” is a key part of ensuring success of the organization as a whole. Maslow included the need to both belong and be respected by others as part of his hierarchy of needs. To have happy trainers, the training manager has to recognize a trainer’s needs and make an effort to fulfill them.
Make Training Personal
The training manager cannot exist as simply a signature line on the e-mail or a voice on the telephone. If you want happy trainers, then the relationship between your training management staff and the trainers must be personal. While the supervisor – employee relationship is important, the simple fact is that training managers often ask far more of trainers than the job description or pay rate intended. The more remote or geographically dispersed the instructional staff is, the more important this simple element becomes.
One of the greatest tools a training manager has is the personal visit. Understandably, this is not appropriate for all situations – but have you ever invited a few of the trainers over for a cookout? Not a formal function – just a little get together. If you aren’t comfortable inviting people to your home, that’s ok – how about the neighborhood pool or a popular park? Encourage them to bring their family. No budget? Make it pot-luck. Remember that a huge part of training involves professional relationships; social interaction can buy you immense capital in this arena. Less formal, casual interactions can be a great source of information and ideas.
Communication is Key
How you communicate with instructors is a key component of creating feelings of belonging and camaraderie. Create a special area on your web site that only instructors can access. Establish an instructor-only email list. Share important information before it becomes public or general knowledge. Encourage instructors to share information between themselves in a moderated forum. With the growth in smartphones and mobile devices, send out an updated instructor list on a regular basis in a format that can be easily uploaded.
Balancing the need to make the individuals feel special while ensuring organizational performance as a team can be a challenge. If teamwork is critical to the group, you may not want to recognize instructors with special shirts or emblems that differentiate them from others. In other cases, letting students see the “privileges” of being an instructor may provide motivation.
Using Instructor Life Cycle and Communication
Recognizing where an instructor is at in the “instructor life cycle” is an important part of helping them feel special. Anticipate and develop tools that support instructors as they move through these career stages. Most new instructors have interest in a specific subject matter and can be highly motivated, but may need help and direction from more seasoned instructors. Because they are newer and may be less influenced by existing processes, these instructors are frequently a source of good ideas and feedback.
In the second stage, instructors tend to have experience ranging from 5-10 years on a topic. These individuals typically have a solid mix of experience and expertise. They are usually very engaged with the training center on a number of levels and interact frequently with other instructors. As an instructor becomes established, they usually look for ways to make individual contributions to the company, to training, or both. These instructors are motivated more by the social interaction with other instructors and the desire to be a part of the company’s success.
An instructor that reaches the mentoring stage tends to have 10 or more years’ as an instructor and the most experience and expertise. Their understanding of the company, the training center, and daily operations make them an excellent source of institutional knowledge.
Engaging instructors needs to go beyond just communication. Getting an instructor involved with projects within the training organization gives them feelings of ownership in the overall success of the organization. One way to engage instructors is to involve them in program development. Instructors can be a subject matter expert or part of a peer review group. Instructors can also provide monitoring and feedback for other instructors as they teach. Especially for new instructors, the presence of a perceived colleague can be less threatening than a member of training management.
Instructors also make great extensions of the training staff when it comes to monitoring transfer of training into the workplace. They are familiar with the training curriculum and can provide critical feedback to the worker.
Encourage Personal Development
Too many training managers place the burden of developing instructional skill back on the individual trainers. Taking an interest in helping individual trainers grow and develop is part of building a happy organization. Training managers should plan general activities open to all instructors on at least a quarterly basis. Not all development activities require a lot of time or effort to conduct. Examples might include:
- Conduct a conference call to discuss a concern and brainstorm about ways to address that area;
- Send out a reprint of a relevant article;
- Conduct a webinar to showcase a particularly good instructor or session;
- E-mail instructors links to a collection of articles and create a discussion forum; or
- Have a formal training session.
Outside of the general activities, you also need to develop more personal development plans for specific individuals. An instructor who is struggling with a topic is also generally unhappy, so finding a way to assist him not only makes him or her happy but more effective. An instructor you identify as a “rising star” will soon become disenchanted if you don’t find opportunities to help him or her develop. Again, the ability to develop personal relationships with trainers and meet their needs is a key to keeping them happy.
The final step you need to take to ensure your training staff remains happy is to manage problems in a professional yet direct manner. Regardless of whether the problem is a trainer delivering poor quality or a broken training prop, addressing problems is an important part of your job. Don’t redirect or assign blame. If you’re the training manager, ultimately the rationale lies with you. Work towards a resolution.
Just as you teach trainers, anticipation of problems and preparing the alternative plans is a key part of the job. The best way to manage problems is to plan and avoid them whenever possible. When you can’t, have your backup plan ready. Doing so sets a good example for your trainers, and by always having an answer (even when it’s an imperfect one) you prevent the individual trainer from carrying the problem.
When having issues with an individual trainer, address those issues with the individual and his or her supervisor. You should only address problems in a group setting when the problem has impacted the others in the group. For example, let’s say Trainer B has been late arriving for class by 15 minutes or more three times in the past two weeks. If you want to keep happy trainers, you need to address the problem behavior directly with Trainer B – not chastise the entire group of trainers in a staff meeting.
Happy Trainers Make Happy Training
Enthusiasm is contagious. A properly motivated, enthusiastic and happy instructor can have a huge impact on training. The best instructors can clearly communicate ‘why’ they are enthusiastic and motivated in a way that touches the student.
If you like this blog articles, take a look at Training You: Managing the Corporate Training Function. Training You is an essential guide for both new and experienced training managers. Structured around five critical areas a corporate training department must get right, Training You gives practical advice and steps to dramatically increasing training effectiveness and return on investment.