What makes a subject matter expert into a great trainer? I have so many clients telling me that they feel lost when the office guru ‘shows’ them how to do something on their PC and it set me thinking about how so many companies leave their staff to flounder without giving them instruction in how to use their computer equipment and get the most out of their software. Are they spending thousands on equipment that they fail to train staff to use, and indeed are they exposing their company data to the danger of untrained staff who may lose it or alter it inadvertently, causing errors to be made that the staff are unaware of? What is the potential of the software that they are not using properly? Could it be saving them time (and money) every single day?
This is a common phenomenon amongst companies who don’t put much money or authority behind their end-user training. What you get is an IT pro who is very knowledgeable about the technology behind software but can’t really bridge the gap to explain to how to use it. But it’s not their fault; they’ve had no training to teach! They are an expert in the technology behind how the computer works, but can’t really explain how to complete tasks to the people who will be using it. Different skill set! And anyway, shouldn’t your IT Pro be troubleshooting the technical issues you employ them to fix, leaving the training to the trainers?!
Before they begin to whizz the mouse across your screen (they’ll be in control of keyboard and mouse) they state “It’s easy!”. Was there ever a phrase designed to make you feel more inadequate? Now you know you’re doomed if you don’t understand it, you must be foolish indeed, as this ‘expert’ has determined that it’s easy…. Once the process has been demonstrated, at lightning speed, will you be able to do it yourself? I think not…. So are you any further ahead, really? Next time the same problem presents itself, will you be able to resolve it yourself or will you be ringing the dreaded expert again?
So, what should you look for when you ask someone to train your staff? Someone who has a teaching/training qualification is ideal, as that person has been educated about how to impart what they know to others. They’ve given thought to and studied how the brain processes information, how they need to break up new skills into manageable chunks so that the learners can process it and store it in long term memory so when they need it they can pull it out. They need to understand how important it is to weave processes into learning so that they test the learner and check how much they’ve understood, and they have the patience to explain things an alternative way if the learner ‘doesn’t get it’. Presenters who rely heavily on PowerPoint presentations without any exercises designed to ensure retention are not doing their job effectively. Learning should not be a chore – it should be relevant, timely and enjoyable.
Is your trainer qualified? Do they hold a Certificate in Education, or a City and Guilds qualification in Adult Training? Are they a Microsoft Master or Microsoft Certified Trainer, having proved they have the skills to pass the software specific exams themselves? Do they understand about different learning styles, about teaching methods, about how learning takes place? Or are they ‘winging it’?
Staff deserve to be taught how to use the equipment and software that they’ve been given, so they can do their jobs properly. They don’t deserve to be stressed out because they have a task to complete in a given time frame and don’t know how they’re going to achieve it. Next time your staff have to call and interrupt a busy IT technician and badger them to show them how to do something, think how much easier it would be if a professional trainer was tasked with doing what they’ve been trained to do – identify the Training Needs of individuals and provide training programs to fill those gaps!