The Employee Who Recently Mastered a Skill May Be Your Best Trainer

Evan AbbottEvan Abbott, Organizational Development and Learning

Who’s the best person to teach “the newbie?”  The most experienced person?  That may not be the best decision.  While that may seem counterintuitive, sometimes having the most experienced people conduct training can be a painful process for both the trainee and the trainer.  Why? If we look at how we gain knowledge it makes sense.

When first introduced to a new task, we are unconsciously incompetent – we don’t know what we don’t know.  This means we know so little, we cannot ask the necessary questions to gain the understanding we need (Ever been asked “Do you have any questions and know so little about the topic you don’t even know what questions to ask?  If so, meet Unconscious Incompetence.).  As we learn we become consciously incompetent.  At this stage we do know where we lack in information and skills and can find out what further information we need in order to master the new skill.

When we finally master a skill, we become consciously competent.  We now know how to perform, and are very aware of each important step and often have to pay very conscious attention to each step of the task.  If you have ever asked someone to stop talking while you do a task while you concentrate on it, you have been in the middle of Conscious Competence.  We are the most capable at this point of letting others know what they need to know, in order to perform their jobs well.

When we move on to be an expert at a skill, we become unconsciously competent.  In other words, we just do it.  The hands, feet, and brain have a “mind of their own.”  We often have forgotten all the steps it takes as they become ingrained and automatic.  At this step, it may be difficult to explain all the steps to a new employee.  If you have ever had to answer the question “Why” to something you just do while you are on auto-pilot, you have directly experienced the challenge of communicating knowledge and skills at the Unconsciously Competent level.

If you want experts to do the training in your organization, you may want to help them learn how to train.  Having a firm grasp of adult learning principles, foundations of instructional design, as well as, a grasp of best practices in training others will significantly add to the value of these subject matter expects and help them grow your organization.  MSEC can help.  Check out our Trainers Certificate Program and teach your experts how to effectively train employees so that your organization can be successful.