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How do you train your colleagues how to train?

Do SMEs need to know about adult learning and levels of evaluation in order to be effective trainers? Ajay Pangarkar shares his thoughts on how you can help your colleagues and other SMEs be more effective, including some insights on how much "non-training" and "non-presentation skills" content is important.
Ajay Pangarkar on training colleagues

Ajay Pangarkar doesn’t have your typical L&D background. He’s a “numbers guy” and comes from the world of finance. Perhaps that “numbers guy” background helped create the lens through which he views learning and development initiatives, because it all comes down to finding evidence and statistics that demonstrate the effectiveness of a program for him.

Of course, for any program to be effective, it needs to be delivered well. In this week’s episode of Train Like You Listen, Ajay, who currently has six courses available on LinkedIn Learning, shares some insights on how to effectively craft a train the trainer program to help your colleagues be more effective trainers.

Transcript of the Conversation with Ajay Pangarkar

Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn with Endurance Learning and Train Like You Listen is brought to you by Soapbox, the world’s first and only rapid-authoring tool for instructor-led training.

It’s a little bit like instant pot for training. You put in a few ingredients, such as how long your presentation is going to be, how many people are going to attend, is it going to be in-person or virtual? You hit submit, and then out pops a lesson plan, just like instant pot for training.

I’m joined today by Ajay Pangarkar and today we’re going to be talking about how do you get your colleagues to be more effective trainers in your organization. 

6-Word Biography

Brian Washburn:  So before we get going too far into the questions, we always like to introduce ourselves using exactly six words. For today’s topic, in terms of how to get colleagues to be more effective trainers, my six-word biography would be”I get anxious training my colleagues”. Ajay, thank you for joining us. Well, how would you introduce yourself to the audience in exactly six words? 

Ajay Pangarkar: Swiss army knife. I don’t know. No, just kidding. (CHUCKLING) Basically I want to “get employees to demonstrate performance improvement” for the organization. Basically that’s it.

Brain Washburn:  Yeah. And so when we think of this, you know, you have a LinkedIn Learning course, which focuses on training the trainers. You have a bunch of LinkedIn Learning courses, actually. And I wanted to dedicate today’s podcast to anyone who needs to train people within their organization to become better and more effective trainers.

So my first question for you would be. What do you think is the most important takeaway that people– that the participants of a train the trainer session should leave with?

What Is the Most Important Takeaway for Participants of a Train The Trainer Course?

Ajay Pangarkar: The trainer you’re training should be– have– possess the skills to be able to get people that they’re going to train to improve performance. Basically, that’s it. It’s a behavioral change aspect.

And if you are– you have to embed the skills that they need to make that work. And basically that’s really the foundation of it. 

Brain Washburn:  So what’s the difference between getting people the skills they need and the knowledge? Because I know that a lot of people, especially people who are asked to train their colleagues, right, internally, are oftentimes subject matter experts.

And sometimes they even come with the attitude that, “you know what, they just need to know this stuff”. And so if they view this as the best outcome is that people know this stuff, you know, how do you argue with that?

Training Others to “Know Stuff” vs. Training Others to “Do Stuff”

Ajay Pangarkar: Well, you know, there’s knowing and there’s doing – basically the two things, right? And organizations– and as you know, Brian, I’m from a business. My first background is in business.

So it’s always about outcomes, about results, working with the end in mind. And if you’re a trainer, the learning skills of other trainers or subject experts, to be able to deliver that message, naturally, to your point, subject experts want people to know stuff. But what we need to remind them is that they need to do stuff.

So it’s about, in part, it’s great to know stuff. But it’s building the skills and either the subject expert or that novice trainer to be able to impart a knowledge that they need to know, but they can do and apply it as well. And that’s really the skill set that really needs to be at the basis of all this, of all this element.

And that’s really key. So if you’re– in summary, if you’re a subject expert, nobody really needs to know more than what they need to do. 

Brain Washburn: Sure.

Ajay Pangarkar: And I’m being a little light about it. Okay. I’m not saying that you don’t need some context.

Brain Washburn: Yep.

Ajay Pangarkar: But at the essence, that’s really what it’s about. 

Brain Washburn:  Yeah. And I love that philosophy and I think that LinkedIn Learning is a great resource. But let’s say that, you know, people just, they don’t have the time or the attention to sit down and take, you know, some sort of online train the trainer course. So you have to do an in-person session, or in the times of COVID, a virtual session. What do you feel that an effective train the trainer course should include or should cover?

