As the head of training for your company, you will encounter an instructor who, for whatever reason, is having a bad day. Due to health issues, problems at home, or co-worker conflicts, for example, he or she is not performing to your standards and expectations. If you haven’t done so, put plans in place to deal with this issue.

Instructors are your company’s representatives during class. A typical class of 16 may contain a diverse group of people: a CEO investigating the quality of training for his or her company, individuals who may return as customers, and possibly your competition to check you out. An instructor having a bad day can ruin any or all of these budding relationships immediately. This can be devastating to your reputation, sales, and job longevity.

What can you do?
Nip it in the bud (with apologies to Barney Fife). As a manager, you need to recognize symptoms of employee stress and take appropriate measures. Should you suspect in the morning that an instructor is having problems, offer that instructor a day off if possible, and give the class to another instructor.

If a day off is not possible, here’s another option. Offer the customers entry into another class that day at no cost and reschedule their original class. This option works very well for the following reasons: It keeps the customer at your business, where your sales staff can massage their egos and reassure them. It allows them to take a complementary class that their company might not have paid to let them attend. This benefits you and the customer.

Some training company’s philosophy is to say the class goes on, period. This is ludicrous. Absolutely nothing can be gained by forcing an instructor into a classroom when he or she is under stress. A disservice is done to all parties.

What if it’s halfway through class?
If an instructor informs you during the lunch break that he or she is having difficulties, you have the option of replacing that instructor, asking them to tough it out, or canceling the remainder of the class. This decision must be based on the following criteria.

  • Type of class: Is this a one-day, two-day, or full-week class?
  • Availability of another instructor: Can another trainer pinch-hit at a moment’s notice? Ideally, you should replace the instructor.
  • Evaluation of the students’ needs: The sales division should have provided this information prior to the start of training. If instructors are organized by rank, a lower-ranking instructor should never take over a class originally taught by an instructor of a higher ranking. This sends a message to the students that they may be not be getting the quality they originally had. If this cannot be avoided and the instructor pulls off the class, special consideration should be given to upgrading that instructor’s rank.

Can it be avoided?
While not every event can be anticipated and emergencies do happen, proper planning and scheduling will help prevent the loss of a class—and provide a quick recovery. If you drive instructors to the edge, they may do more damage than you know or they realize. Be prepared. It may be your job.

Schoun Regan is the director of training at the Mac Group, a research and development, consulting, and training firm. Follow this link to comment on this article or share your favorite training tip.