The Accidental Trainer: Creating Professional Training When You’re Not a Learning Professional

Written by Gauri Reyes | Aug 15, 2014 9:19:54 PM

Not everyone can be a great learning professional. But, you don’t need to be a “professional” learning professional to create or contribute to exceptional learning experiences for others.

If you are tasked with creating, or inspired to create, online training for your department, your organization, or your partners or customers, it’s not strictly necessary to have “training” or “learning” in your job title. With today’s tools, technology, and accessibility to knowledge, it’s possible for a motivated individual to create effective online training. If you have the internal drive to solve a business need, make the organization leaner, get others up to speed faster, retain and spread organizational knowledge, or mentor people, then you have the foundation for creating transformational learning experiences.

Start the learning conversation. Start small and prototype, if you like. Just start. Know that you don’t have to do everything yourself. And, consider the following questions when getting started.

Know When to Start, and Stop, Training

Question: Before jumping into creating a training module, or a full training program, what organizational issue are you trying to solve?

Be sure of your answer before jumping into instructional design.

Training is often a part of an overall change management strategy. Sometimes, training is the solution. Sometimes, training is not the solution at all. Sometimes, training needs to be combined with another strategy. Marc Rosenberg lists 14 reasons why people don’t perform and what can be done to address performance.The list is a great reminder that sometimes, organizational issues need to be addressed through communication, standards, commitment or culture, resource planning, incentives, or hiring/firing/personnel issues in place of, or in addition to, training.

So, what organizational issue are you trying to address with training? Is training appropriate? And if so, what type of training (in person, online, blended, etc.) will most efficiently address the issue? With rapid authoring tools, learning management systems (LMS), and social media, it’s becoming easier to find the tools to create technology-based training. With learning techniques such as microlearning, agile methodologies, and rapid prototyping it’s easy to start small before ultimately creating widespread and meaningful experiences.

What Do You Want When You Are the Learner?

Thought Experiment: Think back to a meaningful training session that you participated in as a learner. What did you want (and get) from that learning experience?

What does your list of “training wants” look like? Here’s my personal list:

  • My inner creativity to be sparked so that I walk away with new ideas and “A Ha!” moments
  • Delivery with wit and humor through unique presentation experiences
  • Super-organized experiences
  • Breaking down complex or esoteric ideas into simplified, impactful methods
  • Respect for and conservation of my time
  • Relevant, timely, and personalized content
  • Refraining from spouting long lists of facts (provide details in writing for later access, if needed)
  • Make me a better (more productive, more empathetic, more knowledgeable, etc.) person for having completed the training

Your list may include a host of other items (e.g., social experiences with co-workers, the opportunity to show the experience and knowledge you have prior to the training, the ability to gain a certification or credential). We all have spent a lifetime as learners—from grade school until now. Incorporate your training wants in your training, and tap into you co-workers’ or customers’ wants to create a more universal learning experience.

Build a Learning Network

Question: Where can you go to get help in creating training, particularly when starting out?

Recruit others to become a part of your formal (or informal) training department and harness existing knowledge. Identify stakeholders (managers, executives, and other key internal people) and involve them in ensuring program success. Tap into subject matter experts (SMEs) or partners to provide content or serve as mentors.

Professional trainers are people too. Find professional resources—people or places to go to where you can ask questions and receive respectful answers. Professional organizations, such as the Association for Talent Development, provide a myriad of resources from conferences to books to chapter meetings where you can connect with likeminded individuals.

Give Up Full Control of the Learning Experience

Thought Experiment: What would happen if you gave your learners the base knowledge and tools, and sent them off to draw their own conclusions rather than making the connections for them?

Ground-breaking, innovative problem-solving techniques involve setting the stage, facilitating discussions, and then letting learners run with it (within the training scenario, if not in the real world). You will never have the opportunity to be surprised/delighted/proud of what a group can accomplish if you tell them what to accomplish and how to do it. Set up the learning experience, facilitate it, and then let go and see what happens. Take the risk together—the results may be utter failure (a lesson learned) or wild success.

People new to the training ecosystem are often held back with worry about how the learning experience will turn out. Don’t stress about predicting and planning the full outcomes of the learning exercises you use in training. Try, see what happens, adjust, and try again. Particularly if you are using microlearning or prototyping techniques, you can contain the learning situation until you feel comfortable going bigger.

I’m not saying that anyone can teach, or instantaneously become a learning professional. It takes knowledge and experience. But, if you have the desire to solve organizational needs through learning experiences, start solving—regardless of your official title.

What are your answers to the questions above, or your solutions to the thought experiments? And how have your ideas contributed to solving organizational needs through training?

Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.