Trainer validation – how am I doing?

It’s that time of year again where we are getting towards yearly appraisals.  My role as a learning designer has its issues, but seems to have more of a physical output to which I can refer in these meetings, more than our delivery population.  Although they have feedback throughout the year from the sessions that they have run, as part of their yearly appraisal, they must have gone back to the business and taken a call, and passed a quality audit.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after a discussion that was posted on Linkedin by Stephen M.  Here is what he thought were the attributes of an effective trainer…

An effective trainer demonstrates 4 attributes –

  1. Sufficient hands-on experience in the industry being trained, e.g. at least 5 years practical experience.  Trainer should have done it before for quite a while.  For instance a trainer for marketing should have at least 5 years actual successful marketing experience.  Same applies to leadership, communications etc.
  2. Extensive knowledge of what is the best practice in the industry at present, hence very good knowledge of what is going on in the industry or discipline, new developments etc.
  3. Proven ability in high impact training, preferable with certification,  Trainer should master the tricks to transform people.
  4. Self-appreciation, mirror, embodiment.  Trainer should reflect what is being trained, when applicable.  A trainer boosting your income should be quite wealthy.  A trainer dealing with time management should not come late etc.  A trainer talking communication cannot be too shy..

If one item is missing then the trainer cannot be effective.  Reading about a topic and delivering a course is more like lecturing or reporting, and not training.


So we have there what used to be the path you took to be a trainer.  You were good at sales, you moved up your grades.  Then comes the crunch – do you become a team leader or, if not, you become a trainer.  Tell people what you were doing well and they will be as good as you!  Easy.  However, my problem with this is that once you are away from the business for any amount of time, your effectiveness in doing that job will decrease.  Our example is typical of this.  We have delivery trainers who only train sales – they were from that background and this is what they did.  Owing to re-structures, sales exited our site so that it has become a claims site – including some technical areas such as Bodily Injury, Credit Hire and Commercial.  What happens then to these trainers?  They still have to train, but a different area to the one where their ‘expertise’ lay.  Part of their licence to operate now consists of taking a phone call (only one mind you) in a department they have never worked in.

In what way does this prove that you are a good trainer?  Or indeed, a learning and development professional?

All this proves is that you can take a phone call and ask a few questions.

How can we demonstrate that we have made a contribution and that it has been worthwhile?

We are no doubt going to be re-structuring around a 70:20:10 model, so what can we do to prove that we are adding value?

I think we can do more to get the trainers to a position where they can facilitate learning rather than be an SME.  We should be supporting the business and supporting on the job training.  I like @JaneBozarth ‘s idea of asking the question ‘What have you learned this week/month etc? How can the learning professional be effective if they do not know how to learn themselves?  This should be the target of the trainers, not whether they can answer a call….

So, what should be the attributes of a good learning development professional?

In my experience, certification seems to serve the purpose of benchmarking someone at a specific point in time, and is nice framed, and put on your wall at work.  I undertook and passed the CITP about 6 years ago, and I can honestly say I have not revisited any of the material or been asked about this in my professional life.

The learning professional should be assessed on their industry knowledge – of course, but this should be relevant to them. Are they blogging/tweeting.  Are they taking part in conversations etc.  How are they keeping abreast of new developments?  Do they take responsibility for their own learning….

The standard for learning and development practitioners could be a good start.  There are some good areas covered in this document and I’m going to discuss some of these with my team.

Has anyone got a framework for assessing trainers already?

What difficulties did you encounter?

Thanks to @MandyRG and @lesleywprice for the conversations around this.



4 thoughts on “Trainer validation – how am I doing?”

  1. Hi Damien, fantastic post and my overall thoughts on this bring me back to the simple and basic requirement of CPD, not for the learner but very much so for the facilitator, L&D member etc. if we as specialists are asking and expecting our audience to develop themselves then in the very least we have to demonstrate that far greater than some are perhaps doing at present. Just my thoughts of course.

    Thank you for a good insight and I look forward to hopefully some further engagement with you especially on the subject of Captivate.



    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Paul. It’s funny that this metric is still in place for this year for our delivery trainers, but with the pace of change I really don’t know how they can justify this. I expect an interesting narrative this year..;-)

      We’re also looking into upgrading our Captivate! (More change!) look forward to sharing our journey!

  2. Great post Damian. Reminds of of when I worked in Education. I worked in a team where there were lots of great lecturers who were really good at what they did. They could impart knowledge, encourage engagement, create an environment where independent thinking thrived. They could enthuse young people who then went onto achieve …whether that was through exams or a vocational course e.g. GNVQ. The reward for this was promotion which eventually took them into management – away from their subject matter expertise and they also became one step removed from the learner. IMHO, and it is only my opinion, this is where the system fell down and I think it still does. Just because you are a great teacher/lecturer/trainer, it does not follow that you will be a great manager. To be a great manager requires a different skill set.

    The skill set for L&D professionals is now so much broader than it ever was. To be effective, you have to understand the business, keep up to date by taking responsibility for your own learning. You may not know all the answers, but you have to be like the old AA tagline ‘I know a man who can’. On Monday 29 October, the Learning and Performance Institute will be launching the LPI Capability Map. It identifies skills and competencies within the Learning Profession..its very broad and we wouldn’t expect any one person to be able to ‘tick all the boxes’ but its a starting point. I will send you a link when we launch.

    PS…its always good to chat and thanks for the acknowledgement.

    1. Hi Lesley – thanks for the comment. I see so much of this in our organisation – people who were great with customers and their job, but hopeless team leaders and man managers. At the moment with our trainers I feel that it’s very much a surface exercise which business managers can see (how many of them are really bothered about this I don’t know). All this does is de-motivate the trainers who see this as a waste of time. (the setting up of the call can take days as they need to be ‘live’ on the system etc…sign ons, phone nos etc.)

      I’d love to see the capability map – sounds great, and badly needed!!


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