Training the Trainer: 4 Models to Upskill and Prepare Your Trainers

The learning industry loves its abbreviations. We’ll drop ILT, WBT, FG, PG, ID, LMS, LCMS, or ADDIE into everyday conversations, assuming that everyone around us understands our shorthand. We often talk about a train-the-trainer (T3) as though it’s just one thing, for example, with a common set of expectations and outcomes shared by everyone in the industry. The problem, however, is that situational needs can call for very different T3 designs and outcomes. We also tend to give short shrift to the T3, with the excuse that we’re focusing our design investment on the actual learner experience. We may mention in passing, “Oh, we’ll need a T3,” without ever setting clear expectations.

Treating the T3 as an afterthought can undermine an otherwise excellent program. If trainers don’t feel positive about their role or the program being trained, their lack of confidence will carry over into the classroom. Another hazard is that if trainers are unfamiliar with a particular activity, especially activities that may require additional media or technology, they may opt to skip it and stick with a familiar, lecture format instead. Programs that are more interactive and engaging often require more preparation or familiarity from the trainer.

4 Train-the-Trainer Models

When planning a train-the-trainer class, it’s important to consider the needs of your instructors and the desired outcomes of the training. It’s like designing any other program. Here are four common models for train-the-trainer programs. For each, you’ll note that there is a unique purpose and use case.

Which Model is Right for You?

So, the next time that someone mentions that a T3 is needed or if you happen to be planning a T3 yourself, be sure to assess the type of T3 called for in the situation. The following questions can help you to determine which of the above models (or which combination approach) will be most helpful:

  • Who will be facilitating? Are the intended trainers new to facilitation or training? Are you using an SME or leader-led facilitation strategy?
  • Is the program new? Do you need or desire trainer feedback on the design of the program?
  • Are there unusual or complex activities included as part of the design?
  • Are the trainers expected to be experts in the content? Do they need to ramp-up on complex content?
  • Will the learner facilitation be live or virtual? Are facilitators familiar with virtual classroom technologies and with how to use the technology to lead the activities?
  • Will the T3 be live or virtual? Is there a one-time need or an ongoing need to upskill trainers for a specific program?

These types of questions will help you to plan out the right T3 design and can even help you to select the right vendor partner. A partner that can provide a targeted and needs-appropriate T3 experience is likely to ensure the same high quality throughout the entire engagement. It’s a good litmus test, and one that shouldn’t be sacrificed to budget constraints or rushed timelines.

At TTA, our training delivery team can help you select the right T3 strategy to align with your training delivery approach and objectives. Learn more about how we can work together to develop a train-the-trainer program for you.