Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Training the trainer: From employee to instructor

Informal training occurs everyday in the workplace, from one employee showing another how to put together a report to a coworker sharing advice on how to handle an angry customer. Training is usually delivered from coworker to coworker or from manager to employee.

But what happens when the tables are turned and managers find themselves being trained by a subordinate?

It may not happen often, but when your employee becomes your instructor, some managers may find themselves in an unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable position.

In a recent post at Jobacle, Lauren Kleinman explains that when employees train managers, it can be a “tough pill to swallow” for the manager involved and shares some great tips on how managers can successfully “maintain the balance of powers” throughout the process.

While it may not be said in the same exact language, employees training managers is a common practice in most workplaces. It often takes place when a new manager joins the team or even when an existing manager wants to learn about the latest online tools employees are using.

Learning from your employees can be a rewarding experience for any manager. We liked Lauren’s tips for getting through it, but would like to explore the added benefits for both parties when the tides change and the trainee becomes the trainer.

Top 5 benefits of learning from your employees:
  1. No training costs. Learning something new from a peer or employee requires no subscription fees and no shipping costs. Better yet, you don’t even have to leave the office.

  2. Team building. One of the easiest ways to strengthen a team of coworkers by having them teach each other new skills. When subordinates train managers, it fosters teamwork and shows that the manager is an active part of the group.

  3. Fun. Some days you can spend an entire workday stuck inside your cube or office, barely coming up for air long enough to grab your sandwich out of the lunch room. Training a coworker will help you get out of your bubble and maybe you’ll have a little fun in the process.

  4. Confidence. When employees train managers, there’s an added sense of accomplishment employees feel when it’s all over. Boost their confidence by asking an employee to explain something you’re unfamiliar with.

  5. Building connections. Sometimes it’s easy for managers to lose touch with what is going on with employees’ everyday projects. When employees become trainers to their managers, it helps build connections and keep managers in the loop.

As a manager, have you ever been in a situation where an employee has become your instructor? How did you benefit from it?

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