What Makes a Good Corporate Trainer?

There is no lack of available resources to understand what makes a good corporate trainer. The real question is: How do you know a good corporate trainer from an acceptable, but not particularly remarkable, one? When it comes to selecting the person (or team) who is going to train your employees, you don’t just want a corporate trainer who can stand up to the job … you want a stand-out.

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3 Top Things to Look For in A Corporate Trainer

  1. Excellent Communication Skills

This is a given for any good corporate trainer; however, to be a brilliant communicator means more than just conveying information to people or even giving them the right learning tools. Excellent communicators tailor learning content to the audience and build in practical exercises to do so. Effective corporate trainers don’t convey information; they impart strategies that lead attendees to achieve better deliverables.

The goal is to have each learner (a) retain what they learned beyond the training window and (b) immediately apply that knowledge on the job in a productive and measurable way.

Just as important, they’ll want to apply that knowledge because the corporate trainer has done an A+ job in communicating how the training will increase the speed and quality of their work! To achieve that goal, the more interactive the training session, the better. Hence, any list of the qualities of a good corporate trainer must include not just the ability to convey information concisely and accurately, but also the ability to fully engage a roomful of learners—challenging them, giving them feedback, and providing “real world” role-playing exercises.

Another characteristic of an effective trainer is that they resist the temptation to monopolize the training session or regale their audience with their knowledge. Their goal is not to “feel the love” but to empower their participants. What makes a good corporate trainer is the ability to know when “to hold and when to fold,” aka when to talk, when to listen, and when to ask questions that get to the heart of a participant’s frustrations with their current skill level.

  1. A Love Of Learning

It’s easy to tell when you’re sitting in a session with a corporate trainer who thinks they know it all. The session is stagnant, questions are answered with an air of condescension, and it’s impossible for things to be done any other way.

That is not the recipe for a corporate trainer on the cutting edge. Like actors, there’s nothing more intriguing to a corporate trainer than steeping themselves in their expertise and craft.

  1. Adaptability

Not all training situations are created equal because not all companies, participants or subject matters are the same. Corporate cultures differ and so do training needs. Another characteristic of an effective corporate trainer is they’re highly creative at being “all things to all men”—knowing they can’t (and shouldn’t) apply a “cookie cutter” approach to every training project. They don’t “go with the flow”—they create the flow each and every time, finding innovative ways to help participants learn based on a client’s specific needs. And if (and when) adjustments need to be made, they’re highly adept at changing gears. Be advised: These well-honed corporate training techniques only come with years of experience!

Here’s a good question to ask the next corporate trainer you interview: “How would you tailor the training to meet my team’s specific needs?”

I’m still wondering “What Makes a Good Corporate Trainer?”

Delivery Creates Connection

Content may be king in most written communication, but when it comes to verbal communication, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” According to research from HBR, 76% of communication effectiveness comes from non-verbal communication. Words, vocal tones, cadence, body language, and facial expressions all play a pivotal role in a learner’s likelihood of emotionally connecting with the message and subject matter. A great corporate trainer doesn’t dismiss content, but neither do they sacrifice delivery. This is a corporate training tip that all effective trainers share.

Healthy Self-Awareness

“It’s not all about you.” We’ve all heard that little ditty. And yet while no one responds well to self-absorbed people, they also don’t respond to people who ignore Shakespeare’s adage, “To thine own self be true.” One often-overlooked quality of a corporate trainer is that they are intimately in touch with themselves in a positive and constructive way. Particularly they are aware of how their actions, behaviors and motivations impact others. They know their triggers and areas of weakness, and have strategies to respond effectively. If they’re having a “down day,” an effective corporate trainer will have learned how to consistently manage their emotions so that “negative energy” doesn’t seep into their training session.

They also take care of both their mind and body. A trainer recovering from a weekend hangover, coming down off a sugar high, or who is mentally and/or physically lazy will definitely be “outed” at some point. Some things are hard to fake.

