Assessing the trainers might sound strange, though, as most organizations simply assume that other employees are willing and able to provide accurate OJT for new hires or are capable of training other employees in what they do. That is not always the case. One of the most crucial aspects of a successful on-the-job training program is ensuring that your trainers are up to the task.
On-the-job training, or OJT for short, is a proven solution for businesses in all industries. It offers solutions for onboarding new employees, up-skilling and closing skills gaps with existing employees, building redundancy across your organization, and more. However, successful OJT initiatives require some specific elements.
Increasingly, there is a significant need of assessing the trainers before embarking on an official OJT program. Doing so can be challenging, though. Where do you even start? In this post, we will discuss several ways of assessing the trainers, whether you’re onboarding new employees, promoting an existing employee to a higher position, or simply closing skills gaps to become more competitive within your industry.
Begin with the Need
First, it’s important to begin with the need for training – is it formal? Informal? Related to technical processes? Designed to give a new employee a chance to learn the lay of the land? Your choice of a trainer will vary in all of these situations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
For instance, if you’re onboarding a new employee and they simply need to learn the basics of their day-to-day responsibilities within the organization, the chances are good that you don’t really need a coach with formal training. Someone with similar responsibilities and who has been with the company for some time can provide the basic training necessary. In this case, it’s more a question of assessing the trainer’s:
- Current workload
- Personality fit
Ideally, the employee you choose for a basic introduction-to-the-business type of training will have enough availability to handle the training, a workload that can be modified so that key milestones are not missed, and a personality that’s well suited to working with others. Now, contrast that with training for using heavy equipment. For instance, suppose you needed to provide training for a warehouse worker on how to use a forklift to comply with OSHA regulations. Obviously, the trainer would need other skills here, including:
- Existing expertise in forklift operation
- A current forklift operating license/certificate
- Knowledge of OSHA safety rules regarding forklift operation
- The ability to teach skills to others
So, before anything else, define the training needed. Is it basic, something that someone without any specialized training can handle? Or does it require in-depth knowledge, expertise, and possibly professional certification or licensure?
Once you’ve defined the need, it’s time to move on to the trainer themselves. Regardless of experience, existing skillsets, or even licensure, some people are well-suited to training others, while other people may not make good coaches. Here, you’ll need to take a deeper dive into what makes potential coaches/trainers tick while simultaneously keeping in mind the needs you discovered during the previous step.
Knowledge and Experience
One of the most critical considerations with a trainer is whether they possess knowledge others need, as well as practical experience putting that knowledge to use within the work environment. To use our forklift operation example once more, you would certainly want a trainer who had actually used a forklift many times before to provide the training, rather than someone who had only ever read about using a forklift. Knowledge plus practical experience generally help make someone a better trainer.
Attitude and Performance
Is the individual a role model for others? In situations other than very basic training or workplace introductions, you should entrust OJT only to employees who have an exemplary attitude and exhibit the behavior you want to see from other employees within the workplace. Just like company culture, attitudes and behaviors trickle down to employees from trainers – a trainer with a lackadaisical attitude will pass that on to those they are training to some degree.
Of course, this step in assessing the trainers can be challenging, particularly when conducted by someone who does not work with the trainer regularly. It becomes important to speak with employees’ supervisors or managers and perhaps even interview coworkers before deciding this magnitude.
A Passion for Learning
The best trainers love learning and development. They’re passionate about improving themselves and are dedicated to lifelong, continuous learning in a variety of formats. That doesn’t mean they’re the “perennial student”, but that they are always interested in learning new things and being involved. They exhibit a passion for helping others learn and grow.
Training others requires the ability to transfer knowledge accurately. Good verbal, nonverbal, and written communication skills are essential here. How well does the trainer communicate with coworkers? With managers and other leaders? With the C suite?
Without strong communication skills, trainers may be unable to pass along the critical knowledge and skill their trainees need, thereby disrupting your OJT program. The good news is that anyone can learn good communication skills, so it is worth providing anyone who might be in a position of training others with at least basic communications training. An effective communication is the first step in assessing the trainers.
Ability to Provide Training in the Right Format
All OJT will involve hands-on experience with equipment, tasks, or software required to perform the specified job duties. However, that is only part of the equation. Your trainers should also be able to provide other supportive training in other formats. This could be written quizzes and assessments, or it could be simply asking follow-up questions after training to ensure that the trainee has absorbed the knowledge required. While assessing the trainers, make sure your trainer is capable of providing the quality training.
The Right Trainers Build Great Businesses
In the end, remember – the trainers you choose are directly responsible for your business’s success. Build your training team with care and intentionality. Even something as seemingly “basic” as new hire onboarding should be handled by trainers with knowledge, passion, and experience.