How to deliver a train-the-trainer programme

Jane Rexworthy gives TJ some useful train-the-trainer tips.

Reading time: 3m 30s.

A successful train-the-trainer programme goes beyond passing on knowledge and information. It’s vital to identify the skills required, as well as any potential challenges the organisation is facing as soon as possible. Only then can you define the learning objectives and the approach to assessment that the programme should take.

Why are you doing the programme and what will the role of the trainers be? What knowledge, skills, and attitudes are needed to deliver the desired behaviours? A comprehensive scoping exercise which defines the learning outcome as well as any potential pitfalls is essential for a solid strategic plan.  

Clearly defined objectives and a realistic assessment process to measure the course outcomes can also counteract any potential issues and barriers to learning. It’s also essential that the design of any train-the-trainer programme delivers consistent results. Behaviour-based objectives can be effective, as this empowers the person learning to gauge and track their own progress.

A good train-the-trainer course takes a competency-based approach, which focuses on individual needs making the training more enjoyable, interesting and easier to remember.

Securing buy-in

Full engagement is paramount, and this means a shared aspiration by everyone involved to make the programme a success. Helping trainers to internalise their own learning and ensuring that the design and delivery of the programme is both inspiring and motivational makes it relevant and timely.

Tips for team-building and making it fun

Learning should fun and strong engagement and interaction are key. A good train-the-trainer course takes a competency-based approach, which focuses on individual needs making the training more enjoyable, interesting and easier to remember.

It’s also acknowledged that optimised learning takes place in small interactive sessions and delivered in a light-hearted way with humour. An example is the ‘paper plane exercise’, which starts with a competition to see who can fly a paper plane the furthest. Then, ask the group how they would build 1000 planes in an hour that all meet or exceeded the winner’s distance mark. 

What sort of processes would they need to put in place? How would they ensure consistency and quality?

The relevance of the exercise only becomes clear when you ask them what processes they need to set up and deliver training and assessment to the same kind of ‘first pass yield’, and they realise that organisational processes are often missing many of the elements that can be brainstormed for the paper plane building process in just a few minutes.  

Dealing with unhelpful ingrained learning and attitudes

When delivering training to other trainers, it’s normal to find a variety of engrained learning preferences, as well as a wide range of different experiences and backgrounds. It’s important to respect these differences, whilst at the same time helping to expand their awareness on the value and advantages of exploring new approaches and doing things differently. 


However, it can be a challenge when ingrained behaviours result in a resistance to the programme, and it’s also unhelpful for the group as a whole if not everyone is fully on board.

One useful tool is to work in advance with the client to identify the champions and ambassadors for the programme, so that their enthusiasm can help to improve overall engagement. If necessary, training frameworks can be designed to deal with these types of issues in advance, so that the building blocks for a truly supportive learning culture are in place. 

Delivering constructive feedback

It’s especially important to handle the delivery of constructive feedback carefully when working internationally, as cultural differences can result in increased sensitivity. Some countries don’t welcome the sort of direct feedback that would be the norm in an Anglo-Saxon culture, so a less direct and more diplomatic approach is required.

As such, when training trainers in other parts of the world, it’s important to understand both national culture as well as the culture of a particular industry or sector, and to adjust the strategy for delivering feedback accordingly.

Training younger volunteers

Attention spans can be short when training young volunteers, and a key factor is to engage them in shorter sessions, so that they remain fully engaged. Also, ensure the programme is interactive, fun and very practical.

It’s also important to ensure that a strong selection process is place when assessing potential volunteer team leaders, so you start off with the right mix of ingredients for success. Reliability and commitment, ability to take instruction, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and a high degree of self-motivation are essential. 


About the author

Jane Rexworthy is executive director of People 1st International.


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