Organizations face many new challenges, from successfully incorporating new technologies to quickly adapting to ever-changing industry and market conditions. One of the greatest obstacles companies face in achieving their goals predates the Industrial Revolution: finding and retaining skilled employees.
A 2019 LinkedIn survey found 94% of employees would stay longer at their current jobs if their employers invested in their career development. The same survey determined the greatest challenge employers face in developing talented workers is convincing employees to “make time for learning.”
Bridging this gap is the job of corporate trainers, whose duties have expanded in recent years beyond the standard technical training and corporate policies and procedures of the past. Corporate trainers work with employees and managers at all organizational levels and play a key role in ensuring a company’s workforce is prepared to tackle the complex problems it encounters in today’s work environments.
The information in this guide helps individuals understand what a corporate trainer does, the skills the position requires, the steps to becoming a corporate trainer, and the career and salary outlook.
What Is a Corporate Trainer
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines training and development specialists as professionals who develop and implement programs intended to improve employees’ skills and knowledge. In addition to updating workers on company policies and goals, corporate trainers emphasize how training on a range of work-related topics helps the organization achieve its goals while simultaneously promoting employees’ career prospects.
Corporate Trainer Duties, Roles and Responsibilities
According to Workology, a corporate trainer’s typical workday may include leading training sessions for new or existing employees, or devising skill development programs targeted at filling organizational needs. They work directly with managers in human resources (HR) and business groups to identify training needs and strategies.
Assess the Training Needs of Employees
Go1, an HR services firm, describes the steps to assess an organization’s employee training needs:
- Identify what skills or knowledge the business lacks
- Determine the existing state of skills in the organization and the skills it needs to achieve its goals (gap analysis)
- Analyze the training options available to fill the gap
- Report on training needs and make training plan recommendations
Create and Review Training Materials
The best way to overcome any reluctance employees may have about taking time away from their duties to participate in training programs is to make the process as engaging and rewarding as possible. Knowledge Anywhere describes five techniques for creating training materials that resonate with and empower workers:
- Pretest to determine the skills employees currently possess to avoid boring them with topics they’ve already mastered
- Use self-paced video training modules that allow employees to progress at their own speed
- Provide workers with mobile learning opportunities they can complete while commuting or traveling for work
- To boost worker engagement, incorporate gamification by using gaming principles in the training
- Design the material in short, easy-to-complete lessons to help workers maintain focus on the material
Conduct Training Sessions
Training sessions present opportunities for managers to boost morale and keep workers focused on their shared goals. They also teach new skills and enhance employees’ professional knowledge. Bizzabo offers tips for planning an effective training session:
- Focus on the adult learning principles of problem-solving and self-motivation
- Establish learning objectives based on the SMART framework: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely
- Apply the 1-6-6 rule for training presentations: one idea per slide, no more than six bullet points and a maximum of six words per bullet point
- Employ small-group activities that let attendees get to know one another
Topics Taught by Corporate Trainers
Employee training begins with onboarding new hires and continues as workers prepare to qualify for new roles and responsibilities. Most corporate training focuses on four aspects of employment:
Onboarding New Hires and Trainees
The onboarding period is crucial because it’s when the organization can make a positive first impression. AllenComm highlights the importance of establishing a connection with employees that conveys the company’s vision, values and culture. For example, an aviation and aerospace firm used a story-based video strategy to present its shared culture and expertise.
Training Employees on Workplace Technologies
Every day more routine work tasks become automated. This drives demand for retraining programs that teach employees how to use such advanced technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in work environments. Human Resource Executive reports a survey found 70% of full-time employees are likely to participate in employer-sponsored job retraining programs. A further 93% of the workers who responded believe it’s important for employers to help them develop the skills they will need to qualify for the jobs of the future.
Training Employees in Job-Specific Skills
Companies that offer their employees on-the-job (OTJ) training are more likely to retain those workers by ensuring they qualify for positions requiring new skills. PricewaterhouseCooper’s Talent Trends 2020 report found 77% of the people surveyed would be willing to learn new skills to make them more employable. OTJ training is one of the wisest investments a company can make. When I Work describes a five-step OTJ training program:
- Development (resources, materials, etc.)
