While there is a growing trend to present training material in an e-learning format, there is and always will be a need for live classroom instruction. I have worked with hundreds of instructors during my years as a software trainer and training project manager. During that time, I have found that there are three elements to look for in a contract trainers. Mastering these areas should also be part of any contract instructor’s professional development.
Knowing the material may seem obvious, but just being able to lead a class through the instructor guide and supplementary exercises is not enough.
For the most part, students want to learn. They expect that their training will either improve their productivity, profitability, or just make their jobs easier. Knowing where to point and click or which kind of data to enter into a particular field is less than half of the value provided by a contract trainer. Students want to know how the new information is going to benefit them.
A contract instructor doesn’t necessarily need to be subject matter expert, but they do need to have an understanding of how the training is going to help the users. Keeping that goal in mind while a trainer is preparing for a class will enable him to better convey the material.
As a contract trainer, you may not know exactly what all the benefits are, but that is simply an opportunity to engage your students. It’s not unusual for students to have an “ah-ha” moment during training. When that happens, ask your students how they see a particular point as a benefit. Not only does that give you additional insight on the fly, but it helps get your students excited about the material as they realize its value.
Unlike self-paced e-learning, classroom training is constrained by the time available. A contract trainer needs to rapidly establish a rapport with her students. This helps to minimize or at least quickly curtail common distractions like e-mail, facebook, and yes even mine sweeper.
One of the best trainers I worked with had a trick that built instant rapport with any class he led. He introduced himself to each individual student as they entered the room, making sure to get their first name in the process. Once everyone was seated, he introduced them to the rest of the class by their first name. Imagine remembering more than 30 names of people you just met in the few minutes it takes for students to enter a classroom!
Now I don’t expect many people to pull that off, I know I can’t. But when you are in the classroom, taking the time to learn as many names as you can and using them at opportune times not only engages your students individually but it also gives your presence and confidence a boost. Quickly building report, whatever the method, will keep an instructor in control and allow him to more effectively manage the flow of the class.
Remember, classroom training has a time limit and a lot of material needs to be covered. Questions need to be answered as the class asks them, but answers cannot become discussions if it jeopardizes the agenda. Use a “parking lot” to table more complex questions or ones that require additional information and address them later when it won’t disrupt the flow.
Both employers and contractors would prefer to have the particulars of a work order clearly spelled out at the beginning and be certain that it would go exactly as planned, but we all realize that seldom happens.
Employers are grateful when contractors exhibit flexibility. Whether it is last minute content updates, a change in location, or other scheduling, contractors find more work when they are known to adapt to the changes that are inherent in any project.
During the interview process and teach back sessions, employers should look to ask questions and construct scenarios that will elicit evidence of benefit oriented content knowledge, effective classroom management skills, and flexibility. Finding instructors, or being an instructor, with these attributes will maximize the effectiveness of any classroom training project.