No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Benefits of professional training providers


Is there any research that I can quote to persuade a client they will get better results by using professional external trainers as opposed to getting one of their senior practitioners to train others in the company?
caroline simpson

10 Responses

  1. Benefits of external trainers
    I am not aware of any research on this issue. In any event, the answer to where to get best value is: it depends.
    The best synopsis of the relative advantages and disadvantages can be found in Keri Phillips and Patricia Shaw’s excellent book ‘A Consultancy Approach to Trainers’ (towards the middle of the book from memory). It is out of print but still available from Amazon etc.
    Internal trainers can be professionals and often provide best value, especially around core business issues. However, professional external training consultants can offer greater breadth of experience, greater depth in certain specialisms, more flexibility in scaling up or down in volumes of delivery, for one-offs they are usually better value. Freelancers can be used as an ‘extended family’ resource. And bigger training firms offer good scope and, sometimes, credentials or a type of credibility that is hard to establish in-house.
    But you don’t get any of these benefits automatically just by buying in. The client organisation has to choose the right people to get the sort of benefit they are after. Do they want greater economy, less risk, more oomph, a wider perspective or more creativity. Whether they choose you, someone else or nobody will depend on many factors such as these. And perhaps as least as important is whether they feel you are people they can do business with.
    Best of luck

  2. not research but…

    When you use the term “practitioner” I assume you mean someone who knows the job inside out but is NOT a trainer/teacher/instructor.

    If this assumption is right then, whilst I can offer you no “research”, and cannot add anything “quotable” to Graham’s excellent answer, all I can say is that in my experience the problem with “senior practitioners” is that what TENDS to happen is that they “brain dump” everything they have learned over their career.
    This TENDS to be;
    a) very, very, very boring
    b) death-by-powerpoint (if they use that medium)
    c) an ego trip for them as they prove how much they know (that sounds agressive but they often feel they HAVE to prove how much they know; that is why they are there.)
    Any of these can be extrememly counter productive.
    Consider the “Conscious Competence” model…..often the WORSE PERSON to “teach” people how-to-do-it is the person who can do it with one hand tied behind their back…..they have simply forgotten how hard it was at first/how much there was to learn.

    I will now get off my soapbox
    I hope (but doubt) that was much help

  3. Credibility & expertise
    When I was in the position of deciding whether to deliver from internal or external resources, there had to be a good business case for going external as it was more expensive and denied internal people development opportunities. The two main reasons for me going external were where internal people lacked the expertise and could not gain it quickly or cost-effectively, or they lacked credibility (management development). Hard to put numbers on the latter but credibility is crucial in MD or it tarnishes the whole training/HR function.

    I wonder if anyone HAS researched it – you might have more luck with a study that compared companies which decided to outsource the training function, or not. Good luck and let us know how you get on – us external suppliers would love further justification.

  4. Outsourcing is no guarantee of quality
    I am not aware of research which suggests that clients will get better results by using external training providers. In fact, judging from from what procurement specialists and heads of learning for major organisations tell me, some of the largest and most well known external providers are actually producing very patchy benefits. In some cases this variable performance is discouraging major organisations from placing a greater reliance on outsourcing.

    Most of the problems described are directly or indirectly attributable to poor performance by the course leader, rather than to administrative issues, course content or logistics. There are good reasons for this and to an extent the buyers of outsourced training services must take their own share of the blame.

    Procurement professionals have used their raw buying power to squeeze the profit margins of training providers in recent years, without adequately considering the cost of maintaining trainer quality. This pressure has led training providers to down-size their wholly employed training teams and to rely increasingly on the services of freelancers and short term contractors. In an effort to maintain their profitability training providers have in turn applied downward pressure on the fees charged by the freelancer/contractor community through competitive resourcing.

    The upshot has been a rapid slackening of ties between providers and the personnel that resource their courses. Most of the leading learning and development providers in the UK as measured in terms of revenue now directly employ no more than a handful of trainers, relying instead on a swarm of self-employed ‘associate’ personnel.

    Given the sheer scale of the outsourced contracts being placed these days some large training providers are regularly forced to take risks with untried or unqualified trainers. This is because multiple providers now fish in the same freelancer pools and conflicting commitments inevitably arise.

    Client organisations are increasingly aware that the associates utilised by training providers are of varying quality and hence deliver widely differing standards of learner experience. This means that major clients actively resist any attempt to substitute tried and tested course leaders. By contrast less important or less pushy clients can end up with the trainers that no-one else wants.

    Moreover the funding of trainer CPD is increasingly left to the discretion of impoverished individual freelancers rather than the training provider that sells their services. As a result The Training Foundation estimates that just 25% of freelance associates plying for hire currently possess the equivalent of an A-Level pass in learning and development skills.

    So even picking a big brand external provider does not guarantee good results. The age old principle applies: Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware…


  5. Some other thoughts
    I don’t know of any research on this subject.

    Having worked for an external training company and as an in-house trainer, I would agree with the comments about quality and skill in training being major considerations.

    Another factor that might be worth bringing to the attention of your client is the credibility that an external trainer can bring. Depending on what you are planning to train, an ‘objective’ external trainer can sometime provide the distance that is needed to tackle some subjects.

    It’s also very valuable for an organisation to hear stories and experiences outside the culture.

  6. Benefits of professional training providers
    Having worked as an external consultant and currently as an internal L&D Manager – I totally agree with Adrian’s comments.

    External providers do not always provide the best ROI, and do not always provide the best quality solution.

