Intentional Trainer Development: Building Your Toolkit for Success

November 12, 2015 | 904 Views

Intentional Trainer Development: Building Your Toolkit for Success

Donna Herbel, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Vice President of Training and Culture Development | Perkins & Marie Callender’s, LLC

Hospitality trainers come from a variety of backgrounds: Operations expert repositioned into a training role, educator who has made the shift to corporate training, or student of organizational development and learning entering the job market, to name a common few.  Whatever skills a trainer has in his or her toolkit when the job begins may be sufficient for the initial role, but will likely not be enough to grow into an effective trainer, learning strategist and strategic business partner in the company.

Here are some of my favorite practical tips for personal development from great mentors that helped me build my skills along my path as a hospitality trainer:

1.      Have a learner mindset: Time can be wasted, spent, or invested. Choose wisely.

Organizations rely on training to translate ideas and strategy into action. Training builds a bridge between the strategic desired outcomes and the decisions and actions of real people in fluid situations. The pace of a training professional can be daunting.

While inexperienced trainers might think they don’t have time to continue to learn and grow in their field, experts know that they don’t have time NOT to. How do individual trainers keep abreast of the new and constantly-evolving learning and business environments? The short answer: Be an intentional learner.

While figuring out how to arrange all the pieces, be intentional about investing time in learning.  On the list of great advice I have received in my career, and shared frequently:  Make appointments with yourself to study, read, or learn – and keep them. Only by keeping pace with trends and best practices can you contribute to success of the business and team. The needs of the business grow and evolve, and training professionals are expected to grow and evolve with or ahead of the business.

  • Find Fifteen. It might mean starting early, or it might mean staying late, but finding 15 minutes consistently in chunks each week to dedicate to learning is a great habit. 
  • Have a Purpose. To take advantage of time, decide what you want to study in advance. Who is the compelling business leader you want to know about? Which company has recently been in the news? What technology innovations have you heard about? What is going on in education in general? How are others solving the issue you are currently working through?
  • Have a Plan. Consider a folder in email for articles to read at the airport, or social and online subscriptions to resources and thought leaders you find interesting. Take the free demo of a learning site or MOOC to see if it is for you. Ask leaders in other parts of your network or organization what they are reading or find interesting, to create a broad spectrum of resources. 
  • Have a Process. Be deliberate about unsubscribing to feeds and sources that don’t fit your needs, and trashing articles that are not compelling. It is easy to get overwhelmed by too much information and just give up. 

2.  Have a business mindset: Give them what they need, not necessarily what you want them to have.

New trainers are often excited about applying training methods and demonstrating presentation skills. They are hands-on coaches with a can-do attitude, but sometimes believe that their work is undersupported or underutilized.

Great trainers are students of the business, and are mindful to align work, initiatives, and outcomes with the organization’s broader business strategy.  

  • Work the Busiest Shifts. Intentional learning also happens in the flow. The busiest shifts demonstrate the ups and downs, the wins and bottlenecks. In addition to being able to assess the application of systems, trainers have the double bonus of learning from the best experts in their business – front line employees and managers.

Lack of commitment to training processes may indicate a lack of alignment or buy-in, or a failure to determine and articulate the business case for training. There are many questions a business-minded trainer has to help analyze the need and avoid this pitfall. Here are a few from my trainer toolkit that I have used often:

  • What is the business need, issue or objective we are solving for?
  • What is the (stakeholder’s) commitment to and role in the initiative or process? How does this stack up in comparison to other business priorities?
  • What are the potential risks/ rewards if the training is successful? What if it is not successful?
  • How do we determine whether our work met or exceeded expectations? When do we expect to make that assessment?

3.  Have a trainer mindset: Play like you train.

Trainers can apply the principles of training and development to ourselves. We frequently use methods, like the teach-back or peer learning, with trainees. We can take advantage of these methods in our organizations and departments as well!

  • Establish a Cross-functional Book Club:  Use a guided study of an industry leader’s book as a framework for understanding and discussion with a diverse team. The group can serve as a forum for diversity in point of view, and develop cross-functional relationships and communication to better align work across teams. Our team is currently using “Dare to Serve” for this purpose, and hosts a short discussion call every other week.
  • Teach Back: Trainers who are not familiar with a topic can attend a webinar or demo and teach back the concept to a more experienced team member, sharing content, business application, risks, and rewards.

These are key tips from great mentors that I pay forward wherever I can. Please share your best advice for new trainers in the comments below!

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