Knowable, Not A “Know-It-All”

Here’s a good corporate training tip: Being smart is good. Being relatable is better.

No learner wants to be feel like a “know nothing” in front of a “know everything” expert who seems more intent on displaying their vast reservoir of knowledge or plying their superior communication skills than making their audience feel comfortable—and, by default, more likely to learn. Make it your aim to watch a slew of Ted Talks and see who connects the most with you! Nine times out of ten, it’s the speaker (or trainer) who’s not just a clear communicator, they’re also not afraid to “show their underbelly.” They share their vulnerabilities, stories, and know how to self-correct. They take their subject seriously (“know their stuff”), but they never take themselves too seriously. They create non-intimidating, non-condescending environments where participants can discover, engage and take ownership over their learning experience. Being relatable could be the #1 quality of an effective corporate trainer!

Sense Of Humor

If content is king, and delivery its co-ruler, then a sense of humor would be first in line to the throne. Put succinctly: “mirth makes might”! There’s a reason that traffic schools are often run by stand-up comedians. Spending hours learning or re-learning the rules of the road is not only a major “yawner,” the compulsory and time-sucking nature of this activity makes its participants a very reluctant group of learners. No matter what the subject matter—be it dry and tedious or innately fascinating—creativity, imagination, and inventiveness really get dialed up a notch when the trainer knows how to tell a humorous anecdote or story.

An effective corporate trainer just makes sure their story is relevant and engaging—closely tying it to the subject matter. Note that telling humorous stories does not equate to making puns or telling jokes. Unless you’re a headliner comedian, resist that temptation. There’s nothing worse than a joke that goes south.

Not surprisingly, humor and laughter immediately put learners at ease—as well as serve to reduce tension and stress, thereby increasing efficiency, attendance, and retention. (You do want employees to actually remember what they’ve just learned!) This makes the use of well-placed humor one of the top training tips for corporate trainers.

Why External Corporate Trainers Can Help Take Your Organization to the Next Level

Why would an organization even need an external corporate trainer? An internal team member may know your product and your culture, but that can sometimes be the problem. An internal trainer may not only possess the necessary subject matter expertise but may also be biased by the “we’ve always it done it this way” mindset. The external training route offers distinct advantages, bringing into even clearer focus what makes a good corporate trainer. Here are just a few of those pluses:

More Effective Training Techniques

More often than not, outside corporate trainers bring skills to the table that your team simply may not have. Corporate trainers brought in from the outside are savvy on all the latest corporate training tips and techniques. This doesn’t just apply to hard skills (skills that require outside expertise), but soft skills as well. Being a “master communicator” is not a skill most people possess (hence the widespread fear of public speaking). After all, training is a corporate trainer’s specialty. It’s a lot of what they do, and they’ve applied concepts across industries and organizations, bringing a unique perspective to your teams.

Time Management

Internal assets have a lot on their plates. External trainers can act as a forcing function to motivate your team to take their professional development seriously. Time is valuable, which is why the right kind of training is equally as valuable. It’s why a discussion of what makes a good corporate trainer is so essential and why it’s worth considering external training options. Your team doesn’t have time to waste! Bring in an expert trainer to deliver best-in-class training once, and start seeing the ROI immediately.


In summary, when choosing a corporate trainer, don’t settle for average when you can have great.

Just like your employees, you want your trainer to be proactive, productive and an expert at what they do. They should be thoroughly equipped to take your company to the next level. Whether you go the internal or external route, do your due diligence to ensure your candidate possesses these must-have characteristics of an effective trainer:

  • brilliant communication skills
  • subject matter expertise
  • adaptability
  • a healthy self-awareness
  • relatability and a good sense of humor
  • those all-important storytelling skills.

There is no question that inspired, engaged and well-trained employees are your company’s most important asset. As Bill Marriott once said: “The way our people know we love them is that we train them.”

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Filed Under: Consulting skills