This article first appeared in Business Issues, number 80, Spring 2012. I co-wrote this article with Matthew Shimohara.
In-house Business English training can go beyond the roaming business English teacher approach to include being based permanently in the client’s offices. This embedded approach transforms you, the trainer, from a visitor to a colleague; and, as you work alongside the learners, you can continually improve the relevance of the training whilst supporting your learners on a day-to-day basis.
For those of us who are lucky enough to be an embedded trainer inside a company, there are both advantages and pitfalls. Getting started is never easy, and the first months are critical as impressions are formed and expectations set. Much of this has to do with how you interact with people when outside the training room. This article offers simple and practical advice to help you get started and avoid any long-lasting mistakes. The tips are based on our own, and our Target Training colleagues’, practical experiences as InCorporate Trainers®™.
Tip 1: Get to know your learners
You’re going to be working with these people every day so invest time getting to know them. Get out there and spend as much time as you can introducing yourself and explaining what you can do for them. Go through your department in the first week and draw a map. Label where everyone sits, their names, position, key points about their professional or personal life, and also room numbers and floors. Introduce yourself as you go. This should be done with as many people in the department as possible, even if you’re not teaching them. It’s not just your learners who will contribute to the overall impression.
Tip 2: Schmooze to build relationships
This comes naturally for some—for others it can be a complete nightmare. For those of us who are not natural networkers, it’s important to remember that schmoozing is a definite key to success—so just treat it as a task and get on with it.
Some helpful things to keep in mind are:
1. Be an active listener. Take an interest in the people around you and make sure you remember what they share with you.
2. Ask questions. You’re new, so look for opportunities to ask questions about their products and processes.
3. There will be people in the company who will want to practice their English, even if they don’t have time for regular training sessions. Make the first move for them—people will appreciate it.
4. Once you’ve made some contacts, ask them to introduce you to more people.
5. Keep track of who is new in the department. Introduce yourself, and have the people you work with keep you updated.
6. It’s essential to know the ‘go-to people’ in your department. You’ll find that the IT administrators and the team assistants can have a great impact on your quality of life.
7. Know who the decision makers are. Be sure to say hello when you see them. Be positive and let them know what’s going well.
Tip 3: First day / first lesson ideas
It’s important to understand your learners’ jobs in detail. To set the standard early, make sure that your first lessons are interactive, focussed on learning about their jobs and needs and with specific learning points. Above all, demonstrate a genuine interest in them.
One enlightening fluency activity is to ask people to map their relationships within the department/company. This will highlight any missing vocabulary while teaching you about your new colleagues.
Tip 4: Sampling
Get a sample of work from every learner—an email, presentation slides, document, etc. This tells you a lot about their job, and helps you to evaluate their CEFR level and writing style. If you get an email, try to get them to give you a copy of the email chain. If you get a final draft of a document, ask for the earlier versions, too.
Confidentiality is essential as an embedded trainer, and it’s always good to remind learners that you are bound to confidentiality.
Tip 5: Be visible
As an embedded trainer, the more visible you are the better. Spend as much time as possible amongst your new learners. Eat lunch, drink coffee (and if you smoke, smoke) with your learners. Walk through your department asking if you can support people. If you want them to see you as more than a trainer in a classroom, you need to break down their preconceptions by taking the training to them. This can be daunting, so set yourself clear tasks and objectives.
Following these 5 simple tips will help set expectations and maximize training opportunities. Rather than having English training limited to a set period in the working week, it becomes a daily part of the participants’ lives. As a result, the training is much more organic and far less disruptive. Working inside a company can be incredibly rewarding. The relationships you build will give you the opportunity to make a difference both inside and outside the training room.
Mattthew Shimohara works as a freelance teacher based in Germany. Before moving to Germany he worked in Tokyo, London and Rome in TEFL and ESOL. He is currently completing an MA in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, and when not supporting learners with their English needs, he practices yoga.