Making The Most Of A Train-The-Trainer Program

A look at a model train-the-trainer program, “How to Mitigate Unconscious Bias at Work,” that achieved significant success at a major manufacturing and distribution company.

Organizational effectiveness, efficiency, and cost savings drive train-the-trainer programs (TTT), but many of these efforts fail due to the inability of trainers to master the materials in a limited time or issues of coordination, silos, and more. Let’s examine a model TTT program that met such challenges and achieved significant success at a major manufacturing and distribution company.

The goal of the TTT was to teach 15 instructors a half-day program, which they then would teach 20 to 30 times over the following six months. Most of the trainers did not know each other as they came from multiple locations and different divisions. To add to the challenge, some of the trainers had little or no facilitation skills and some had little or no expertise on the topic they were to teach. What they did possess was a strong commitment to succeed and a desire to learn. The program the trainers were about to learn was “How to Mitigate Unconscious Bias at Work,” and many of the ideas were based on a prior article in Training magazine on “Best Practices in Unconscious Bias Training” (


1. Own It: The facilitators from the consulting company that was retained to design and deliver the TTT made it clear from the outset that they were going to turn over ownership, responsibility, and accountability of the program to the trainers. Each trainer was expected to revise the program to give it his or her own unique personal approach. The trainers were expected to incorporate their own stories, case studies, and perspectives. They also were encouraged to edit the facilitator’s guide; add, delete, or revise the PowerPoint slide deck; and do the same for any videos. The trainers also were committed to making this a collaborative effort by sharing any revisions with the instructors and their fellow facilitators. The key to success was giving each person accountability and responsibility for his or her presentation of the course. Trainers always respond best when you have the highest expectations of their ability and ingenuity to deliver as their authentic selves.

2. Program Development: The organization that contracted for the TTT provided the consulting company access to its senior leaders and employees. This permitted open and confidential discussion of the importance of the course for the future success of the organization. Through these interviews, the consulting firm learned about the corporate culture. As a result of the interviews, case studies from the organization were developed and incorporated into the TTT, giving the program more relevance. The CEO of the company agreed to have a special offering of the course for his executive team so they could add more value and support to the TTT program. A similar special offering was delivered to HR leaders and diversity champions in the organization. This grounding in the corporate culture was instrumental in designing a course that was in sync with the organization’s challenges, mission, values, and competencies.

3. Process: The 15 trainers were sent a few items to review prior to the class. These included a couple of short articles, a YouTube video, and a podcast. Two days prior to the program, participants received a detailed facilitator’s guide as a Word document so they could take notes and make revisions. The 36-page facilitator’s guide included a:

  • Detailed timeline
  • Multimedia log with instructions
  • PowerPoint log
  • Itemized description of items needed
  • Handouts required in preparation for delivery of the program
  • Facilitator’s outline with in structions on how to deliver each slide or activity, including the time required for each item and the running timeline for the full program

Participants also received the full PowerPoint presentation in advance of the TTT program.

The program the trainers were learning to deliver was three hours long. To save time and be most cost effective, the TTT took place over a two-day period. To accomplish the task of learning and rehearsing the program so the trainers could begin to deliver the program on their own, the first day of the training had the trainers attend a full-day delivery of the three-hour program. This gave participants the opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions, share stories, and bond.

At the end of day 1, each trainer was assigned to a partner. Each team of two trainers was given the responsibility to co-facilitate the delivery of approximately 30 minutes of the program the following day. They were told their presentations would be followed by 10 minutes of self-evaluation and group feedback. Pairing participants had the added advantage of allowing for those trainers who did not know each other to build strong relationships. Even though the participants had to learn and rehearse their modules before the beginning of day 2, a part of the TTT design was to have all the participants, the two consultants, and a few executives go out to dinner after the first day to relax and get to know each other better. The bonding and collaboration of the trainers was as important as learning the materials to ensure there was going to be sustainable change in the organization.

On day 2 of the program, each pair delivered their module, and as expected, each trainer added his or her own distinctive character and nuance to the presentation. Some trainers told personal stories to emphasize aspects of their part of the program, while others modified slides or used different YouTube videos or examples. In one instance, a participant described how she was discriminated against at work for almost a year because of her accent. This not only cost her lost opportunities but also cost the organization the loss of a valuable employee’s contribution until her value was realized. This example then was incorporated into most of the other trainers’ delivery. Most importantly, each trainer was encouraged to freely borrow ideas from each other, so this truly became a collaborative effort. Due to the program design, each participant had the opportunity to experience the entire program three times.

4. Sustainability: Following the completion of the program, each participant received weekly updates and a monthly version of SAIL News (Sustainable, Accountable, and Integrated Learning), a curated diversity and inclusion newsletter with sample case studies and activities for the trainers to use. Following the TTT, participants continued to share their ideas, revisions, and updates. The reception of the program across the organization has been so positive that there are now waiting lists to take it. The fact that senior executives demonstrated they wanted to change the culture of the organization to be more respectful and inclusive, and that they were willing to change processes based on feedback from the programs, has been a great motivator for employees who want to be included and heard.

After several months, the organization saved considerable costs and, most importantly, created a cohort of instructors who are committed to the ongoing improvement of inclusion in the organization. A shift in the organizational culture has begun, and processes for sustainability have been implanted.

If you have experience with TTT programs, please me send your best practices, challenges, and questions for inclusion in future columns at:

Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at For more information, visit

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