What Should an Effective Train the Trainer Course Include?

Ajay Pangarkar: Well, essentially, and it– I’ll qualify this by saying, it’s not just train the trainer. You know, there’s a term that we love to toss around in learning and development and it’s called “blended learning”,

Brain Washburn: Mm-hmm.

Ajay Pangarkar: And those are powerful words, those two words together.

Brain Washburn: Sure.

Ajay Pangarkar: And blended for whatever rea–. And that’s the key here. If you want to build a great train the trainer program, actually the more diverse and blended you make that learning approach, to be able to transfer the skills so they can transfer the skills, is probably the best way of doing it. And blended does not mean having somebody sit in a chair in a classroom and then have somebody to sit before a computer for some number of hours. As you and I know that there’s a lot–

And, you know, right behind you you have that great chart that you created, with all the different elements and people really need to get their hands on that. But, uh, and I think you wrote a book on it, or it’s coming out soon. 

Brain Washburn: (CHUCKLING) It’s coming out soon, yep.

Ajay Pangarkar: (CHUCKLING) Sorry, I digress. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the tools we use. It’s about how we transfer that learning. Right? So we have to find the best tools to blend that actually delivers learning. At the end of day, it could be pen to paper, right? It can be reading a book. It doesn’t have to be before a computer. So whatever– or a role-play. It’s something engaging that you can– the best tool to ensure that that skill is going to be absorbed and applied.

Brain Washburn:  Now you’re talking about things and you’ve mentioned, I think, coaching, role-play, mentoring other things that can be, kind of, non-traditional training practices to help people get the skills to become doers, in addition to knowers. How important would you say non-training delivery practices are for the average trainer? So, for example, does an SME or an HR person who needs to lead new employee onboarding– how much do they need to understand about Malcolm Knowles, about adult learning theory about Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation? 

How Important Are Non-Training Delivery Practices for the Average Trainer?

Ajay Pangarkar: That’s a tricky question. I think they need to be literate to some extent, but not an expert. So if you’re in L&D, great. You know, maybe you need to have that bit of background in that context to build courses. But if I’m training somebody like a subject expert in IT, to be able to deliver training, I need to be able to use that knowledge in L&D that I know, those concepts, to be able to transfer my learning to them. And make them understand what you’re trying to achieve. But in essence, all those things, what they achieve, is more than just learning. And if you look at all those theories, it’s about results and output, right? So at the end of the day, really, they don’t really need to know all of that. And that’s really, it’s a good– it’s a nice to know, but it’s not a must-have. 

Brain Washburn: Sure. 

Ajay Pangarkar: So it’s really– I always live by actually one philosophy. Even in my training, even though I know, and you know, all these theories at the end of the day, it’s like “begin with the end in mind”. 

Brain Washburn: Mm-hmm.

Ajay Pangarkar: What are we trying to achieve here? And if I can get that across, it really translates back. But if I can give them some elements of understanding– It goes back to your previous question, right? It goes back to: they need to deliver the content that the people need to apply. But then I need to build a context around it. So if those elements come in that apply to that context then I will bring it in. But I don’t think they really need to know that stuff. 

Brain Washburn: That’s a great point. I hadn’t necessarily thought of it that way before. The idea that you, as a trainer, need to have a good foundation on those needs to understand, kind of, the theory behind things or the data behind things.

And if people ask a question about it, you need to be ready to answer, “this is the why. This is why we don’t just launch into three hours of lecture”. But to have that as, kind of, a backup in your back pocket so that you’re ready to respond or to share a little bit more. But I really appreciate what you’re saying here is that, you know, we give them what they need to know. It’s similar to we can’t be the subject matter experts about all things, geeky learning and development. And we can’t, kind of, do the same thing that we complain about subject matter experts doing. The last question that I have here is how do you know if a train the trainer program has been effective? 

How Do You Know if a Train the Trainer Course Has Been Effective?

Ajay Pangarkar: Well, there’s a — I mean, what I do is I actually put them through, sort of, my personal experience is, when I train up new trainers is to provide a type of role play activities. And even, sort of, pilot activities where they can go in and actually do some training in a very safe environment. So it shows the skills. I can audit them to a certain extent, to see where they’re lacking, and then may take corrective action and improve their performance. But it basically it’s– that’s the empowerment part, right? To me, it’s about these trainers, these new trainers need to feel leaving the session that they feel empowered that they can make a difference. 