- Implementation (finding the right trainers)
- Evaluation (feedback from employees)
Training Employees on Corporate Policies, Procedures and Workplace Rules
A corporate policy establishes expectations and provides guidance for employees. It explains how specific workplace situations will be handled and offers direction on what’s deemed appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Management Consulted lists the training subjects that companies request most often:
- Leadership development
- Conflict resolution
- Emotional intelligence
- Relational and group dynamics
- Productivity and time management
- Influence (the ability to persuade)
- Customer service
- Business ethics
Corporate Trainer Skills
While computer-based training (CBT) continues to be a valuable tool in the corporate training arsenal, nothing tops the effectiveness of in-person training. These are the most common skill areas for corporate training professionals:
Instructional Design/Course Materials
Creately describes the seven steps in designing instructional material:
- Identify the target audience and business or training needs
- Create a learner profile, including roles and duties
- Specify the training objectives
- Select the topics and decide on an approach
- Use storyboards to model the flow and organize content
- Create a testable prototype of online courses
- Monitor and assess the program’s effectiveness after it launches
Classroom and One-to-One Instruction
EdgePoint Learning weighs the pros and cons of instructor-led-training (ILT) versus e-learning. ILT makes it easy for employees to ask questions while the instruction proceeds, and employees are able to learn from each other. It also offers a direct immersive environment that facilitates teaching complex, highly collaborative subjects. By contrast, e-learning is less expensive; takes less time to complete; gives employees more flexibility; allows training to be customized; and for some subjects, increases retention of information.
Collaborative Training and Other Informal Methods
A study found informal, ad hoc training is now considered as important as formal OTJ training in teaching critical, job-related skills. Such training typically occurs via peer-to-peer collaboration and social networking, although it can be challenging for organizations to measure and validate informal and experiential training. Three ways corporate trainers can promote collaborative and informal training are:
- Offer feedback and coaching
- Officially recognize accomplishments achieved informally
- Develop benchmarks for gauging the informal training’s benefits
Here are seven skills corporate trainers and instructors must have:
- Mastery of learning management systems (LMSes), mobile learning apps, video editing and content authoring tools
- Ability to teach adults new and traditional subjects in a helpful, engaging manner
- Ability to organize coursework and training materials
- Willingness to adapt teaching methods to accommodate individuals who may respond better to alternative approaches
- Ability to assess employees’ willingness to learn and the skills and knowledge they’ve learned in training
- Ability to research the most effective approaches to employee training
- Infectious zeal and abiding love for learning and a drive to inspire others
Resources for Corporate Trainers
- Helpjuice, “What Is Employee Training and Development (from A to Z)?” Various types of employee training and development programs, approaches and techniques are examined.
- McKinsey & Company, “Elevating Learning & Development: Insights and Practical Guidance from the Field.” The guide describes the primary goal of learning and development (L&D) as managing people development in a way that supports other important business goals.
- Panopto, What Is Social Learning, and Why Is It So Important for Corporate Learning & Development? The site describes social learning’s benefits in work environments, focusing on video use.
How to Become a Corporate Trainer
Becoming a corporate trainer typically begins by earning a bachelor’s degree and gaining work experience in such areas as instructional design, HR, teaching, or other fields engaged in training and development. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes employers prefer to hire training and development specialists who are familiar with mobile training, e-learning and other technology-based approaches.
Education and Work Experience
To qualify as a corporate trainer, most employers require a bachelor’s degree in business, communications or education, according to PayScale. However, the BLS states corporate trainers come from diverse educational backgrounds, including business administration, social science, education and organizational psychology.
While many firms look for corporate trainers who have knowledge of and experience in their industries, a master’s degree often takes the place of work experience. Companies in highly regulated industries, such as financial services and pharmaceuticals, rely on corporate trainers to ensure their employees understand and comply with all applicable regulations.
