The training and development of employees is crucial to any organisation’s performance. For businesses, the aim is to gain a competitive advantage.  For other organisations you'll want to improve how you work or obtain better outcomes.  Ultimately, all organistions are looking to optimise their human resources by honing the skills of their workforce.

Training is, therefore, a huge responsibility and needs motivated and skillful individuals to handle it.  While there are many opinions on the efficacy of some training programs, few doubt the necessity of really good, targeted training.

Training employees is a challenging job though, and whether you’re an independent trainer or employed with a corporation, trainers and training managers are expected to have a ton of qualities for the training to be a success. If we were to hone in on the six most desirable qualities of training managers, however, they would be as follows.

Aristotle Onassis Quote


1. A Deep Knowledge of the Business

A deep and thorough understanding of the business or organisation you are part of is among the greatest assets that you as a training manager can possess.  A good rule of thumb is whether you can articulate both what your company does and how it does it in a few simple, concise sentences.

Other key areas to be on top of are:

  • How your product is bought, sold, and delivered to customers.
  • Why your product exists, and what problem it solves.
  • How your broader industry operates, the pressures it has, and how it makes money.
  • An awareness of the competition and new trends in your line of business

The aim of most corporate training is to maximise company resources and build an efficient and productive workforce. This is only possible when you are aware of the skillsets that your workforce requires. Detailed knowledge of your business or operation is, therefore, necessary when designing and evaluating training activities that will help your direct reports achieve your organisation’s strategic goals.

Tape Measure

2. The Ability to Measure and Assess Staff Training Needs

Awareness of how the training needs of your employees is critical to developing your team.  Professional trainers are expected to conduct a thorough training needs analysis before undertaking a training assignment, and as a manager, you'll need to as well.  This process will help you determine two things - what needs to be learned by your team, and how to prioritise the learning.  Don't get fixated on the process though! What truly sets a good training manager apart is her ability to read between the lines and zero in on the essence of a problem.

For example, you may find that you’ve been told employees in a certain division are failing to meet their goals. The recommendation comes to you that they need to be sent back to basic training to learn how to do their basic job functions all over again.

Even though this example sounds very specific and it would be easy to take this recommendation unchallenged, this brief is actually as vague as it gets!

A good manager will understand that faltering productivity is just a symptom. The real problem could be anything -- an inability to focus, a distracting environment, confusing directions form the team manager, technological challenges, or something else.

Real life is always more complicated, and part of your challenge as a manager focused on the true training needs of your team will mean you'll need to peel away layers of confusion to get to the heart of the problem.  Don't settle for surface solutions - doing so will just demoralise your team and prevent discovery and diagnosis of the true problem.

Assessment of training needs is going to require a lot of interaction and input with a department or employees direct management as well - don't forget to incorporate them into the process.  Developing and publishing your training assessment process is really key as well so everyone can understand how it works, and in some cases even self assess.

Communication Skills

3. Strong Communication and Interpersonal skills

Regardless of whether you conduct your own training programs or not, it is imperative for a good training manager to be highly efficient in communication of all kinds.

Understanding problems, conveying ideas, conducting training – all of this is carried through words. If you have trouble communicating, it’s unlikely you'll be able to get your staff properly motivated, or effectively describe the reasons behind the need for the training you're recommending to your employees.

But again, while a way with words is a great asset, it is nothing if it’s not tempered with empathy, rooted in the understanding of how people learn, and backed by good interpersonal skills.  Effective managers should develop their people skills and actually enjoy relating to people. You should love to talk, interact with people, love listening to their problems, love coming up with solutions to these problems, and enjoy motivating your students to be better.

It's worth noting that these skills which will help you be a better training manager are also core skills for any teacher or trainer!  In addition to general personal skills, there are some problem solving skills that will help you develop your team.  The ability to break complex ideas down into components that make for easier understanding, and the ability to draw the best out of your students is core to helping others learn, and the more you hone these skills, the more you'll be set apart.

4. A Passion for Continuous Learning

The best learners make the best teachers.  A passion for learning reflects in the quality of your teaching. How can you teach and motivate others if you yourself are lackadaisical about the process of learning?

Besides, learning is a continuous process. Every day around the world thousands of academic papers are submitted, hundreds of seminars are given, and thousands of blog posts written discussing new research and insights into age-old management problems. As a corporate trainer who wants to remain on top of the game you need to keep yourself abreast of the latest developments in your field. A passion for learning will make this less of a chore and more of a spirited endeavor.

Be an avid reader and draw from all fields (philosophy, human psychology, sports, nature and wildlife, spirituality, politics -- you get the picture!). That’s the only way to cultivate a well-rounded understanding of the world we live in.  We recommend loading up an RSS reader with quality reading that you can set time aside to tackle.  Twitter is another good resource to use as you can follow thought leaders and organisations that provide great insights.  Shameless Plug: remember to sign up for our weekly training tips newsletter!

5. Innovative Thinking

The prospect of attending yet another training session can make anyone, from seasoned corporate executives to employees who have just started, want to shoot themselves in the head. We've all been in plenty of repetitive and monotonous training sessions.  We've all sat through presentations that were boring or were clearly being taught with a minimum of effort by the instructor. Even if students are excited to explore a topic, a bad training sessions can kill any enthusiasm they may have had and trainees will soon start zoning out.

But training (even corporate training) doesn’t have to be boring. To keep things fresh and to maximise your chances of gaining and holding your audience’s attention, try to improvise on your teaching style.  Be different and bold with your training material. Don’t regurgitate old formats; have fun with different formats of teaching. Draw inspiration from all around you.

Keep things interesting and entertaining for your students. Push the boundaries of creativity and include newer forms of technology. As mentioned earlier, it helps to have an interest in a wide range of subjects. That allows you to draw plentiful of unlikely and delightful analogies, and create interesting (but effective) training material for your students.

6. Embrace Efficiency

Training budgets are almost never static. They're one of the last things to be increased by management in response to growth, and they're one of the first things to be cut! Training managers almost never had the resources they need, whether it's time, money, tools, or buy-in from the rest of the company. These are the realities of the training business though, and they're not going to change, so make sure you develop an acute appreciation of and desire for efficiency. Anything that can save you time or money when delivering the vital education you're responsible for should be examined and sought after. It might be time to think about researching eLearning software or even more comprehensive training management software to help you do more with less.


It's a tough job, but it's so important! Hopefully you'll have drawn inspiration and gathered some additional thoughts after reading about these six qualities.  If you have thoughts, comments, or questions, don't hesitate to let us know!

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