There’s always debate in large organisations around the pros and cons of using internal trainers over external. Questions are posed around real gains in efficiency, down-the-line benefits and whether we have people up to the job. I was on the receiving end of the decision to “go internal” many years ago. It became a pivotal moment in my career as I moved from product expert to trainer, facilitator and internal consultant. I remember a huge sense of shared pride with my early internal customers that we could now “do this ourselves”, and immense value being placed on having a facilitator who knew the organisational context.

Today the debate is still there, though our understanding in the nature of learning has moved on and largely thanks to technology, there is a wealth of new tools to support sharing and learning. I would challenge an organisation who appoints people as “internal trainers”. Gone are the days, I believe, of the mandatory 3-day train-the-trainer programme. To focus on training is somewhat limiting your options.

To start with, find them another job title. “Learning ambassador”, perhaps (suggestions, please – you can see I’m struggling here!). Encourage them to learn more broadly about the ways people learn and experiment with new ways of engaging with learners, sharing knowledge and applying to the real world. Apply the same approach to those in an informal capacity – those internal “fountains of knowledge” who are self-motivated to help others learn. They are probably doing it anyway, but do you know who they are?

Allow them to experiment and get creative – to think outside the box classroom. There are any number of budget-friendly tools available to help them. Help them to build online communities. Let them loose with virtual training software. Suggest they stop being a Powerpoint factory and empower them with rapid e-learning tools. I’ve seen some great results from internal experts using tools like nimbleAuthor to create engaging, bite-sized e-learning courses that let their personality shine through: e-learning with attitude, and all the more engaging to colleagues if they come with a bit of a “home-made” feel.

As L & D Leaders recoil in horror at the prospect of losing control, if you can’t let go entirely, encourage your internal “fountains” to follow some basic ground rules:
1. Get a bit of theory first
2. Try something out on a small scale
3. Get feedback and make conclusions before taking the next step

Isn’t that the essence of all learning anyway?

Paul Norrington

Paul is a learning and development professional with over 15 years’ experience of leading a rich variety of corporate-level initiatives in an international environment. He has led development programs across a broad range of topics including leadership and values, sales and marketing, change management and project management.
Now as an independent consultant, Paul helps his clients to pursue adventurous goals through designing and delivering innovative blended learning experiences. He has a particular passion for live online learning, being a Certified Online Learning Facilitator and Designer.
Paul is married with two children, and lives in Pickering, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, where he enjoys cycling, fishing and walking.

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