A Case for Contract Trainers

Recently I had the pleasure of working with a client that was preparing for a major change in their organization. Along with their internal training team they brought in a group of contract trainers to provide small group facilitation for their entire sales organization during a conference. After weeks of preparation they had developed an excellent program on dealing with change as well as a session on communicating a sensitive message to their client base. On the first day of the conference the change was announced and the sessions went on as planned. During an end-of-the-day discussion, the trainers agreed that the new information had been well received and the sales force was ready and eager to call their customers the next day.

On the second day we had planned to work with the sales people by conducting role plays for their client calls. As planned the day started out with a general session, but much to our surprise the CEO made an announcement that was much more earth shattering than the one that had been so meticulously planned for. The room buzzed with comments and speculation as the CEO and the head of human resources answered questions for about 15 minutes. Then, to keep on schedule, the sales teams were sent off to their respective training rooms. At this point the repercussions of the announcement really came to the fore. Not only was the material that we had prepared no longer pertinent, but the emotional and mental state of the participants was such that going ahead as planned would be counterproductive.

I was assigned a training room with another contract trainer, one of the trainers from the host company and about 60 participants. As you can imagine it took some time to get the group organized and settled down. Their desire to discuss what had just happened was intense, so the other contract trainer and I decided to postpone the planned material and revert back to the “change” program we had presented the day before. We covered the material in light of the new announcement and allowed the participants to voice their concerns and opinions. Only after we had worked through these perspectives were the participants able to move forward and make use of case studies that had been prepared. Overall we were very happy with the results we had been able to achieve.

Interestingly enough, the internal trainer that was assigned to our room was himself emotionally unable to help us with the group. Apparently he too was trying to cope with the announcement and consider the repercussions on his own career. After talking to the rest of the training team in a debrief session we found the results in the other rooms to be much the same. In general, the contract trainers were less distracted and more able at getting their sales teams to move through their emotions and focus on communicating effectively with their customers. The internal facilitators however, seemed to be dealing with their own issues and were not as prepared for assisting the groups. In some cases they felt the same frustrations and concerns of the employees that they were trying to help. So if you find that your organization is in a situation where your own instructors may have a high level of emotional involvement in the proceedings, contract facilitators will be able to separate themselves from the issues and better assist your staff.

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