Brain Washburn: Mm-hmm.

Ajay Pangarkar: And if I’ve done my role appropriately to impart those skills and make sure they know how to apply it properly, then they will feel leaving empowered.

But again, and I need to test that. And when I say “test”, I don’t mean that as a punitive thing. But I need to assess the fact that they can actually do it and to make sure that I help them develop, not correct, but develop it – further – so they leave feeling empowered. And when they go into that session, they can do that.

Brain Washburn:  It’s interesting because a lot of times people say, “well, how do we– what metrics can we use?” And I’d be curious to hear if there are certain metrics that you point to. Other people say, “I just want them to have more confidence in their abilities to actually engage people”. So when you think of, you know, kind of measuring the effectiveness, are there certain metrics that you look at?

What Metrics Do You Look at to Measure the Effectiveness of Train the Trainer Courses?

Ajay Pangarkar: Yeah, I mean– well, so we talk about– you mentioned a bit of Kirkpatrick, four levels of evaluation, right? So, and I read some posts, which were really frustrating on LinkedIn. And I won’t mention who posted it, but it was just that the trainers are complaining about “how do we get past level one, level two?”

And I’m like, you’re kidding me. Like, at the end of the day, and then I hate to be straightforward here, but if you’re stuck on level one and two, then you’re not very effective. Because what I’m doing through those role plays is actually at level three, right? It’s actually getting them to apply the skills.

Brain Washburn: Sure. 

Ajay Pangarkar: And so that assessment, so those tools that I’m using are not– I don’t care– and again, it comes across very harsh here. But I really don’t care what they remember. I really care what they do. Because at the end of the day that shows my success in getting them to be better in their role as trainers. So if they remember stuff it’s really about applying stuff, right? That’s why tests in schools are so accusatory that, you know, people say, “test is really of no value. It just shows how much people remember.” It doesn’t mean how good they are. And so that’s really what that level three level four. And if they’re good at level three, then I probably, you know, my chances are pretty great that they’re going to make a difference in their role, in their business and their activities. And that’s level four, right? So those are the kind of metrics. I’m very practical about it because, as you know, Brian, I’m from a business background and I’m not saying I’m better than anybody. I’m not. But I know how those people think. And I think like them sometimes. So that’s where I’m coming from. 

Brain Washburn: And do you ever, do you use like a rubric as you’re evaluating people? Or what do you use to evaluate people during–? 

Ajay Pangarkar: Yeah, so the tools I would use is I would, you know, I make sure that I outline up front what I’m looking for, what I’m going to be instructing them and what they’re going to apply. So it’s a very targeted focus, right? It’s like, almost like. Sorry for the analogy here concerning certain events, but it’s almost like a sniper rather than a shotgun, right?

So it’s, it’s very targeted, and because I only have limited amount of time with them. So I need to zero in on what they need, so that rubric composes a very– it’s not a shopping list, by no means.

Brain Washburn: Right, right.

Ajay Pangarkar: It’s a very targeted group of items that I need to know. And I check them off myself because it keeps me on track, ensuring that I’m focusing on the right things and then acts as a post-evaluation that I can reevaluate them and then follow up with them in a few months to see how they’re doing, if they need any type of fine tuning or tuneups and that kind of stuff.  

Brain Washburn:  Ajay, I could nerd out with you over this stuff for hours and hours. In fact, we did that one ride back to the airport.

Ajay Pangarkar: We had a great chat in that cab, or Uber or whatever it was. (CHUCKLING)

Brain Washburn: (CHUCKLING) It was so awesome.

Get to Know Ajay Pangarkar

Brain Washburn: Ajay Pangarkar, who is an award-winning author, workforce performance strategist, and workforce revolutionary. He also has several LinkedIn Learning courses. Before we leave, I have a few speed round questions so that people get to know you a little bit more. Are you ready for a few speed round questions?

Ajay Pangarkar: Go for it. 

Brain Washburn: Alright. What’s your go-to food or snack right before you give a presentation?  

Ajay Pangarkar: I’m not a big eater when it comes to my training day. I do try to have a, you know, a healthy meal at the beginning of the start of it, like a breakfast if it’s an instructor-led program. But my fuel, unfortunately, this is not– I would not recommend this is a, you know, any type of high-octane caffeine, like coffee.

