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ATD Blog

Are You Training Your Most Important Trainers?

Monday, April 22, 2024
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In-house training teams are often home to the most experienced and talented trainers. These people are passionate about the art of teaching and have invested a large portion of their careers acquiring the knowledge, tools, and experience necessary to effectively convey knowledge. Unfortunately, they are not necessarily the people providing the most, or the most vital, instruction that occurs daily in manufacturing environments. Indeed, the people providing this critical training often do so with nothing more than experience of the skill at hand and some training on the training procedure. These essential people are your on-the-job (OJT) trainers and observers.

The OJT trainer has a deceptively complex responsibility:

  • Understand the skill or task at an expert level.
  • Use existing materials, knowledge of adult learning theory, and teaching skills to effectively convey knowledge.
  • Ensure and document understanding by the trainee using forms, electronic systems, or both.
  • Objectively recommend or approve qualification of the trainee.
  • Navigate the administration of all of these tasks in a prescribed, process-compliant manner.

It may seem straightforward, but when training isn’t your full-time job, you rely on the training team and their program to set you up for success. Here are the five focus areas of the world-class GxP Train the Trainer program:

1. Document the Train the Trainer Process

First and foremost, take the time to lay out the entire program, simply and prescriptively. Be sure to clearly state the scope, responsibilities, administrative requirements, qualification components, requalification expectations, and disqualification cases. Don’t underestimate the complexity of how a trainer must document the qualification. Remember, this isn’t typically their full-time job. Thus, providing simple, foolproof step-by-step guidance is vital. Supporting forms should be simple to complete and, when possible, managed directly in your learning management system (LMS). Quick access to these records when under scrutiny must be possible. If you have to submit a record request each time you need to show qualification, you’re putting yourself under pressure for no added value.

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2. Provide Authentic Training

In the spirit of the training prowess you’ll expect from the OJT trainer, develop and deliver a course to qualify your OJT trainers in the exact same manner you would expect their future trainings to occur. The only difference between this qualification and the training they will ultimately deliver is that your program should show all the administrative steps along the way. Often, this part is excluded. Trainees sign up for the OJT Train the Trainer course, listen to someone tell them about training, then magically receive OJT trainer or observer privileges in their LMS. Instead, use the course as an example of their future responsibilities. Outlining this program itself is a significant undertaking requiring adult learning theory, tools, approaches, tips and tricks, and the like. But, if you structure the course like a true qualification by showing, doing together, then observing the trainee, you’ll lead by example.

3. Augment With Offline and Extended Learning Opportunities

Your direct instruction alone will never be enough. Instead, prepare your trainees to start down the road to training expertise. This can be difficult when you’re not exposed to varied training resources outside your role. To improve the new trainer’s level of understanding, provide short, digestible, and concrete learning insights they can consume before and after the organized event. The goal isn’t to bog them down with links to websites and articles to read, but instead to provide video or in-person examples of great teaching in action. These should be married with a question or two about techniques that stand out in both good and bad ways. Sometimes you have to see bad instruction to know you yourself may be delivering in the same manner! Be creative. Your goal is to provide relatable, easy-to-integrate best practices.

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4. Follow Up

Remember, your program is most likely the only guidance on teaching the new OJT trainer or observer will receive. To that end, your initial instruction (and when they make documentation mistakes) should not be the only time they see you. Instead, schedule annual visits during any of their teaching events as part of continuing education. The goal isn’t to provide criticism or a “grade,” but instead to create an opportunity to connect, check in to hear about successes or challenges, and maintain a connection between the new OJT trainer and the training community. This can also be an opportunity to connect trainers to one another. You’ll come across trainers who excel in varied ways and can give perspective and insight to one another in ways your training department cannot.

5. Requalify and, wWhen nNecessary, Disqualify

If you maintain a regular connection with your OJT trainers and observers, requalification is as simple as formalizing one of your regular follow-up connections on a scheduled, periodic basis. During these events, there should be no surprises. Since you’ve stayed connected to the OJT trainer, you’ll both already know their strengths and areas needing improvement. This is an opportunity to document these and check for progress. If the OJT trainer hasn’t been delivering training at the required frequency or level of performance, this is an opportunity to recommend corrective action, which could include removal of the qualification when the role is no longer part of their regular duties. The expectations should be clearly documented in the Train the Trainer process, with the goal of ensuring these critical trainings are effective and add value.

Your Train the Trainer program is likely the most value-added offering you can provide your trainees. By investing in those who deliver critical trainings to the people closest to your products, you are getting out ahead of where the most expensive mistakes are made and where innovative ideas take root. Since you want your OJT trainers to succeed, you’ll need the program to work within the confines of their needs and experience. Take the time to develop a program that is simple to administer, steeped in current educational approaches, and promotes development of a continuously improving OJT trainer and observer community. Just remember to keep it simple—these people are doing as a part-time job what you do for a living.

About the Author

Christian Torstensson, an educational consultant at The Atlantec Group, boasts a diverse career journey. Beginning as a public-school teacher, he has served in multiple leadership roles including director of learning and development and global head of GmP Training across hardware, software, medical device, and pharmaceutical sectors. Christian champions productive onboarding, streamlined system implementations, and learner-focused programing. His expertise centers on simplifying learning processes and managing content and data with a strict eye on compliance and quality. As a strategic leader and guide, Christian aims to help organizations deliver timely, manageable, and effective education for all.

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