We’re sure that one time or another, you’ve been fascinated at how a trainer facilitates class and engages learners. You’ve also most likely observed some of the best qualities of a good trainer and already somewhat have an idea of what attributes make a trainer great at their work. Most probably, you’ve also thought of becoming a trainer yourself at a certain point in your career.
Nevertheless, if you want to find out what really makes a trainer successful, or if you’re looking into switching careers and make training a career option, then this post is definitely for you!
But before we start, we need to debunk a certain misconception about trainers. And to do that, let’s take a quick look at what a trainer is not.
A trainer’s main responsibility is to facilitate classes. Since this is a task that most of us see a trainer usually do, oftentimes, the trainer role gets downplayed to being just a mere facilitator. This brings about a certain misconception of what successful corporate trainer skills are perceived to be – limited to just communication, product knowledge, and entertainment value.
Yes, you’ve read that right – entertainment value. Trainers can be regarded as simply “entertrainers,” so to speak. “Entertrainers” are subject matter experts who conduct classes and make sure that the topic is tackled with enough interest and enthusiasm so that the learners don’t get lulled to sleep.
To be honest, product expertise and being entertaining just won’t cut it in the training and development field
Although communication and facilitation skills are both important skills of a trainer, they’re not the end-all and be-all of corporate training skills. This shallow understanding of what good trainer skills are supposed to be, definitely has to go.
What is needed, instead, is a deeper understanding of a trainer’s other tasks and the required competencies that go with them.
For this purpose, we’ve created a list of trainer skills and qualities that are needed to succeed in the field. We’ll also break each quality down as much as we can so that you can get a better understanding of what it takes to be an exemplary trainer.
The Top 5 Qualities of a Good Trainer
The biggest advantage of taking up a career in training and development is that the skills needed to be a trainer are standard across all industries.
The skills required for a trainer in pharma are the same in retail, manufacturing, IT, etc. This means that a trainer needs to learn the skills behind these five qualities in order to succeed in any industry.
And with that said, here is a list of training skills and qualities that make a trainer exemplary:
1. Trainers are Strategic Thinkers and Partners
A trainer is a strategic thinker. A strategic thinker possesses strong business acumen and has a good grasp of how the training process directly affects the business. Strategic thinking is not only restricted to being a part of training manager skills but is also one of the attributes of a good trainer as well.
An understanding of revenue, cost, margins, ROI (return on investment), and staffing would definitely give a trainer better insight on how his or her role affects the organization. In addition, another one of the qualities of a good trainer is that he or she is a strategic partner.
There is a strong need for a trainer to develop networking skills. Do take note that a trainer doesn’t only work with learners. A trainer also has to “cross borders” by strategically partnering with counterparts from Operations, HR, and Marketing – just to name a few departments a trainer has to work with.
Looking at how the training process fits in the bigger picture and how to strategically partner with the rest of the business are great attributes of a trainer. On the contrary, taking on a silo mentality is, and will always be, the cause of a trainer’s undoing.
2. Trainers are well-versed in Instructional Design
One of the best qualities of a good trainer is that they are well-versed in the instructional design process. Aside from being included in the list of skills of a training manager, instructional design (or ID) is also a big part of a trainer’s repertoire of competencies.
So, what are training skills needed for ID, exactly? A working knowledge of Training Needs Analysis (or TNA) and the application of the inductive learning process through different adult learning methodologies are required.
Training Needs Analysis, in a nutshell, is the use of data to determine needs in an organization that can be addressed by learning interventions.
Adult learning methodologies, on the other hand, are approaches that translate these interventions into effective learning experiences for adult learners.
In short, TNA determines what needs will be addressed, while adult learning approaches determine how they will be addressed. Besides being fluent in these two frameworks, having both analytical and design thinking is also considered as one of the important qualities of a good trainer.
3. Trainers are Project Managers
Once instructional design and all its intricacies have been accomplished, the time has come to implement the learning program! Doing so requires a bit of project management, because the trainer, most of the time, not only has to teach the course, but also has to plan the program’s implementation and organize the required resources.
Being able to manage projects is also one of the outstanding qualities of a good trainer. This then points back to key point #1. Involving key stakeholders and getting everyone’s support for the initiative demands dependable strategic partnering skills.
4. Trainers are Facilitators of Change and Learning
As mentioned above, a trainer’s main duty is to facilitate classes; but contrary to common belief, this just takes advantage of about twenty percent of a trainer’s skillset.
While it is always a given that classroom facilitation is, in itself, part of the qualities of a good trainer, what’s more important though is that a trainer is expected to be a facilitator of change – or even better, an advocate of change.
With today’s adaptive global workforce and dynamic business environment, changes are constant. Processes and knowledge that were the standards a few days ago can become obsolete and defunct at the blink of an eye. What are considered as the guiding principles and industry standards today, might be different tomorrow.
A trainer is always expected to be at the forefront of change. New processes and recent knowledge would always demand some type of learning intervention. Moreover, with constant changes, competency and performance gaps are always bound to ensue; and the trainer, in turn, can evaluate and recommend viable and sustainable solutions.
5. Trainers are Evaluators
This is probably one of the most overlooked qualities of a good trainer. The skills required for trainers regarding evaluations include, but are not limited to: conducting surveys, creating effective tests, and assessing learners through observable behavioral changes.
Moreover, checking performance trends and computing for a learning program’s ROI (return on investment) are also parts of the evaluator skillset.
Creating evaluations and analyzing data play big parts in the roles and responsibilities of a trainer. These two not only help the trainer determine learning needs but can also help establish the success (or failure) of a training program.
How to be a good training manager?
We’ve discussed the top five qualities of a good trainer, so the next question on the list would be “How to become a training and development manager with the right set of skills?” We’ve been talking about what are expected from an exemplary trainer; now let’s take a look at what are expected from his or her boss.
What do training and development managers do to become exemplary managers? Actually, it’s also very self-explanatory: exemplifying all five traits, with the addition of skills in managing people and business. Like what we mentioned above, all trainer competencies apply to any industry; the same thing goes to anyone within the training department.
Training managers though are expected to be more adept at the five skills listed above, as they are not just tasked with running the department, but they are also in charge of training and mentoring more junior trainers.
What separates the good from the great?
We hope that we were able to debunk the myth of the “entertrainer” and break down the qualities well for you too. If you’re looking to start a career in the training and development field as a trainer or if you’re a trainer looking to jumpstart your career, we hope this list was able to be of help.
Helen Thomas once said that “Everyone with a cellphone thinks they’re a photographer. Everyone with a laptop thinks they’re a journalist. But, they have no training, and they have no idea of what we keep to in terms of standards, as in what’s far out and what’s reality.”
This saying can never be more true to a trainer today. Anyone with good communication skills and product knowledge can easily say that they know how to ‘train.’
However, it’s these five qualities that separate the good from the great – the mediocre from the exemplary. So, as a trainer, always be sure to put them to heart and to practice.