Professional Development for Trainers Leads to Better Organizational Performance

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ATD research finds that high-performing organizations are more likely to offer their trainers professional development opportunities and supportive technology.

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“Professional development for trainers should show how talent development supports the business. You need all the techniques and skills, and you also need to understand how training helps your organization achieve its goals.” —Elaine Biech of ebb associates

Recent research by the Association for Talent Development found that organizations that offer professional development opportunities to their trainers are more likely to be top business performers relative to their competitors.

Professional development opportunities for trainers are crucial because effective L&D practitioners help deliver more meaningful business results that can drive performance. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that the role of training and development specialists will grow faster than the average for other occupations between now and 2029, trainer capability is important. However, according to Effective Trainers: Traditional and Virtual Classroom Success, trainers have a wide range of experience levels and backgrounds:

  • Seventy-three percent used employees who were originally hired by talent development as trainers.
  • Fifty-eight percent used full-time trainers who formerly held positions in other parts of the organization.
  • Fifty-four percent used individuals with primary jobs outside talent development.

At 37 percent of organizations the average trainer had only beginner-level understanding of the seven theories and models identified by this study to represent overall knowledge in the field.

“Professional development for trainers should show how talent development supports the business,” advised Elaine Biech of ebb associates in an interview for this report. Biech believes this approach goes beyond just improving people’s skills and abilities as trainers. It’s the key to having trainers who are business partners with leadership and the organization. “You need all the techniques and skills, and you also need to understand how training helps your organization achieve its goals.”

Varying activities and instructional methods used during training, regardless of whether it’s done in a traditional classroom or online in real time, “increases learner engagement, retention, and cognitive processing,” says Carrie Addington, manager of facilitator development and strategy, ATD Education, in an interview for this report. It also enables trainers to account for varying learning preferences and generations in the classroom.

Among individual learning activities in the virtual classroom, the three activities trainers were most likely to use were icebreakers (64 percent), guest speakers or leaders as teachers (49 percent), and breakout groups (45 percent).

“The role [of the trainer] is to set everyone up for success and make space for learning to happen,” Addington adds. This includes “managing the group size for maximum participation, defining the purpose or goal of the activity, and giving clear instructions and time allocations to manage expectations.”

Some other takeaways from the report include:

  • The need to upskill and reskill employees to stay competitive now and the in the future and the COVID-19 pandemic pivot to virtual training should give organizations a strong incentive to adopt best practices for talent development, and specifically, instructor-led training.
  • One in four organizations (24 percent) supported instructor-led training with technology to a high extent. Examples of supporting technology include presentation software, LMS or other tracking technology, and streaming video or multimedia. These organizations were significantly more likely to be high performers.
  • Learning producers were used by less than 30 percent of organizations that provided virtual classroom training. These professionals support virtual classroom trainers; common learning producer responsibilities include providing technical support and managing learner questions or chats. Organizations that used learning producers were significantly more likely to be high performers.

About ATD

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is the world’s largest professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees, improve performance, and help to achieve results for the organizations they serve. Established in 1943, the association was previously known as the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD).

ATD’s members come from more than 120 countries and work in public and private organizations in every industry sector. ATD supports talent development professionals who gather locally in volunteer-led US chapters and international member networks and with international strategic partners.

For more information, visit td.org.

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