Are you as effective a trainer as you think?

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Question: "Every time I try to teach someone a new admin process at work, they seem to struggle with it and have many more questions than I anticipated. Now I've noticed that people seem to be going elsewhere to learn what I used to explain. I thought I was an effective trainer, but what does it really take to be a good one?" – Samantha, Concessions Supervisor

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

KTatley November 28, 2013 at 3:12 am

The fact that they get other resources means they are capable of learning themselves- this is a great thing. And some people have different learning preferences so your employees are probably just finding a way of learning that matches their preferred style. This isn’t a bad thing because this should lead to more effective training outcomes for them. Perhaps you could coach them instead of training them. This will save you time, ensure better outcomes and remove your frustrations that you have expressed. The difference is:

• A coach works with the student to set training goals and discover training sources. Then the coach follows up with the student to make sure they make progress. They do not have to be the trainer (but they can be)
• A trainer spends the time showing the student how to do something with detailed steps
It is much more time efficient and effective to be a coach rather than a trainer because you’re not actually spending the time showing the person what to do. Of course sometimes you are the training resource because you are the best trainer.

Remember your goal isn’t that they get better in the way you want them to. Your goal is just that they get better. Because different people learn in different ways (some are visual, some are auditory and others are kinesthetic) it’s good to involve them in the decision of what training resources to use.

Keith Tatley. Founder of
http://www.ManagerFoundation.Com
“Make managing easy”

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Teri December 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Be careful – too much detail and you will lose your training audience in a heartbeat. Start with basic information and add the details as the trainee(s) demonstrates a good grasp of the foundation.

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Vicki Grashoff December 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Patience is a main key to successful training.

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Theresa December 14, 2012 at 11:38 am

We had to make an Administrative Assistant manual, along with my co-workers we had broken it down into parts. You got to do the one you have the most difficulty with then we reviewed each of the steps one at a time. To make training easier we made print screens of certain pages and pasted them into the manual; we added instructions and notes on We made the procedure manual a “work in progress” as technology and leadership changes we can change along with it. We added all the jobs we do in case someone needs to cover for us when one of us is gone as well as teaching a new AA. We developed it to make easy enough for our non-AA’s to use. We still have some secrets too.

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Bridgette December 14, 2012 at 11:29 am

Agreed. The most important things to keep in mind are
1. Having empathy and patience! If the trainee feels you are condescending to them they will stop listening. I often use myself as an example of making mistakes early on, but how that helped me learn the process to be an encouragement.
2. Let the trainee DO the process themselves! You cannot effectively train if you are doing it. People learn best when actively involved in the process on as many levels as you can offer. I sometimes have to sit on my hands because I want to “just quickly show them” and end up taking over. Always a mistake.
3. Have the process outlined in as much detail as you can manage. It gives the trainee a great deal of comfort to know they can reference that later. Lots of screen shots, including the “click here” screens. It may seem pedantic to someone who knows, but I can recall being trained on a completely unfamiliar system that was (gasp) DOS based and I literally couldn’t remember how to “enter” because it was a combination of keys. My trainer took for granted that I would know that.
4. Be available for questions and don’t make the trainee feel stupid or like they are an imposition. This is your customer until training is complete.

I’ll add that just doing the rote steps sometimes isn’t good enough. Without being too long winded, it’s often good to know why things are the way they are so that the learning/process can be further understood by the trainee and, hopefully, owned by them.

(gee… verbose much Bridgette?)

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Marcie December 19, 2012 at 7:52 am

Totally agree with Bridgette that knowing the WHY of a process is SO important.

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Amillia December 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

We have to remember that everyone learns differently and especially adults are the hardest to teach. I have provided training to children and adults and believe me as adults “we alread know it all”. So I try to provide individualized training to a group by anticipating out of the box questions and being thoroughly prepared. Flow charting the lesson is a great tool because they have something to look at to keep them on track. Listening and showing empathy as mentioned already will help them to relax and really feel that you want to teach them.

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Beverly December 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm

All the responses were great. In addition to doing what they have all said. I also make print screens of each page and paste it into a document then make notes on that page to help them see what the screen will look like when they are there. I have this made up and in my procedures notebook for all the jobs I do in case someone needs to cover for me when I’m gone as well as teaching someone new.

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Susan December 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Empathy. Remember, you were there once. Remarks like, “I remember how hard it was to learn this” go a long way to showing the newbie that you understand.
Show, not do. Let the new person “do” the work. Don’t do it for him/her. If they make a mistake, they are more apt not to make that mistake again.
Write it down. Keep a binder with directions in it for each application, i.e. how to order business cards, use the telephone, schedule conference rooms, set up catering, etc. Include phone numbers and emails of contacts they will need to do each job.
Kindness. Put a smile on your face and act like you have nothing better to do than make sure that person is comfortable with everything being learned and experienced. If you act like its a bother, they won’t feel comfortable asking you questions that will help them in their job. Or, they might just go to someone else and leave you wondering why they didn’t consult you.
Just my two cents.

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Dana December 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm

When I know I am going to be training someone I also write the process down. I make sure to do this while I am doing each step. I even put in the “click on” and “return” so that there aren’t any simple steps left out. I also make sure to tell the person I am training that there are no such things as stupid questions and it is okay to ask the same question more than once. I have found that there can be several ways of explaining something. Another tactic I use, if it is okay with the person, is to sit with them, quietly, while they go through the process. If they have questions or if I see something that won’t work I am right there for discussion.

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Tammi December 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I do the same. Create job aids – step by step, have them take notes, follow the job aid, show them, and then watch them as they do it. Try to eliminate distractions while training.

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Becky December 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm

People have different learning styles. For instance, I don’t truely understand things until I try it out for myself. Some people need to read step by step instructions every single time to learn things. The key is to understanding how each person learns best. Most people are self aware of how they learn things. It wouldn’t hurt to ask which style or method has worked for them in the past. Also, once you are used to doing something, you tend to leave out certain steps, writing it down step by step may help you remember to include everything, so there aren’t as many questions.

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