Licensing and Certification
Among the professional associations offering certification programs for corporate trainers are the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). Business News Daily lists five top corporate trainer certifications:
- ATD’s Certified Professional in Talent Development (previously called Certified Professional in Learning and Performance)
- HRCI’s Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
- HRCI’s Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
- SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)
- SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)
Choosing a Corporate Training Specialty
Many corporate trainers specialize in subject areas, such as HR, business management, organizational administration, educational psychology and information technology (IT). The instructional specialties available to corporate trainers include:
Distance Learning Specialists
Distance learning specialists are also referred to as e-learning specialists. They use tools such as Adobe Captivate to create e-learning content and work with teams of developers to implement online material based on the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) for LMSs. PayScale notes these training specialists typically have experience with interactive media development, graphic design, video editing and instruction design.
Video-Based and Self-Guided Instruction
Video-based and self-guided instruction is particularly effective with adult learners because it allows them to take charge of the training process. These are some self-directed learning (SDL) advantages for employee training:
- Employees can schedule training at convenient times
- SDL aligns with adult learning styles better than typical lecture formats
- SDL is more relevant to the information and experience employees need
- The video-based and self-guided training systems make it easier for employees to stay abreast of industry developments
- Employees who take information in at their own pace gain a more thorough understanding of the material
Train-the-trainer programs emphasize the need for corporate trainers to build on their subject matter expertise by using the most effective approaches to the training process itself. The Training Clinic describes the elements of a train-the-trainer program:
- Model adult learning principles and delivery techniques
- Use training programs and materials meeting the standards ATD and other entities have established
- Incorporate organization-specific information in training programs
- Be receptive to coaching and feedback from peers and facilitators
Human Performance Analysis
Human performance analysis is expressed via programs such as human performance improvement (HPI). Designed to sharpen the focus of training on positive business outcomes, HPI is based on a performance model emphasizing human performance’s organizational context as a network of elements combining to produce repeatable outcomes.
Learning and Development (L&D) Curator
Learning and development curator becomes an increasingly important role as companies rely more heavily on training content from diverse sources. HR Dive points out employee training has become more specific, which creates a “limitless amount of coursework that grows … exponentially.” This role determines the types of content the company needs and may create original content.
Resources for Becoming a Corporate Trainer
- Training Industry, “4 Tactics Corporate Training Professionals Can Learn from Teachers.” The core teaching tactics described are backward lesson design, regular activity changes, peer-to-peer learning and comprehension checks.
- Careerizma, “How to Transition from Teaching to Corporate Training.” The site explains how the skills teachers possess can be transferred to a career as a corporate trainer.
- Symonds Training and Research, I Am a Freelance or Corporate Trainer. Guide Me! The resources on this site include downloadable pretraining session checklists, recommended classroom activities and tips for more effective training sessions.
- Training, “Resources and Tools for Training and HR Professionals to Cope with COVID-19.” The magazine provides an extensive directory of the resources technology companies and training and HR services are making available to organizations as they adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.
Impact of Training in the Workplace
As long as companies have trained their employees, they’ve searched for effective methods for measuring the return on their investment in worker training. The site eLearning Industry delves into the history of measuring training programs and concludes successful training requires setting key performance indicators (KPIs) to incorporate measurable objectives and training-quality assessments in training programs from their inception.
However, training has a clear positive impact on a company’s profitability and employees’ job satisfaction and career development. Take a look:
Help Workers Achieve Peak Performance and Learn Valuable Skills
Most corporate training focuses on demonstrating competence in basic job duties, yet the goal should be to motivate and enable workers to reach and sustain peak performance levels. Achieving top performance and acquiring new work-related skills begins by setting measurable goals. In striving to reach those goals, employees form a habit of excellence extending to all aspects of their work lives.
- According to the BLS, 4% of all employees received formal OTJ training, 69.8% received formal training in the previous 12 months and 95.8% received informal OTJ training.
- Smarp, an HR services firm, found in 2019 firms with high employee engagement rates were 22% more profitable, yet only 33% of employees felt engaged in their work.
- A 2018 River survey found 89% of mentored employees believed the mentoring program allowed them to contribute to company success, while 90% of mentees and mentors believed the program helped them develop a positive relationship with a co-worker.
Promote Continuing Professional Development
Organizations of all types and sizes struggle to keep pace with technology and market changes. Continuing professional development (CPD) is intended to ensure employees stay abreast of these changes and can leverage them for the benefit of themselves and their employers.
