Ongoing education is a critical part of maintaining a Project Team’s base of skills and expertise. Using internal team members to train others in the group is often an attractive option—it doesn’t entail the typical hard costs associated with outside training and classes can be conducted with little advance planning. This takes good advantage of downtime while keeping everyone up to date on best practices. However, though the cost savings and flexibility may be tempting, there are some challenges that teams need to be mindful of if they want to get the most benefit out of their internal training opportunities.
1 – Training isn’t always a priority. There are a huge number of issues and other priorities competing for the project team’s attention, and it’s far too easy for training activities to continuously fall to the bottom of the pile. Before you know it, another year has passed and your Project Team’s junior members still haven’t received the educational opportunities they need, expect, and deserve. This problem is so pervasive that addressing it requires not just the ongoing attention of internal trainers, but also the vigorous support of the project team’s leadership and executive-level supporters to ensure that training remains a priority.
2 – Class time can be hard to find. It’s already difficult for project team members to carve out time for education. If the organization’s internal trainers have responsibilities in other areas of the Project Team, such as planning or executing project efforts, then the problem is compounded because multiple people on the project team must set aside their day-to-day activities to instead focus on training. The Project Team’s leadership can overcome this common challenge by acknowledging that training efforts are a standalone task that requires time and potentially other resources—space, technology support, etc.—as well.
3 – Distractions abound. Though distractions can occasionally be problematic with onsite training—for example, participants may miss class time while responding to urgent messages and requests—sessions conducted by internal trainers are doubly difficult. Maybe it’s because outside trainers bring with them a limited availability and firm price tag, or maybe trainees are simply more apt to focus and resist outside interruptions when working with an external expert. No matter the reason, distractions are an issue that internal trainers must proactively work to avoid if their sessions are to be successful.
4 – Bad habits may multiply. Trainers are human beings, and there’s a chance they’ve developed some poor habits over the years. With the frantic pace of many projects today—and knowing that most Project Teams operate under a never-ending level of panic—these bad habits continue to dog even experienced PMs. As a result, any less-than-ideal practices held by internal trainers will typically be repeated by those they teach. Fortunately, partnering with an outside trainer can bring an objective eye to the team, identifying where bad habits exist and working to address them. An external expert will also ensure that trainees receive instruction based on good habits and the most effective and efficient practices.
5 – Training could miss important areas of expertise. Any skills or competencies that are already lacking across the project team will continue to be overlooked if training is only carried out by a limited set of internal team members. Without a well-rounded background to pull from and varied experience that spans project sizes and types, it’s nearly impossible for one internal trainer to educate teammates in areas that they themselves are missing. The majority of training may be handled by a dedicated inside instructor, but consider augmenting that with other trainers who possess specific skills and experience to fill in the gaps.