Corporate training has tremendous potential to promote learning in organizations. There are two primary elements responsible for how much potential is realized within the corporate training classroom. Those elements are the materials provided and the method of delivery. An instructional designer, or someone in a similar role, can develop engaging materials. Still, if the delivery is not well executed, the training will not be as effective as it could be. In contrast, if the training materials have not been designed in the most engaging manner or the material is technical in nature, the trainer can still create positive classroom conditions conducive to learning.
There are two types of trainers found within organizations that choose to invest in learning and development. The first is a trainer who adequately delivers the required training materials and meets the minimum requirements for their role. The other type is a trainer who has evolved into someone who has a much greater impact on the learning process within a training classroom, a trainer who has transformed into a workforce educator. While it may seem that both are performing the same function, and to some degree, they are because they work with the same materials, one disseminates information. The other brings the class to life and connects the information to participants in a meaningful manner. Becoming a workforce educator does not happen automatically and requires making a conscious decision as a trainer to improve upon existing skills, acquire additional knowledge, and develop new instructional strategies.
The Work of a Corporate Trainer
In general, a corporate trainer will view training from an outcome-based, task-oriented perspective. Participants are required to attend assigned classes, and their willing compliance is expected. The role of a trainer involves preparing to instruct participants for what they are expected to learn or complete by the end of the class, whether it involves acquiring new knowledge or developing new skills. They also understand that the primary responsibilities for their role include providing materials, giving instructions, showing processes and procedures, and answering questions. A trainer knows that the learning objectives or outcomes, whether or not they have been directly involved in developing them, determine what must be accomplished. The final results at the end of the class are somewhat within their control since they demand involvement. Still, they cannot force participants to learn.
Of course, there are certainly exceptions to this general rule, and there are trainers who have taken workshops and classes to advance their knowledge of corporate training methodologies and processes; however, someone who holds a task-centered view of learning still fits within the typical definition of a corporate trainer. Professional development is available through a variety of resources, which includes professional associations devoted to this field. However, professional development requires more than a membership to an organization or group; it must also involve a genuine interest in the growth of the trainer’s own skills. It is easy to believe that if classroom observations and/or performance reviews are adequate and students respond most favorably to the training instruction, no further learning and development is needed. That belief only sustains a trainer’s current role and mindset, which can limit their future potential.
Corporate trainers may also be called facilitators or instructors. The words instructor and trainer are generally thought to have the same meaning, used interchangeably. Some organizations refer to their trainers as facilitators as it suggests that a trainer is guiding the class rather than leading the learning process. While that is certainly possible, taking this type of approach still requires advanced instructional experience and strategies, which would change the role of the trainer beyond someone who delivers materials and expects that participants will comply with their instructions. Unless a trainer has acquired advanced knowledge of adult learning and pursued their own professional development, they are usually most skilled at the art of corporate training.
What it Means to Be a Workforce Educator
The word facilitator is really not enough to adequately describe a trainer who has transformed from someone who delivers information to someone who educates. A corporate classroom will still be instructor-driven, given the nature of how most training occurs, which means the instructor will do something more than facilitating a process. Unless students are given the materials in advance, allowed to prepare for discussions before the class begins, and allowed to demonstrate what they have learned through written projects, a trainer will do more than guiding the participants – they are still going to lead and direct the class. However, what can change corporate training is a trainer who has purposefully transformed and become a workforce educator.
An educator has developed a different view of how employees as participants are involved in the learning process. In addition, an educator understands that learning begins within the mind of the participants, not with the materials they need to deliver. They are not going to give participants information that must be assimilated – they understand the basic process of adult learning. By knowing some of the most important adult education principles, they will help students learn, apply, and retain new knowledge. A workforce educator will develop instructional strategies that are learner or employee-focused. They will partner with the instructional designer or person involved in curriculum development to ensure that all learning activities support the participants’ overall progress and development.
There is another important distinction made between a corporate trainer and a workforce educator. A corporate trainer believes they know enough and are well-equipped to train employees. In contrast, an educator is someone who is focused on their own professional self-development. Whether a trainer was hired because of their experience rather than their academic accomplishments, they possess a genuine interest in educating adults. They continue to learn from classes and workshops they attend, they read materials and resources that further their own knowledge base. They use self-reflection after each class to assess the effectiveness of their instructional strategies. It is possible to be a natural educator without having an advanced degree in adult education because what matters most is the pursuit of ongoing professional development and a willingness to continue to learn and adapt for the benefit of the employees as students.
Strategies to Transform from a Trainer to an Educator
The most important characteristic needed to transform from trainer to educator is a mindset focused on teaching rather than telling participants what they need to learn, along with an attitude of ongoing development and a willingness to learn. An educator views themselves as a lifelong learner, even if they have not acquired advanced education. There are many resources available now for educators, especially online, which will help anyone acquire the necessary knowledge to improve their craft. But if someone believes they have already learned enough or know enough about learning, that thinking will cause them to get stuck, and their developmental capacity becomes limited over time.