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Six Cardinal Rules for Effective Trainers

A group of diverse professionals sits around a table watching a mature woman conduct training at the head of the table

A 30-year executive training veteran shares his training best practices

Successful employee training and development yields a variety of benefits—a more competitive workforce, better employee performance, and increased staff engagement and retention, to name a few. But it’s not enough to simply have employees learn the process by reading from a manual or shadowing a more seasoned employee. There are some dos and don’ts on the road to getting what you need from employee training programs.

Whether training professionals is part of your job description or you’re simply sharing the steps of a specific task with a fellow employee, the components for success are the same, says retired training consultant Jim Hoar. He has trained senior leaders at Target Corporation for more than 32 years.

Jim Hoar portrait
Jim Hoar

“The first step is understanding what the job entails and what outcome is needed,” says Hoar, who instructs the Facilitative Training Techniques course for the U of M’s Professional Train-the-Trainer Certificate

Rianna Johnson, a training overseer at a Saint Paul nonprofit, said that’s the step that really hit home for her. “In the Assess Training Needs course I learned that, before you even start designing the training, you need to think about how you’ll evaluate the training first,” she says. “Before I took the certificate, we’d just throw people together and hope for the best. Now we develop the evaluation first so we are clear about the outcomes we’re seeking.” 

Hoar says professionals of all stripes can benefit from learning effective training practices. “So many positions would find this skill useful, including managers, supervisors, and executives, IT and sales specialists, and anyone in HR.”

So what are the training best practices? Hoar shared these six cardinal rules.

  1. Understand the outcomes you’re seeking and how you will evaluate whether they have been achieved before you design the training program. 
     
  2. Practice your presentation at least three times before you do it in front of anyone.
     
  3. Get your audience talking to each other within the first 10 minutes of your session.
     
  4. Have trainees practice something within the first 15–20 minutes. Less of you and more of them.
     
  5. Do NOT use the old teaching adage of “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” For adults this is at best boring and at worst condescending. Learning happens when participants are engaged and active.
     
  6. Never read Powerpoint slides to your audience. Summarize the page and add an insight: What’s the one thing they need to remember from this slide?

Interested in learning more? Visit the Professional Train-the-Trainer website!