These are among CPD’s benefits:
- One of the five training trends for 2020 SHRM has identified is employers’ increased use of online gamification platforms and AI-based learning tools to train employees instead of traditional webinars, lectures, lunch-and-learns and online tools.
- According to the Digital Marketing Institute, some of CPD’s real-life benefits are higher earnings, improved health, more professional opportunities and more effective collaboration.
- The CPD Standards Office states employees who demonstrate the capacity to learn and a belief in CPD are more likely to be promoted and to qualify for positions in specialty areas.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed six professional development practices that apply to all industries and professions:
- Create and maintain a professional development infrastructure
- Design training and technical assistance based on learning theory and best practices
- Educate employees and employers about professional development’s benefits
- Implement training programs leading to positive change
- Follow up with program participants to reinforce their new knowledge and skills
- Collect and analyze data to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development programs
Motivate and Mentor Employees to Advance Their Careers
The benefits of mentoring workers throughout their careers are evident in these statistics:
- A 2019 CNBC/SurveyMonkey survey found 91% of mentored employees were satisfied with their jobs and 57% reported being very satisfied.
- The survey also found mentored workers were more likely than others to state they’re well paid (79% to 69%) and their contributions are valued by their co-workers (89% to 75%).
Workers need to know their employers have a vested interest in their career advancement. Robert Half lists seven ways employers can participate in opportunities to advance their employees’ careers:
- Take a personal interest in employees’ career goals
- Provide a range of virtual options for picking up new skills and gaining broader industry knowledge
- Support formal mentoring programs and job shadowing to give employees insight into career options
- Allow employees to rotate into positions with new roles and responsibilities
- Promote a healthy work-life balance for employees
- Frequently remind workers of how important their roles are to the company’s goals and mission
- Implement a succession planning program that prepares workers for future professional opportunities
Teach Leadership Skills and Promote Courses, Seminars and Other Opportunities for Job Growth
Leadership, communication and conflict resolution are the three most popular topics for corporate training, yet the most valuable skill for employees in today’s work environments is flexibility. Specific skills come into play when employees are required to adjust in an instant to unpredictable work scenarios.
Employers benefit in many ways when they promote leadership skills and continuing education among their employees:
- McKinsey & Company reports traditional L&D techniques are being replaced by learning journeys integrating CPD, fieldwork, social learning and OTJ mentoring. These make leadership and skills training more effective and efficient.
- The Center for Creative Leadership lists four benefits to companies promoting leadership development: improved financial performance, higher employee retention rate, increased likelihood of achieving business goals and enhanced change navigation. The latter is a worker’s ability to adapt to changes in their job duties and work environment.
- McKinsey & Company states a company’s profits and share performance can increase by as much as 50% when women with leadership training are named to top management positions.
Workers are clamoring for more training in a range of areas:
- Leadership includes self-confidence along with management, delegation, motivational and decision-making skills
- Communication promotes teamwork, collaboration, empathy and interpersonal skills
- Diplomacy, work ethic and conflict resolution require self-assessment and instruction on how to exhibit professionalism at all times
- Organization entails prioritizing, managing time, multitasking and managing deadlines
- Creativity boosts the ability to brainstorm, conceptualize, think critically, recognize patterns and exercise foresight
- Stress management helps workers think clearly, establish clear goals and get more work done in less time
Corporate Trainer Salary
PayScale reports the median annual salary for corporate trainers is about $56,200. Entry-level corporate trainers make about $46,000, 18% lower than the average, while corporate trainers late in their careers make about $70,000, 25% higher than the average.
How Various Skills Correlate to Corporate Trainer Salaries
According to PayScale, these are the most popular skills for corporate trainers:
- Training program development
- Curriculum planning
Other Factors That Affect Corporate Trainer Salaries
PayScale lists the variation in corporate trainer salaries by U.S. metropolitan area:
- New York City: 9% above the average salary
- Atlanta: 3% above the average salary
- Dallas: 3% above the average salary
- Denver: 2% below the average salary
- Phoenix: 3% below the average salary
The BLS estimates that the median annual salary for training and development managers as of May 2019 was $113,350. Median salaries varied considerably among the five industries that hire the most training and development managers:
- Professional, scientific and technical services: $132,590
- Management of companies and enterprises: $122,610
- Finance and insurance: $119,690
- State, local and private education services: $101,790
- Health care and social assistance: $98,020
Corporate Trainer Career Path
Two important corporate training trends Training Industry has identified are the need for business and consulting experience to understand business managers’ training goals better and the shift from event-based training to a holistic training experience for employees. Learning is now seen as a career-long, continuous process requiring trainers to understand career trajectories, competency mapping and how training integrates with other job functions.
