Posted on: September 9, 2022

What is the "Train the Trainer" Approach?

train the trainer

If you're responsible for employee training – be it in a small business or a large organization – it can be tempting to identify people who are excellent at what they do and then just tell them to go teach others how to do what they do.

It's something we do a lot in the service industry, particularly food and beverage. Waitstaff training is largely informal for most businesses. You buddy the new person up with someone to shadow, then hope that your existing staff member has a knack for imparting wisdom.

The higher the stakes, of course, the worse an idea "hoping for the best" becomes. For example, you wouldn't want to put your life in the hands of a doctor trained entirely by an ad-hoc apprenticeship.

What about your liquor license? Are you willing to put it in the hands of a bartender-turned-shift-supervisor who may or may not be able to explain their instincts?

Enter a train-the-trainer approach.

What Is the Train-the-Trainer Concept?

Not everyone who is good at something will be good at teaching others about it.

Sure, a small portion of subject matter experts will have an instinctive grasp on how to pass on their knowledge. But there's an equal portion who will be hopeless at teaching no matter what you do.

The train-the-trainer model is for everyone in between – everyone who can be taught how to teach. It's an approach for empowering employees with the instructional skills to effectively share their knowledge.

Why a Train the Trainer Program is Important

If ad-hoc training is ineffective and risky, the other end of the spectrum also has its downside. You can hire professional trainers in a subject – that is, subject matter experts who have already gained professional-grade instructional skills.

Whether or not you can find enough trainers for hire will depend on the topic, and whether you hire them internally or as third-party contractors, it can get expensive quickly.

In some cases, it makes a lot more sense to build training capacity from within. For example, when there's a lot of turnover in your organization or you're teaching skills that require extended supervision, you'd need to have a professional on hand nearly always.

This is when a train-the-trainer model becomes more cost effective than hiring professionals. You hire someone to teach key individuals how to pass on their knowledge – maybe you even need to bring them back periodically for refreshers and to train even more trainers. It's still a heck of a lot more efficient than a dedicated trainer addressing all your needs.

Tips for Training the Trainer

If you're starting your own Train the Trainer Program, there are a few things you need to handle before you can get started.

Know Your Goals

How many people do you need to start your train the trainer program? If you're a fairly small business, it may just be one. Or, you may want to have enough trainers for one person on each shift or team so that your workers have closer supervision.

What areas are you training the trainers to teach? Are you looking for trainers that can help with broad skills development, or do you want someone to focus on one or two key topics?

Source Your Training Curriculum

You'll need courses to reinforce the content your trainers will be teaching, to ensure that they have a fresh and comprehensive knowledge of the material.

They'll also teach training principles, presentation skills, and how to facilitate learning for everyone.

You need all the training materials on these topics themselves, but you also need assessment and performance evaluation tools rubrics so you know when your new trainers are ready to start their new roles and so you can judge their effectiveness in the field.

This step can be particularly overwhelming if you're starting from scratch. You may want to consider outsourcing your trainers' training program through a third party like TIPS. More on this in a bit.

Select the Right People

The people you choose to train as trainers don't have to hold any particular job title or position in your organization. You don't need it to be your assistant manager or your most responsible veteran server. It may very well end up being one of those people, but it doesn't have to be.

Being a trainer requires a very specific set of skills that don't necessarily overlap with other job descriptions.

Prospective trainers should be:

  • Natural communicators – good listeners, good at speaking to large groups, and good at interacting one-on-one. The biggest advantage of an internal training resource is that they're around all the time. They can conduct formal training, then reinforce it during the day-to-day.
  • Well-respected and trusted by workers, not just management. You want to choose someone that can serve as a role model during the day-to-day, as well as someone your front-line workers will feel comfortable going to for help.
  • Skilled or knowledgeable in the particular training topics they'll be responsible for. They need to know what "good" looks like and be capable of demonstrating excellence. And no matter how respected the trainer is in general, it will be hard for workers to respect their teachings on a topic if they're no better than the colleagues they're teaching.
  • Open to helping their teammates and to receiving constructive criticism. You want people who are naturally inclined to teach and help their coworkers. They'll also be learning a new skill, so they'll need to listen and improve in a whole new area.

Need the Training to be a Trainer? We Can Help!

Our TIPS trainer certification program is the definition of "train the trainer."

As experts in a skills-based responsible alcohol training program, we build capacity for TIPS training within your organization so that you have a full-time customer service expert to foster compliance and professionalism throughout your entire staff.

Letting us train key employees to be TIPS trainers has many advantages:

  • You'll have the flexibility to conduct TIPS training for your employees whenever and wherever you need them, instead of trying to schedule a session with a third party.
  • Hiring us to train your trainers is even cheaper than buying online TIPS courses for all your employees.
  • You'll be able to offer TIPS training services to other organizations in your community, bringing a new revenue stream to your business.
  • You'll be contributing directly to the safety of your community by preventing drunk driving, intoxication, and underage sales.
  • TIPS certified trainers have access to TIPS curriculum that's proven effective – you won't need to develop internal training materials for employees.

Learn more about TIPS Train-the-Trainer Workshops and get started today!