When a Train-the-Trainer (T3) Makes Sense

When a Train-the-Trainer (T3) Makes Sense
November 30, 2016 Rob Benson

Historically, we’ve been engaged in customizing and delivering leadership, safety leadership, and safety engagement training, and we’ve done a lot of it in the energy, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors. Twice a year, we’d also invite in fellow trainers and HR professionals for a Training Excellence T3, where we teach our approach to facilitating learning. Except for one instance in my memory, a content-specific T3, where we teach in-house trainers how to deliver our content (e.g., SafetyMirror 4 Leaders, Core Leadership Skills, etc.) wasn’t really a part of our repertoire. Folks hired us to deliver that type of training to them.

We’ve recently seen a shift. More and more of our clients are at least wanting to explore a content-specific T3 as a possible approach. On the face of it, a T3 is an attractive option for several reasons:

  1. Lower Overall Cost: if you anticipate several training classes, you’ll spend less on the T3 and seat licenses than you would bring in outside facilitators
  2. Greater Flexibility (class size and dates): for outside facilitation to make sense on a cost-per-person basis, you typically need to bring together 12 or more of your folks at one time, but what if you can only pull away half that number at one time in order to maintain your business operations? If you anticipate smaller class sizes, a T3 offers you important flexibility. Schedule the classes at a size that makes sense and without reference to our availability.
  3. Professional Development: those whom you designate as trainers receive a crash course in both presentation skills and human dynamics, two sets of competencies that will serve them and your company well beyond their completion of the course
  4. Deeper Customization: while we take great care to customize the training for whichever route you choose, your people know your business in ways that we never could. They have the reservoir of background knowledge and examples necessary to make the course truly unique to your organization.

I’ve just returned from five wonderful, jam-packed days facilitating a Core Leadership Skills T3 for a manufacturing client in northwest Arkansas. It was flat-out awesome, both in my estimation and (more significantly) that of the client, and it was a superb example of how to do a T3 the right way. It highlighted some of the not-so-obvious investments that are needed to make the subsequent training a success, which companies considering this option should carefully weigh before diving in.

  1. The “Right” Trainers: you’ll need to enlist the active involvement of a group of individuals who have the necessary experience, comfort in front of a group, emotional intelligence, and presence to effectively convey the message to your people. This group is typically NOT your junior-level people, nor are they necessarily people in your training department, or HR, or HSE. If the goal of the course is to make significant gains in leadership or safety culture (two of our wheelhouses), you’ll need to look for: 1) more senior people in 2) significant operational roles. At last week’s T3 in Arkansas, the training group consisted of the entire Executive Management Team (including the CEO) and the Plant Managers from each of their five plants.* When they speak about the company, it is with passion and conviction and their people take notice.
  2. A Block of Time: the T3 for a one-day course will typically involve three training days; a two-day course will necessitate a five-day T3. These days need to be contiguous (i.e., all in one week).
  3. Commitment to Engage and Prepare: a T3 involves three core components,
    • – An exposure class, where the trainees experience the course that they will be teaching as a participant. The exposure provides a model for how they should deliver the course, and they experience what their people will hear and feel.
    • – Instruction in facilitation skills, which focuses on techniques for promoting real engagement and deep learning
    • – Teach backs, where the T3 participants, often in teams of two or three at a time, reteach the entire course back to the rest of the group, complete with participant and instructor feedback. In addition, the T3 participants often leave these full training days with assignments to be completed for the following day. A T3 is an intense learning time for all involved.
  4. Conviction About the Course’s Importance in Achieving Success: While this may seem obvious, why would the company invest in training otherwise? We all know of companies where training is approached as an event, just boxes to check off rather than as a component of a well-designed process intended to significantly further the organization’s goals. If the soon-to-be-trainers aren’t fully convinced that their time and energy serve an important purpose, then they will fail to fully invest themselves and be (at best) mediocre trainers when all is done.

So, there you have it, the benefits of a T3 (which are significant) and the investment needed (which is also significant). The choice is yours. We are superb facilitators, so if pulling off a T3 seems too big to handle, we would be more than happy to partner with you, customize the course, and deliver the training. If, on the other hand, a T3 seems doable, let’s talk. Done the right way, a T3 may be your best path.


*The trainers don’t necessarily need to be from the highest echelon in the company; a seasoned machine operator who has broad respect for your plant will also serve admirably. Think LEADER: their title isn’t the main qualification, but it points to the level of esteem in which he/she is held for maximum effect.