Training Brainstorm: Evaluating Trainers

Sections of this topic
    A trainer can only be as good as his or her research and talent. Follow the specific training guidelines if they are relevant to the trainees in your audience.

    Piggybacking on two of my latest blogs– Who Needs Training: Who Gets to Decide and Was the Guy Who Won the Audition Better Than You, I’m going to take a few minutes to brainstorm how we evaluate trainers and what it can mean. Obviously this is not going to be an in depth study, but I hope it will give us some ideas.

    Let’s start from the basic evaluation after a training session. Some questions you will find include:

    • did the trainer meet your specific needs for training?
    • was the trainer qualified to speak to this subject?
    • did the trainer hold your attention throughout the training session?
    • was the trainer interactive in his/her approach?
    • did the trainer offer you a chance to voice your questions or concerns?

    These are just points I picked off the top of my head. I didn’t even consult a training form, but I’m sure you’ve seen questions liked this or statements and the from one to nine, with one being the worst and nine being the best…

    Make sure interactive is indeed the most desired method of delivery. In some cases it may not be. It could be demonstration works best.

    I could substitute or add “speaker” to “trainer” because often they are referred to in the same way, but to keep it simple throughout, I’ll just refer to the “trainer.” Now, let’s address the questions one at a time.

    Did the trainer meet your specific needs for training? Think back about how much he would know about your specific need for training. If you are the manager or the trainer-in-resident (my term for training person in charge), did you discuss at length and provide additional materials to help the trainer determine the breadth of subject he or she was to cover. Additionally, did you tell him/her about the level of proficiency his or her audience had coming into the session? Did you have an accurate gauge of such information? Did the trainer or speaker?

    Was the trainer qualified to speak to those specific needs? One would presume so–especially if he were selected to perform or facilitate the training. Granted, some oversell does exist, but it can exist both in the training company and management: the trainer who wants the job and feels he/she can handle it and the manager who hopes for the same because training is sometimes thought (erroneously) to be the answer to any productivity problem. Either way, the trainees have been had when that question has not been fully determined.

    Did the trainer hold your attention…? A number of factors come to bear here, including the individual communication talent of the trainer, but consider also the audience frame of mind. Is the audience the “after lunch bunch?”

    Sometimes it is better for a trainee or an audience member to have an in depth discussion at another time with the trainer. Meanwhile, has management disclosed the audience level of competency for the trainer to work with and build on?

    They don’t really want to be there. Or they have predetermined all training is boring.

    They are sure they have too much real work to be done back at the office.

    Or, maybe some of that work made it to the training subconsciously, unconsciously or surreptitiously in paper or electronic data form. I could ask a lot of questions here about who is not ready for training, but use your imagination and let’s keep it short.

    The last two questions are easy to answer. Either the trainer did something interactive or he/she didn’t. Was he supposed to according to the contract? Did he need to? Was his subject of the nature, where anecdotal tales are more memorable. Or, do we assume because it is in the form, it is a must for any trainer? Research does show that “interactive” or participatory training is good, but not for everyone. If the question– “did the trainer’s approach seem appropriate to the subject in question?”–is not in the evaluation, maybe it should be.

    Did the trainer allow you time to voice questions or concerns? Were there questions? Was there time? Did the trainer offer to answer questions later, or have discussions after the training session in a different location, or even offer a card and a chance to discuss anytime? Some of these options can prove even more fruitful.

    The trainer can do only so much. He or she can improve presenting, facilitating or speaking skills, but they can’t change what wasn’t given to them by management or the trainer-in-residence.

    The connection to the other blogs: trainers have some control of the training situation they are about to be put in, but not all of it. If they ask the right questions, they can be prepared. If management asks the right questions and offers the information the trainer asks for as well as anything else they might think relevant, the result can’t help but be more useful. No guarantees, but opening the door wide for effective communication to take place is never a bad idea. People who don’t want to be trained for whatever reason are resistant and liable to sabotage the training for everyone else.

    Armed with enough information, a trainer, working with management and the trainer-in-resident, can make the training event positive and worthwhile.

    For more resources about training, see the Training library.