So, you need training. What now?

The word ‘training’ means different things to people. For some, it is a matter of ensuring compliance and adherence to required standards and regulations. For others, it is a critical and integrated part of career development. For the trainer – at the risk of stating the obvious – it’s about clearly understanding both the requirements and expectations. This starts with asking the right questions.

When I first started as a trainer over 15 years ago, I developed training materials based on what people wanted to learn. I soon realised that this approach had limitations as the scope was often broad and ambiguous. For example, a client asks for training on the ‘types of reinsurance’. This is a broad subject. Without asking the right questions, the development and structuring of the training is very much open to interpretation.

As an experienced trainer, I have refined my approach. From the outset, I ask key questions to establish aims, background, scope and practicalities, such as:

  • What is the context of the requested training – why is it being requested?
  • What does the training subject mean to the requesters – what are they seeking to achieve?
  • What are the ultimate goals of the attendees and the training requesters?
  • Who are the attendees – including their job roles, level of knowledge and experience?
  • How much time is available for the training?
  • What is the setting – i.e. location, facilities, cultural environment?

The answers to these questions help determine the scope of the training. However, we are not finished there. Next, we need to think carefully about the delivery style. Is there an expectation regarding the delivery style and format of the training – e.g. lecture-style, interactive, discussion groups?

This takes me to something about which I am very passionate – the difference between training and presenting. While similar, for me, they are very different.

Presenting involves communicating effectively to an audience and this is clearly required for successful training. However, this is only a component. If a client wants and is expecting a presentation, that’s fine. However, if they expect training, we need to get the attendees involved. The attendees need to become more than an audience – they need to be participants.  For me, the content development process and the delivery style are what differentiate training from presenting.

To create participation, you need to generate interaction. There are various approaches you can adopt, such as:

It’s now a question of which methods, or combination of methods, are best in any one situation? Developing these methods takes time, so careful thought needs to be given as to how and where they will be used. Some subjects are best suited to particular methods. For example, technical training such as reinsurance wordings might fit best with lecture-style learning supported by in-class exercises (i.e. giving the participants activities – team based or individual – to embed the subject matter). Subjects such as product development, designing solutions and negotiation are often a good match for case studies, discussion groups and simulation-based learning.

There is no standard approach to training. I develop and deliver customised training in a number of countries with their own unique cultures and languages (18 countries so far in the Asia-Pacific region). My work gives me the opportunity to interact with people who come from various age-groups, backgrounds and levels of experience and knowledge. The challenge of getting the right balance in the training content, structure and style for a diverse group of participants keeps me motivated and always learning. Some cultural backgrounds and demographics are more accustomed to interactive learning. Others might find the idea of interaction intimidating. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use interaction in such cases, but that you might approach the interaction in a certain manner – i.e. a gentle manner which avoids putting people on the spot and provides a mentoring environment.

Developing and delivering successful training for the different cultures of the Asia-Pacific region can seem like a daunting task. There’s a lot of work to be done, everything needs to start with a blank sheet of paper and we need to ask the right questions. inuRE specialises in partnering with companies to deliver a tailored experience that delivers on the learning objectives. Having the right technical knowledge and content are, of course, critical. More than that though, we need to consider how best to engage the participants and give them something to remember. For me, every training assignment is an opportunity to learn, interact with diverse people and try something new. For these reasons, training is one of the most rewarding parts of my work.

Author: Gabriel Manoughian