Training in Your Café Pt. 2 – Train the Trainer

In our last blog post, we discussed reasons why quality training is essential for a successful coffee program and the importance of implementing an intentional, in-house training program. In this blog we are going to introduce a concept that will make your in-house training program more economical, more effective, and easier to manage.

The Train the Trainer Model

What is the train the trainer model, anyway? Essentially, this teaching model involves investing resources into a training specific person or team of people into subject matter experts, who are then responsible for the training of other staff.

There are several advantages to this model:

  1. A variety of professional development and training resources are available within the coffee industry. For years the Specialty Coffee Association and its various guilds were the primary industry resource, however, over the last decade a number of independent training programs have entered the market. Additionally, many roasting companies offer high-quality training programs for their clients. While these resources often offer excellent curriculums, they are often expensive, and sending new staff through these programs each time someone new is hired is often not in the budget for many shops. The train the trainer model enables a company to invest these resources into one specific person who can then pass this knowledge along to other staff via internal training.
  1. The train the trainer model, with its inherent ability to funnel training content through one person, ensures that your staff are consistently hearing the same message from the same person every time training occurs and furthermore, that the content is directly relevant to your program. It also allows the opportunity for a complete feedback loop, allowing constant refinement of the training programs to ensure optimum results.
  1. Having a designated trainer or trainers enables businesses to have their most vital educational resource easily accessible whenever needed. No need to work out scheduling class dates with third parties or sending your staff to another company’s facilities to receive training.

Note: This includes accessibility for shop owners and operators. Often times, people that own restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops, are not themselves subject matter experts – at least not initially. Having easy access to someone that knows the ins and outs of the products and techniques that comprise a coffee program provides plenty of opportunity for these owners and operators to become trained themselves and gain further ability to engage with and relate to their teams.

  1. Continuous Education. Pablo Picasso said:

 “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” (2)

While there is certainly conceptual knowledge and background information that is helpful and important to understand in order to produce great coffee beverages, most skillsets in coffee are built by practice and repetition. Having an in-house subject matter expert ensures that your staff’s education doesn’t end at the end of a day-long or week-long training class. Skills like latte-art and palate development take time to develop and having someone to be alongside your staff every step of the way through these processes helps immensely in facilitating the growth of your staff’s talents.

  1. Having a subject matter expert that is a part of your team and is already a respected leader in the eyes of your staff both enables information to be received and internalized more easily by your staff but helps in the growth and engagement of your trainer as well. In Abraham Maslow’s 1970s analyses of the learning process, he determined that how well students learned depended to a large extent upon the satisfaction experienced in the learning process by both by the students and the teacher (3). When students and teachers enjoy the learning process more students learn faster and retain information better.
  1. Upward Mobility. We touched on turnover within the hospitality industry and the costs associated with it in our last blog. A major reason for turnover within coffee is that employees get to a point where they feel that they lack upward mobility. Letting your staff utilize their talents outside of just preparing coffee and creating specialized roles for your people is a great way to build some upward mobility into your model. “Trainer” is one great of an example of this type of role (others could be appointing people to manage your programs for things like maintenance, retail, etc.).

So, you’ve decided that you’re going to adopt the train-the-trainer model for your business...

What next?

Five Steps to Implementing Train-the-Trainer

  1. Identify your trainer. This is not a step to be taken lightly. In many ways, your trainer holds the success of all of your future staff – and, therefore, your business – in their hands. It’s important to pick a great candidate to fulfill the role of trainer. That means more than just the ability to make the best coffee too. It’s vital that this person is skilled not just in the craft they will be teaching, but in the act of teaching itself. A successful trainer must (4):
    1. Be organized.
    2. Be adaptable.
    3. Be confident.
    4. Be able to communicate clearly.
    5. Be able to engage with a variety of learning styles.
    6. Be patient.
    7. Have good time management.
    8. Be able to deal with conflict.

  1. Select Educational Resources. Your trainer is your resident subject matter expert. This means this person needs to be as intimately familiar with the content they are teaching as possible. Often times, this may require obtaining additional training and education for this person. This can include resources as we’ve already mentioned (SCA, professional training agencies, training opportunities through your coffee roaster) but, coffee education aside, it’s a great idea to send this person through a class about teaching and adult learning as well.

Note: When it comes to these topics there is A LOT of information out there and not all of it is good. Vet your training resources well.

  1. Training the Trainer. Once you have identified who your in-house trainer will be and what resources they will require to get them up to speed, send them off to learn! This is another great opportunity for owners and operators to focus on their own development as well, if they are able to join their trainer in attending these educational opportunities.
  1. Create Internal Training Program. Now it is time to actually create your training program. A few things to consider throughout this process: 
  • What skillsets do you need the trainees to gain?
  • What information will they need to acquire these skillsets?
  • What materials and equipment will be required to teach these skills?
  • How will the effectiveness of the training be quantified and assessed?
  • How will the education and development of your staff be kept up with over time?

  1. Trail/Assess/Refine. Once your program is put together and you are feeling good about it, have your trainer give a trial run of the program to owners, operators, and other subject matter experts. This will be a good opportunity to:
  • Determine if the format fits together as you envisioned.
  • Verify if the allotted time was adequate.
  • Evaluate if information is communicated clearly.
  • Ensure that all applicable content areas were covered.
  1. Go Live! Once your program has be trialed, evaluated, and refined and you’re confident that it will meet your needs in preparing your staff for success within your coffee program, it’s time to put the plan into action! Congratulations! Your hard work is paying off to the advantage of your staff, your trainer, your customers, and your bottom-line.

There are as many methods to train and educate people as there are ways to make coffee and espresso. Train the trainer is one method that we feel has some especially useful benefits for a café environment. That said, feel free to experiment with different methods and empower your trainer and other staff to help guide the direction and leave their own mark on your training program. After all, participation and engagement are key to great training.

And on that note, I will leave you with the words of someone much wiser than myself:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

                                                                                    -Benjamin Franklin (5)