Training the Trainer: A Beginner’s Guide Part 1

Setting the Scene
 
Derek’s boss has dumped a new role on his desk. The learning and Development budget has shrunk quicker than a scrotum in an ice bath and his organisation is now transferring it’s training provision from those pricey
freelance consultants to him. And Karen from Human Resources.
 
Of course he knows how myself and my trainer colleagues will react to that. We’ll make that sharp intake of breath noise like the hairdresser in the wake of a disastrous attempt at home makeover. “Tried
cutting your own fringe, love? Oh dear.” 
 
I’ve ranted about health and social care budgets elsewhere, but the slashing  and burning of this government’s administration has already made one thing very clear. More and more health trusts, local authorities and service providers are taking a DIY approach to training, and we in the professional training community need to be offering a helping hand to our less experienced colleagues. 
 
So here’s the first of two brief weekly ‘tasters’ taken from my company’s Train the Trainer programme
 
Come Dine with Me?
 
So what makes a good health and social care trainer? After fourteen years in the business and a long career in ‘shop-floor’ clinical work, I’ve seen lots of Dereks and lots of Karens. Derek is very enthusiastic and thinks he’ll make a great trainer because: a) he’s quite knowledgeable b) he can communicate with more than one person at a time and c) he knows how to do groovy fade effects on a Powerpoint slide.
 
And to demonstrate the sheer daftness of this assumption we’re going to use the analogy of a dinner party. Dinner party? Yes, really.
 
Being more of a pie and a pint sort of chap myself I can’t
profess great experience of ‘doing’ dinner parties, but I’ve seen enough ‘competitive entertaining’ to have half an idea how it works, or doesn’t work as the case may be. And the different approaches seem to me highly analogous to the training process.
 
Derek decides on a whim to have a few people round for
dinner. He has half an idea who to invite and texts a random selection of Facebook ‘friends’ the day before his ‘spectacular.’ He hops off down to Tesco. He hasn’t quite got around to deciding what to cook, so emerges with a few jars of Chicken Tonight, a packet of Uncle Bens and a carrier bag full of red wine. Just red? Well Derek likes red so if nobody else does, tough. In
the words of the song, ‘it’s my party and I’ll throw up if I want to.’  
 
Karen from Human Resources has a slightly different
approach. She thinks carefully about why she’s having the party, and who she’s going to invite. And she asks herself whether the answers to the why question match the answers to the who question. It’s going to be a birthday party for her best friend, and the evening is aimed at a ‘good food and fun’ sort of do.
 
She realises that most of the guests are vegetarians. Now Karen is a woman who likes her meat. In fact, she likes her steak so rare it’s practically walking around and mooing, but she decides on a rather nice Mushroom
Risotto from that nice Jamie Oliver book.
 
She has a shopping list. She prepares the ingredients carefully. She makes sure to sit her guests around
the table with people they know or who have something in common.
 
And the results? At Derek’s house half his invited guests don’t turn up, and those that do are the sort of people who don’t get out much and think World of Warcraft is a networking event. They shuffle around uncomfortably in the plastic chairs our hapless host turfed out of the garden shed at the last minute. Guests pick at poor Derek’s plateful of E-numbers wondering just how much they have to force down before turning radioactive, and Derek’s little dog is sleeping contentedly under the table
having suddenly become a much larger dog. And everyone leaves as early as is politely possible citing pressing engagements with unfed and imaginary pets.  
 
But at Karen’s they’ve licked the plates clean, are giving Tina Turner a run for her money on the Karaoke and have already invited themselves back for her next evening of fine dining. 
And while none of my own training courses to date have featured either Mushroom Risotto or Tina Turner, I hope the analogy is clear. Preparation and planning is all. Learning objectives are key. Structure is essential. A good course outline isn’t just something to be scribbled on the back of a fag packet, and the needs of your audience may be very different from your needs as a trainer. 
 
In the next instalment we’ll be looking at ‘setting the scene’ for training. Doing the ground work that goes into delivering course that helps colleagues do their job better and isn’t a dog’s dinner. 
 
See you again for Part Two.
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