Training and Development Specialists
The BLS reports training and development specialists typically advance to positions such as training and development manager, HR manager or a similar managerial post after several years of work experience. Some employers prefer candidates for these advanced positions hold a master’s degree.
- Education and training. A bachelor’s degree is generally the minimum education requirement for this position. Popular majors for training and development specialists are HR, training and development, education or instructional design.
- Licensing and certification. Certification isn’t a requirement for training and development specialists, but many employers prefer candidates who hold a certificate because it demonstrates credibility and expertise. Primary certification bodies for training and development specialists are ATD and ISPI.
- Job outlook. The BLS estimates the number of jobs for training and development specialists will increase by 9% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the projected average for all occupations. More than half of all training and development specialists work in one of five industries:
- Professional, scientific and technical services: 13%
- Health care and social assistance: 12%
- State, local and private educational services: 11%
- Finance and insurance: 10%
- Administrative and support services: 7%
Training and Development Managers
Training and development managers are charged with managing company training programs, including staff and budgets, according to the BLS. Training and development managers meet with managers throughout the organization to determine their training needs. They also work with top executives and financial managers to align training with company goals.
- Education and training. A bachelor’s degree is typically required to qualify for the position and for some employers, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement, typically in business administration, education or a related field.
- Licensing and certification. Some training and development management jobs require certification by ATD, ISPI or SHRM. Holding a certificate enhances a candidate’s profile by demonstrating professional expertise.
- Job outlook. The number of jobs for training and development managers is forecast to increase by 7% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the projected average for all occupations, according to the BLS. These are the position’s most common employers:
- Professional, scientific and technical services: 13%
- Management of companies and enterprises: 13%
- State, local and private educational services: 10%
- Health care and social assistance: 10%
- Finance and insurance: 9%
Human Resources Managers
Training is a key part of HR managers’ responsibilities to ensure staff possesses all the talents and knowledge the company requires. HR managers include labor relations managers, employee relations managers, staffing managers and recruiting managers.
- Education and training. HR managers typically hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in HR, business management, education or IT.
- Licensing and certification. Certification for HR managers is voluntary and available from many different HR professional associations.
- Job outlook. The number of jobs for HR managers is expected to increase by 6% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the projected average for all occupations. These are the position’s most common employers:
- Professional, scientific and technical services: 14%
- Management of companies and enterprises: 14%
- Manufacturing: 11%
- Government: 9%
- Health care and social assistance: 8%
Management analysts frequently specialize in areas directly relating to training.
- Education and training. Most management analysts have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration, finance, economics or marketing.
- Licensing and certification. Management analysts are certified by the Institute of Management Consultants USA, although certification isn’t mandatory.
- Job outlook. Management analyst jobs are forecast to grow by 11% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the projected average for all occupations. These are the position’s most common employers:
- Professional, scientific and technical services: 32%
- Government: 17%
- Self-employed: 15%
- Finance and insurance: 12%
- Management of companies and enterprises: 5%
Resources for Corporate Trainer Career Paths
- 2019 Workplace Learning Report. The report from LinkedIn examines the training industry’s response to the growing number of skills gaps in organizations and new approaches to meeting the labor market’s needs.
- “Paths Available in a Training and Development Career.” The article steps through a four-level career path for corporate trainers: from junior to senior roles.
- Career Map: Training and Development Manager. The job description includes an extensive job profile and list of required skills.
A Career Promoting Lifelong Learning
Training is being integrated into jobs in many innovative ways as organizations recognize training as a continuous process benefiting workers and businesses alike. The corporate training field is as dynamic as the media, material and methods trainers now use to ensure a company’s workforce possesses the skills and experience needed to achieve the company’s goals.