Best practices

Why your employees could be your best trainers

Internal training vs. external training

Content is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you’re trying to build a successful internal training program. But the person who delivers that training plays a big part, too. You want someone who has credibility, who can make the topic engaging, and who knows the content and its value. As it turns out, the best trainers for your internal training program may already be among your employees.

You hire specialists, so why not use their expertise? Turning your employees into trainers can lead to a better learning experience and may even drive stronger knowledge transfer within your teams.

When it makes sense for employees to train their peers

There are a number of instances where an internal vs. external training program will benefit your organization. Internal training takes advantage of the knowledge and resources you already have in-house.

You may consider using employees as your trainers when the content involves internal processes and procedures. Or, when it relates to one of your employee’s areas of expertise. For example:

Onboarding new employees or employee transfers

It makes sense to have an employee instruct new hires or employees transferring from another department. Onboarding should be a personalized and humane experience. Colleagues and HR professionals are a natural choice for teaching others about internal resources, processes, and career paths. They can also help introduce the new hire or transfer to the company or department culture.

Sharing expertise across departments

When you need to share information more widely across your organization, turn to the in-house experts. You can use peer learning for specific topics. For example, customer support teams can train other non-technical teams on products and services. Or, developers can give company-wide training on cybersecurity.

Mentoring within a team or department

You may consider having more senior team members train those newer to the company on specific processes and skill sets. This kind of internal mentoring serves more than one purpose. It helps educate everyone on company-specific best practices to make sure they get more widely used. It also helps build team relationships and a healthy team dynamic.

Why turn your employees into trainers

So why should you consider turning employees into trainers? There are many advantages to engaging employee trainers for in-house training.

  • They’re already experts in their field. You hired those people to fill specific roles and skills gaps. Leverage that by having them share their specialized knowledge with their colleagues.
  • They know the company culture. Current team members can connect training to organizational goals and challenges better than anyone.
  • Internal training is cost-effective. If you have a limited training budget, having your own employees train is less costly than bringing in external trainers.
  • It’s a way to show appreciation and even unofficially “promote” employees. Facilitating training is a chance to learn and hone leadership, communication, and presentation skills. So, when you ask employees to train their peers, you don’t just show that you value their skills and knowledge. You also invest in leadership development and career growth.
  • Training schedules can be flexible. As your learning strategy evolves, you’ll likely want to adjust schedules and the types of courses you offer. These changes are easier to schedule with internal instructors.
  • You boost cross-team collaboration. As employees reach out to offer training to other departments, you’ll support a culture of collaboration.

Internal training: How to turn your employees into trainers

How to turn your employees into trainers

So now you know what makes for good internal training and why having employees train makes sense. The next question is: how do you turn employees into trainers? Here are three strategies for getting your employees into the trainer role.

1. Have employees host ad-hoc presentations

When you need to train on a specific topic or skill and you have an internal expert, set them up to train. For example:

  • Jane, your lead designer, could give a presentation on how her team built an app with accessibility best practices.
  • Violet who knows the ins and outs of your project management tool could host a session on productivity hacks.
  • Michael, your HR manager, could organize a mini-workshop on how to embrace differences at work.

They can be one-off opportunities for employees that offer experience without disruption to their jobs. These ad-hoc internal training sessions give you also the chance to discover which of your team members might be good speakers and potentially good trainers.

2. Make training a regular part of an employee’s job responsibilities

If you offer a course regularly, consider adding “trainer” to an employee’s job description. For example, you may want to have someone in place for needs that come up on a regular basis like product overview training for new hires.

Having facilitation as a regular part of their job will give employees the chance to expand their role in the company. It will also help them practice and improve their delivery methods as they continue to train their peers.

3. Invite employees to become full-time trainers

In larger companies or those that have regular training needs, it may make sense to promote an employee to a full-time training role. For example:

  • Lizzy, a software developer, is now the company’s IT officer. She’ll be responsible for conducting cybersecurity and IT training.
  • Ben from the HR department becomes the Onboarding Training Specialist. His role will be to train new hires during their first weeks at work.

Full-time internal trainers give you all the benefits of peer learning. They also let the employee focus on developing training skills and strategies that will benefit your organization.

Challenges to consider with internal training

Even with all its advantages, relying on employee trainers can pose some challenges. You should be aware of these and address them accordingly. This will help you find the right balance of internal vs. external training for your company.

  • You may need to train your trainers. Just because an employee is a subject matter expert doesn’t mean they’re a natural trainer. Good trainers have specific qualities that help them present material clearly and make it engaging. You may need to spend time training employees to become trainers.
  • Consider the time cost of their jobs. Taking on the role of a trainer means taking time away from their other responsibilities. You need to weigh the advantages of peer training against the costs of reduced productivity. Decide whether it makes sense to take employees off their regular tasks to train others.
  • Relying entirely on internal trainers can be limiting. There are some benefits to bringing in external training and trainers. They bring new perspectives and fresh ideas. Their expertise may expand beyond what you have in-house. External trainers, programs, and resources can bring new ideas and skills to your teams for continued innovation. They can help you stay on the cutting edge of your industry.

Getting the most from your in-house training

Your employees have a lot to offer—in their current roles and potentially beyond by becoming internal trainers. Drawing on these resources offers you a chance to boost the learning experience, show employee support, and do more within your budget.

As you determine how to best use employees as trainers, remember to keep a balance. Weighing the right use of internal vs. external training and trainers will let you draw on the advantages of both, giving you the best of both worlds.

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