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What makes a good trainer?

Good trainer target training

What do the different stakeholders in training think is a good trainer?

What is a good trainer? This sounds like quite a simple question to answer. It’s apparently not. And it depends on who’s answering the question.

I like to think that I’m a good trainer and the feedback I’ve received would generally support this.  I will though never forget my first piece of negative feedback. As a new trainer, a good number of years ago, I was taken off a training course because I had been trying to teach the participant something focused on what their L&D manager had identified as a need, and had carefully planned out my training sessions accordingly. My boss just said that in his case I didn’t have to do that, I just had to be an entertainer like the trainer he had had before and make sure he had fun. This left me seriously puzzled. Sure, I can do entertainer if need be, but how is that helpful? How is spending a morning entertaining someone with no focus on results going to be useful? Surely that is a waste of the client’s money? Yet, if we look at the list below, likeability is the number one on the participants’ list. And likeability is very subjective.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of very questionable feedback come in about other trainers I know, trust, have observed, seen material they’ve produced, and can generally vouch for as being good trainers (from an employers’ perspective). Can you argue with the client though? They’re paying, and if they’re not happy, you’ve got to do something about it, haven’t you? Maybe the first thing to think about is the differences in understanding of what a good trainer is.

Here are some of the responses gathered from training evaluation forms, interviews, and discussion forums. Each group is made up of comments from the perspective of stakeholder listed.  For example, the “Trainer” list is what trainers think is important.  The list is in fact much longer, but these are the most common criteria. Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts!

What is a good trainer: Key points from the different stakeholders

1.  Trainer

  • Qualified
  • Experienced
  • A good sense of humor / Likeability
  • Sensitivity to individuals’ needs

2.  Trainer’s employer

  • Likeability
  • Flexibility
  • Innovative and experimental
  • Independent
  • Willingness to keep developing and move outside the comfort zone
  • Understanding that training isn’t just about what happens in the training room – administration and preparation are also part of the job
  • Qualified
  • Experienced – but the right kind of experience, not twenty years of doing the same thing over and over again

3.  Learning and Development Manager 

  • Anything that keeps complaints away!
  • Results driven – and not just learning results, results that are going to help the company improve its performance
  • Qualified
  • Experienced in field
  • Ability to deal with different personality types
  • Likeability

4.  Participant

  • Likeability
  • Professionalism (Am I the only person who doesn’t really know what that is supposed to mean?)
  • Flexibility – in response to mood, need, activity type
  • Variety – the element of surprise keeps you on your toes. Variety in terms of materials, training tools, modes of presentation, training room format, mixing groupings, etc
  • Results driven – will I now be able to do my job better in some way

This list raises questions as opposed to providing answers. Interestingly, likeability is the only quality that appears in all four groups. Does that mean that a good trainer just needs to be a nice person? Is everyone’s understanding of a nice person the same? It is, after all, highest up the participant’s list. The participants are generally the people completing the evaluation forms. Do training institutions / L&D departments need to design their feedback forms to take that factor out? Or is training just a motivational tool and if your people are having a nice time, then does it mean the training is great?

What are your thoughts? How does your company decide what makes a trainer / training provider good? Let us know in the comments area below.  Want to learn more about what others are saying about their training experiences?  Click here.