Training For Non-Trainers: How To Train People In 5 Steps

Woman trains her colleagues at work

I spent 15 years teaching English as a foreign language. I leveraged my teaching skills to get my first job in the contact center industry as a training and quality manager.

Our leaders were very talented but had no idea how to train people.

Subject matter experts in IT companies had the same problem. They were the experts but had no idea how to teach.

Leaders train and develop their teams. The team delivers better results. Parents teach and bring up their children. Hopefully, they lead more fulfilling lives.

Teaching is a key leadership skill. It can be taught.

Teaching ranges from a five-minute session on how to do something to delivering a doctoral-level course.

The shortest lesson and the longest course have certain things in common.


Woman talks to a coworker in the office


Any unit of instruction needs a clear and precise aim.

Aims are best defined using “can-do” statements. They say: “By the end of this lesson/course, a participant can...”

You will have to ask yourself “What does 'can do X' mean?”

Your aim may be more complex than you thought. Instead of one lesson, you may need a course with multiple lessons and multiple aims.

Assumed/Required Knowledge

Woman attends a virtual work training


There’s nothing worse than teaching people what they know already. However, your training session will collapse if your trainees do not know the minimum required to understand your content.

Define what they need to know before they start. Ask yourself if your trainees have this knowledge.

Look at your aims and ask yourself what they need to know. If you are teaching someone to create and use formulae in spreadsheets, your trainees will need to know basic arithmetic.

If you are training people to play their part in a process, they will need to know something about the whole process. They will understand the importance of what they are doing and why they have to do it in a certain way. Without this, they have no reason to try and do it properly.


Man runs a training session at work


​A good training session needs “inputs” and “outputs.” A typical “death by PowerPoint” session is all inputs and no outputs. At most, trainees will remember five percent of it.

As a bare minimum, a training session should include the following:

  • A "Lead In”: The simplest is to tell participants what the session is about. You can also ask them what they already know about the topic, and what they want to learn. This way, you find out their expectations.
  • Input: An input session should be no longer than 20 minutes. That is the average human concentration span. For teenagers, even that can be a stretch. Active learning is better than passive learning. Consider using exercises where participants match rules to examples. When going through the answers, you explain the key concepts.
  • Output: This is the part most “trainers” forget! “Output" is an exercise or a test to see how much trainees have understood. Output activities may involve simulation exercises, role plays, or practical exercises. Trainees get the chance to “play” with their newfound knowledge in a realistic scenario. “Playing” is often very important to help trainees understand how to use what they have learned.

Delivery/Interaction With Trainees

Coworkers talk during a work training session


Successful training is never one way. You adapt to the trainees. You need to watch how your trainees react to the content.

My philosophy is if my trainees don’t understand anything, it’s not their fault; it’s my fault. If they don’t understand, I haven’t done my job properly. This is an important mindset.

Frequent changes of activity are recommended to keep your trainees’ attention. Pair and group activities are also recommended. Trainees engage more actively with the content if they are working with another person than they do in a question-and-answer session with the trainer.

Trainees need frequent opportunities to ask questions. Trainees may not want to ask questions in front of the class, so you can stimulate questions by asking a few of your own. This is where concept-checking questions come in handy. They can often be “What happens if…?” or “Why do we …?" questions.

Evaluating Learning

Employees play a game at work after a training session


Without evaluation, we do not know how successful our training is.

Many training courses limit their evaluation to a feedback form where trainees express their satisfaction. That does not tell us how well they understand and can use their newfound knowledge.

Where a training session contains an output activity, the simplest form of assessment is to see how well they complete the activity.

Other evaluations can include tests and quizzes. These can be gamified to make them entertaining rather than intimidating.

Looking beyond the end of the course, you can also ask trainees’ managers how much trainees have improved their performance based on the training they have received.

Next Steps

Man on laptop plans his next training session


When you deliver your next training session or “knowledge transfer,” think about:

  • What must your trainees be able to do?
  • What do they need to know before they start? How do you know they have this knowledge?
  • How are you going to deliver your content?
  • How will you check your trainees’ understanding?

Once you’ve thought about these questions and delivered your training, get in touch with me and tell me how it went!

Further reading...

For more knowledge transfer techniques read:

Test-Teach-Test: A Quick And Effective Way To Plan Training

How To Conduct IT Training The Army Way

Man on laptop enjoys summer while working full time

There you are: sitting on the beach, covered in sunscreen, reading your favorite book, drinking your favorite drink under the cool shade of an umbrella. Life doesn't get any better than this. Suddenly, a door slams, a phone rings, a printer turns on. You jolt back into consciousness. You're at work, sitting in your cubicle, without even a hint of sunshine streaming in from outside.

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