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Best Practices for New Trainer Onboarding

By March 31, 2020August 1st, 2022Focus On Training


Best Practices for New Trainer Onboarding

Feature Story – By Pam Marinko and KC Warner

Here are a few building blocks to ensure a smooth transition for your new trainer.

Have you ever thought it would be nice to have “new trainer onboarding” as buttoned up as your new-hire training program? Some companies may have established new-hire onboarding processes while others have more of a “find a mentor” approach.

Here are a few building blocks to ensure a smooth transition for your new trainer.

Before Hiring

Whether you are hiring within your current sales-force or from outside, establish what you hope to see in candidates. Sales managers may identify “high sales performers” who also have demonstrated leadership among their peers. In addition to being successful at selling, be sure you identify the skill sets you want to see in a new trainer,  including leadership, project management and emotional intelligence.

Be sure to ask for examples of times your new trainer exhibited these skills so you can build on previous experiences to foster development. Check with the new trainer’s manager for details and more examples. For example, does the candidate have presence and confidence in front of a group? At team meetings, are they able to focus on important information, while ensuring others learn?

The First Week

Decide who will lead the new trainer. Often you or a training manager will be expected to onboard and mentor the new trainer. In some companies, many people are involved across the department, including instructional designers, peer mentors, project managers and subject matter experts.

Introduce the new trainer to the culture of your department. Both the new trainer and those in the department will appreciate positive reinforcement that training is an exciting and rewarding place to work. Emphasize that they have a great impact with new and tenured field teams, they encourage salespeople and through their actions reinforce that their job is important to the company, to the healthcare community and to patients.

Clearly define your expectations for their time in training. Be clear about their role, what other trainers have demonstrated that aligns with good performance and encourage other trainers to share best practices and tips. Discuss how their performance will be evaluated.

Teach the new trainer what is necessary to be a successful trainer. Line up the professional development they will need during the first six months, which might include a train-the-trainer course, skills to deliver feedback to learners, tips on how to apply adult learning principles to their work — what salespeople need to learn and how they need to learn — and best practices in designing learning.

LTEN has identified the following foundational competencies in trainers in the training department:

  • Working in a corporate environment
  • Workshop development
  • Face-to-face facilitation
  • Coaching
  • Learning retention and knowledge transfer
  • Instructional design and delivery
  • VLT facilitation
  • Learning measurement and assessment

Using these as a foundation for onboarding and learning ensures they understand the importance of working with others in the department and with other home office teams. Be clear about how to communicate and interact with field sales leaders.  Provide some examples of situations that might be challenging that they will be facing, as well as some examples of things they are not expected to address, but instead should be escalated.

Assign a mentor trainer, another field trainer or internal trainer to provide color and insight. Be certain the experienced trainer understands what is expected from their role with the new trainer.  Remember not to overload the new trainer. We have seen trainers expected to train a class their first week. Many can do it, but most won’t do it well.

Check in often as there are many concerns a new trainer experiences when saying farewell to their successful team, relocating and learning a new job.

The First Month

The new trainer now has some experience, and they may be excited about how they are performing and feeling confident about managing the classes. They may also be overwhelmed, especially after the excitement of the new job started to wear thin, possibly overcome with the intensity of the job, including long hours and high expectations of other trainers, the learners and field managers.

Finding time for feedback can be difficult while running classes, national sales meetings and the daily work of a training department, but it is essential. Focus on the successful competencies you identified during the first week. Remember feedback includes reinforcing the expectations previously set and gaining agreement on revisions. What was done and what was not done? Acknowledge expectations met and those not met.

Uncover their perspective about the job and the environment. Be prepared to hear feedback about your own leadership and department as well as how the onboarding process has been working. Reinforce the positive aspects of the role and emphasize how rewarding it can be. Remember back to those first few months in the training department. The new trainer will be experiencing this, too.

The First Year

With several classes under their belts, and with newfound confidence, they may be thinking, “When will I get promoted?” Trainers have been high performers and expect to continue into other assignments. You might agree they are performing well, yet believe they still have much to learn. Show them how continuing to do well in their current role paves the way for future promotions.

Grounded in those success competencies you identified during their first week, continue to provide feedback and uncover their perspective about the job and the environment. Consider offering additional responsibilities to stretch them professionally, such as gaining additional product or program expertise, being a marketing liaison, serving as a training mentor to new trainers and being a field liaison or sales leadership liaison.

Before They Leave Your Department

Congratulate them on their successes and reinforce skills they learned during their time in training. Encourage them to continue to partner with the training department, since this experience gives them insight into how learning works within your  organization. They have had a meaningful experience in the training department that will impact them in their careers moving forward.

Pam Marinko is chief executive officer of Proficient Learning. Email Pam at KC Warner is an executive coach with WSI.  Email KC at


About LTEN

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. LTEN shares the knowledge of industry leaders, provides insight into new technologies, offers innovative solutions and communities of practice that grow careers and organizational capabilities. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to more than 3,200 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, and industry partners who support the life sciences training departments.

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