    Internal presenters can be very professional, and in some industries will have more credibility than externals. It should also be recognised that in some fields the external providers are mainly comprised of ex senior practitioners who have realised that they can make more as a consultant than continuing to work in their chosen profession.

    One of the key issues we have is that very few externals are willing to invest the time to initially get to know our organisation, or to maintain and update this knowledge without charging significant ammounts. In one instance despite paying a fee which was supposed to cover the briefing and familiarisation of the individuals presenting, one of the first questions they asked when they arrived on the day was “so what does your organisation do?” needless to say we were not impressed. Another case involved consultants, who despite months of meetings and briefing arrived to launch a a values programme not knowing what the corporate values were. I won’t name and shame, but these were both well regarded providers in the UK.

    There are some very good external providers whom I would not hesitate to use, equally there are some great internal providers. Rather than looking for generalised statistics, I would spend more time with your client understanding why they believe the internal provider might be most appropriate.



  7. A complex answer

    Firstly I would go along with the previous comments ‘it depends’. However I would suggest that a potential ‘on what’ can be found in research by the IES of resourcing the training and development function.

    The research albeit published in 2002 gives some useful (and empirical) insight into what the variables are and case studies to suggest different sectors will choose different options. This is of course based on the premis that ‘better’ means most appropriate for the client organisation.

    Agreed the research did not set out to answer your question specifically but there is a lot of information within the report that could support a case for outsourcing.

    TrainerBase itself as an Association for Learning Practitioners has a vested interest in what you term ‘professional external trainers’. That said, our own knowledge base does not provide a clear picture of the market place, if fact the ‘external’ market place is seriously muddied by a lack of clarity as to what constitutes a ‘professional’. Our own endeavours to set a Standard for ‘independent’ learning practitioners has avoided the term ‘professional’ especially if this is based on qualification alone. With this in mind we preferred to base our accreditation scheme on competence and capability to undertake the role as when it comes down to it; that is what a client requires.

    Using an external trainer can and does bring a different perspective to a requirement that will be different to a senior internal practitioner. The research mentioned also suggests and different roles within an organisation will have different perspectives based on the requirement; tranactional/transformational being one such variable.

    Apologies if I have muddied the water further, there is an answer but it is a complex one and may not be the one you are looking for.

    Founder / Chief Executive
    The Association for Learning Practitioners

  8. Pros and Cons – Swings and Roundabouts
    My experience confirms much of what has already been said below but I would very much support Peter’s ‘it depends’ stance.

    Quality is variable across the industry in terms of external providers and I have personal experience of perceived highly reputable organisations employing the services of highly disreputable training deliverers – it is not just internally that trainers deliver as Rus describes, sadly.

    I also have experience of a large number of subject-matter experts who are dreadful trainers, particularly in my specialism of IT where subject-matter expertise is valued more highly than learning facilitation skills.

    The way to deal with this situation, in my humble opinion, is to train subject-matter experts to become learning facilitators because they make the best possible trainers if they take the role seriously. This involves a commitment from not only the individuals but the organisations involved and, where this works, it can make a major impact.

    This can mean supporting them through the transition with external providers using the best of the associate trainers available – supporting the Trainerbase model – and making sure that organisations, both external training providers and internal training departments change their attitude towards ‘something for nothing’ and return to ‘value for money’ which means investing in those who invest in themselves.

    Off the soap box now.

    Good luck with it.

    Jooli Atkins

  9. The real value of a trainer
    Dear Caroline,

    Looking at your original query I’m assuming that you are a training provider seeking to justify to your potential client the need for your services. I don’t believe the essence of the question (and therefore of the case you will put to them) concerns whether training is delivered by internal or external staff: it is about the quality of the training “product” and the effectiveness of the results gained.

    Speaking as the former IT Training Manager for the Littlewoods Organisation and the current director of an independent training company, I can say with total confidence that effective training can be delivered by both internal departments and external organisations. Although there can be occasions when the latter will bring the extra dimension of greater experience, the primary concern of clients is that the training their staff receive is immediately relevant and can be applied within their own organisation. This is why there may be a temptation to use internal practitioners. However, on this score, I have to agree with the reservations of earlier commentators: training delivery is a skill in itself far beyond knowledge of a system and this is what you need to stress on your own behalf.

    Successful training delivery depends on a number of factors:

    1. Training design and delivery should always be business focussed and your case should centre on your experience in this approach.
    2. We have found that, as an independent company, we can become closely involved with client organisations in a way that larger organisations can’t, and that we can give the same degree of customer focus as a company’s own HR/training department, with the added bonus that we have no other functions to distract us from the training in point and that we can offer excellent customer service. Your case should involve your experiences in this arena.
    3. Training should always deliver a business benefit and if you have undertaken research within former client organisations post-delivery (as we regularly do) you should have some reference sites that you can point to within your submission with evidence of what you have achieved for their organisations.

    One way of demonstrating to a client that you have all these skills and knowledge is by providing evidence of a training qualification. A number of such qualifications exist but the one we use and recommend is the Training Foundation’s TAP. This encapsulates all the points I’ve made above, plus others, into a consistent framework with useful profiles to be built into the design and delivery of all training materials.

    Good luck!

    Tricia Clewett

  10. training providers
    Hi Caroline,

    Rather than either/or, my experience is that there is much to be gained by both/and. The internal has links within, and the external has fresh perspectives from without. They can work well together and produce more that the sum of the parts.

    good wishes,



Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!