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Train the trainer
Even good trainers need to reasess their technique sometimes...

Charlene Smith
Media24, 2 June 2004

"The need for excellence in skills training is desperate," says Liza van Wyk, CEO of Astro Tech a major Johannesburg based skills training organisation. "We receive dozens of applications from people who claim they have the ability to train, but often it is clear from their resumes that they have little or no ability to impart knowledge. The trainers we have are the cream of the crop; they are academics, executives, business owners and others with strong experience and presentation skills. Business needs practical skills."

But even good trainers are faced with challenges, "what we are increasingly finding from trainers within companies and government is that they very quickly reach burnout and exhaustion. They may become demotivated, find it difficult to keep being innovative and patient in training. They need a recharge in terms of energy and new tools to help them cope better and facilitate more effectively," says van Wyk.

Some of the tips Astro Tech facilitators give for more effective training include Christa Loots advice that, "a facilitator matches the right problem solving tool, group and process to the relevant issue to ensure success. Facilitation is like boxing, you can never predict 100% what will happen in the fight, but good preparation reduces the odds."

Information technology facilitator for Astro Tech, Delton Sylvester counsels that, "Humour is always important." He says too, that, "if you want participants to grasp a theoretical concept, illustrate it with a practical example. Form exercises (group or individual) that allow participants to apply the knowledge they have gained in the course."

Astro Tech facilitator, Philip de Kock gives these brief steps for facilitation success:

• Acknowledge the people: Have proper introductions.
• Acknowledge the process: State purpose, outline agenda and allow its adoption.
• Raise issues: Enable the group to raise issues in a non-judgmental fashion. Allow questions for clarification. Use appropriate facilitation techniques including brainstorming, SWOT Analysis or Projective Techniques.
• Discussion and dialogue: Allow group to express their opinions and concerns about issues. The core skill of the facilitator is to protect the person making input without taking sides.
• Priorities: Use ranking techniques to determine priorities.
• Brainstorm solutions: Identify root causes and know they might have to be referred for analysis.
• Joint implementation: Decide first steps for implementing solutions and if necessary refer them for more indepth analysis. • Decide on joint implementation and monitoring structures.
• Closure: Create psychological closure. Acknowledge the people. Allow expression of how they experienced the process. • Show progress. Decide on next steps.