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Train the Trainer programmes: Potential pitfalls and how to avoid them


Cascade training – also known as “Train the Trainer” is often seen as an inexpensive way to train users, however it can be a high risk option. It normally takes the form of selecting some key users (also known as “super users” or “business champions”) to be trained, who will then train the remaining users within their areas of business.

For some clients who have a small budget and a lot of users, it is a cheaper option that when organised effectively can prove successful. However, the pitfalls that often lead to project failure are :

  • The super users do not have the experience or aptitude for training. Frequently they have been selected reluctantly and so don’t ‘buy in’ to delivering training.
  • Poor support or guidance is available on how to train effectively.
  • Training tends to be system-driven, rather than tailored to the specific roles and expectations of users.
  • The trainers are expected to continue with their normal work, with little time allocated for preparatory work. They usually have to carry on with their day jobs and train potentially large numbers of users.

Train the trainer programmes usually work well when:

  • The staff chosen are identified as having the training skills, time and willingness to succeed.
  • Professional and appropriate training tools are available.
  • The trainers feel equipped to confidently and independently deliver all of the content to their staff.

What the selected trainers need to know

  1. Functional and process knowledge: they will need to feel confident in using all areas of the system that they will be expected to support.
  2. Training skills: core training aptitude such as using training aids, questioning techniques, learning styles, course structure and coaching skills.
  3. Knowledge of the organisation’s training materials and courses.

My Recommendations

Staff with the pre-requisite training skills, time and willingness to take part in the project should be identified at an early date and provided with extensive training. They should be in a position, by the time the training starts, to confidently and independently deliver all of the content to their staff, with some support from the project or training team.

To address the three areas mentioned above:

  1. Those chosen to train should sit in on pilot courses (if possible), with extra time allowed at the end of the course for in-depth question and answer sessions. If it is not possible to run them all in advance of the roll out, they should be given plenty of time to learn the functionality before the training period.
  2. Train the Trainer – Optimum can offer a standard 1 day course in core training skills, giving super users the confidence to deliver training and introducing them to practical exercises and scenarios that they can build into the courses.
  3. The selected super users should be given a preparation period not smaller than 2 days per day of course that they will be delivering. This should give them time to consolidate the functional knowledge delivered in step 1 and practise the skills learned in step 2, while asking questions of the project/training team. Further time should be allocated to the trainers to create sample exercises specific to each role group, or to learn examples that have been created by the training team.

Don’t forget about timelines! It should be noted that where trainers will be sitting in on courses before delivering them, this increases the lead time for developing training as compared to using an external training team. Training materials and a training environment will need to be available several weeks before delivery commences and the chosen users will need to spend considerable amounts of time preparing to deliver.

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