Stop With The “Traveling Trainer”: Hire More Trainers And Embrace Remote Classes

Embrace Remote Training To Reduce Trainer Burnout

When I first began teaching, I had a milk crate of textbooks in the trunk of my Volkswagen Fox. The necessary books and folders would be taken out and brought with me to whichever public library I was tutoring in, or class I was teaching. During periods of underemployment, I taught beginner acoustic guitar, driving to students’ homes. After my graduate degree, one selling point to getting hired in a financially distressed school district was that I had my own portable overhead projector.

Have Overhead, Will Travel: A Recipe For Trainer Burnout

Some of my early days of teaching are well over 20 years ago, yet as I interview for my next corporate training role, I find a few major issues. First, there are companies that are looking for a unicorn. They interview and interview, and still their reqs are open months after they could have hired and taught a quality trainer the business side of the house. Second, companies that advertise for a remote position, only to list in the description that they expect the person to be in the office. Lying is lying, so just stop. Third are companies that expect a trainer to be traveling from office to office and client site to client site, constantly in the car because they have higher-ups that “aren’t sure” remote training is effective. All of these issues could be the subject of an article in their own right; however, this article will focus on the third issue: travel and understaffing, leading to trainer burnout.

In 2023, after the pandemic accelerated our move to remote training, we still have companies outlining territories for trainers that require routine travel of 70+ miles, and semi-regular travel of 100 to 150 mils (all one-way), rather than hiring more than one trainer, or more importantly, utilizing remote training.

Though some naysayers and Luddites were critics without evidence from 2020 on calling online learning an “experiment” or worse, some have legitimate questions. While I think anyone reading this can agree they’ve found a plethora of articles and resources on remote training, let’s address a few common questions that may still linger.

Common Questions on Remote Training And Reducing Trainer Burnout

What About Compliance Training And Certifications?

Even before 2020, certification courses such as First Aid training could be done using a blended model, with the knowledge content completed via self-paced online courses or with remote Instructor-Led Training. With the blended model, the skills-verification component can be done in the office, taking less time than a full in-person class, which allows you to schedule more students to complete their certification. Companies such as Health and Safety Institute (HSI) have also outlined guidelines for instructors to complete the skills verification over video conferencing. No one needs to travel to a central office. Also, this is a great way for a trainer to teach overnight personnel. Teach from your home while the third shift employee is at the client site (sometimes three or four states away). When the training is done, they go back to their work duties, the trainer goes to sleep, and the company saves on travel and lodging costs.

Other industry associations and some state agencies have also updated their guidelines to allow for remote and blended training. If you aren’t sure if this is allowed, have a training manager or program coordinator review the training guidelines. If your training department hasn’t reviewed the certifying association and state agency licensing guidelines since before 2020, you may be surprised at the leeway now afforded. If you are still unsure, you have two choices: ask the certifying agency for permission, or forgiveness. Asking for permission may take longer to hash out the details and allowances. Asking for forgiveness may mean you set a precedent at the expense of some tough meetings, and potentially small fines.

Many Of Our Frontline Employees Don’t Have Access To A Computer, Or Time To Take Online Training?

Your shift supervisors have the access. Your site managers need to make the time. Training time devoted to training your supervisors to act as field trainers is not only prudent, but long overdue. Chances are they are conducting on-the-job training (OJT) anyway, so make sure they have the training to deliver better training. For example, training ten shift supervisors to conduct structured OJT, navigate the Learning Management System (LMS), and record employee training in the Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) will save them from having to find coverage while their team member is off-site, and it will free up the training department trainers to conduct other training and related administrative tasks. You may even find your next training department trainer hidden away in an operations role.

The C-Suite Says One Trainer Is More Than Enough, That The Territory Isn’t That Big…Blah, Blah, Blah

They are wrong. They have no idea how long it actually takes to travel from office to office, client site to client site, and how much time away from training tasks that actually takes. They are wrong, and yet they will be the first persons to complain that the trainer you hired “isn’t doing enough”, or wasn’t able to jump on a conference call, or answer an email at the drop of a hat. The fact is, travel time takes away from time on task. If you have five or six offices spread out throughout your state or region, then hire three to four trainers, so one trainer isn’t spending more than half of their time traveling, and then being expected to teach, complete paperwork, and develop content…unless you like constantly opening hiring reqs for trainers, to make up for the fast trainer burnout conditions that lean hiring and unreasonable/unnecessary travel and work expectations creates.

In March of 2020, the implementation of remote training involved a slapdash accelerated implementation. We are well past that point. Well past the point where remote training was thrust upon everyone, with some scrambling, after being thrown in the deep end of a different training method without being ready. Well past the excuse that we are using a new teaching and learning method without any guidance.

We are at the start of 2024, which means training and development professionals have almost completed a four-year course of immersive study on the subject of remote, blended, and online teaching and learning. If the heads of training departments are still embracing the traveling trainer approach then they have willfully failed to study, and are failing their trainers, companies, and the employees and customers they are meant to be training.

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