I mean, coffee is my go-to and it’s not the thing I would recommend as a trainer, but you know. Like you and I, if we’ve been doing this a number of years, you know the routine, how it goes. But, and I try to keep a pitcher of water. But I eat light during the day and that’s the way it goes. I’m not a big eater.

Brain Washburn:  Yeah, you know, I’m not a big eater. And for me, it’s still nerves. Like I get this– in a good way, you know, kind of these nerves or anxious feeling before a presentation. I can’t eat,

Ajay Pangarkar: May share very quickly? That’s a good thing. I want people to embrace that, especially new trainers. If you’re nervous, it means you care. And if you’re not nervous, don’t do it.

Brain Washburn: And, and embrace the nerves, right? It’s a good thing. 

What’s a piece of training tech that you can’t live without? 

Ajay Pangarkar: Oh one of my favorite piece of tech is, of course, my remote clicker. If you are any type of presenter or trainer in an instructor-led or a room, you’ve got to equip yourself with a really good– I mean, not the cheap crappy ones that you get for 10 bucks on whatever. A good one, with multi- purpose. 

Brain Washburn: What makes for a good remote clicker for you?

Ajay Pangarkar: Oh, so it’s got a sort of quasi act like a bit of a mouse. I never use– I don’t care if it’s a laser pointer. I think laser pointers are for cats. I don’t use laser pointers. I think it’s a– by the way, side note, if you use a laser pointer in your presentation, you’ve just lost the attention of all the groups. They’re just like a herd of cats trying to follow where your red dot is. 

Brain Washburn: Right. 

Ajay Pangarkar: To me never use laser pointers. I don’t care if it has a laser pointer. Yeah. But it’s, it’s got to act quasi mousy kind of thing. So I can have a lot of timer control stuff on it, where I can manipulate my PowerPoint, if I’m using a PowerPoint presentation or whatever media I’m using, that I’m able. And it’s gotta be multitask, so it goes across a projector or something like that, it’s able to function appropriately. 

Brain Washburn:  Nice. How about, is there anything that people should be listening or reading these days?

Ajay Pangarkar: Well, I got a couple of things. One is, as a learning professional, you should be getting out of your comfort zone and practicing what you preach and learning other things.

So if you’re in business, you need to learn about the business aspect. You don’t need to be an expert, but learn about the business side. But more practically I’m following things like, I adore– I know a lot of people know him, but I adore Dan Pink. I think his stuff is just very practical, very real. And he actually is very tangible about his outcomes. He’s got some really good stuff that I– any type of– anything he does is really good. And my– I have a close friend and it sounds like I’m pandering here, but I’m not. His name is Gary DePaul. I don’t know if you know Gary.

Brain Washburn: I don’t.

Ajay Pangarkar: But Gary is very well respected. He’s a PhD and he’s focusing a lot on human behavior and leadership.

And he’s got a new podcast himself called Unlabeled Leadership and he has it in a sort of an NPR format. And the guests he brings on and the stuff he brings on is really interesting. And so those are some of the things that I would suggest people look at and reading – I just read. I read everything that’s related to business and otherwise, and stuff. I’m just, I’m just everywhere. I’m a knowledge junkie. 

Brain Washburn:  I love it. And before we leave you, you gave Gary a nice little plug. How about you? Do you have any shameless plugs for us?

Ajay Pangarkar: (CHUCKLING) Well, I got too many, as you know, Brian. I’m sorry. But you mentioned the LinkedIn Learning courses. I’m very proud of them. And I think that LinkedIn Learning does a great job.

I do have, I– as you know, I write a lot. So I write for I have a regular stream for the last three, four years with, who are great supporters of me. I try to poke the bear and provoke people to think. So I got a great– I’m biased of course, but a lot of articles out there. My Twitter, I hope people follow me on Twitter @bizlearningdude. I have a book called A Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard and, of course, my resources are learning resources. So I try not to be too commercial about it, and I’m not going to hide that I am. But, I try to make sure my learning resources are very much that – learning resources. If you do follow me or you read my stuff, you will get something out of it, I promise. 

Brain Washburn:  Awesome. Well, Ajay, thank you so much for giving me some time today. And thank you to everyone else for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen, which can be found on Spotify, on Apple, on iHeartRadio, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you heard today, go ahead and give us a rating because that’s how other people find us. And until next, time happy training everyone.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox.  Sign up today for a free demo today!

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