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Choosing external trainers


I have been asked how a manager who is looking to commission some project management training, can make sure that the trainers will deliver a good workshop.

Obviously they could attend a workshop they already deliver. But does anyone have other ideas?

Presumably trainers will not be willing to hand over their materials for scrutiny, so how can we test the ability of the trainer to help people learn practical skills as part of the tendering process?
derek hughes

4 Responses

  1. the old quandry
    You mention two particular and potentially seperate areas;
    1)can the trainer “deliver” a good workshop
    2)the possibility of scrutising their materials.

    The quality of material is no guarantee of the effectiveness of the trainer at the workshop.

    I almost hate to say this but before the manager even starts assessing the trainers (s)he needs to be certain and clear what the objectives of the training are.
    As a training provider I have often asked, “What do you want to get out of this training?” and been met with a blank stare by the commissioning manager.

    You are going to have to take an elemant of this on trust; do I BELIEVE that the person in front of me can deliver to MY objectives?
    To support this you may ask for a taster, you may ask for material to assess (I always provide it IF I think the client is sincere) and you may ask for references in a similar industry. If you are going to commission a series of training events you can commission a pilot (my experience of these suggests that they are very well worth it, as a learning exercise for you and the trainer as well as an opportunity to gain credibility with the potential delegates)

    I hope this helps

    Rus Slater

    PS Project Management training can often be a sledgehammer to crack a nut; you don’t need PRINCE 2 for something small, cheap and short!

  2. Choosing external trainers
    I agree with Rus. I’d just add a few pointers:
    1. You should have criteria for selecting the trainer/provider. For example, if you want to do a high level cpd event for seasoned project managers then you will need someone well qualified, with both breadth and depth of experience, who may have experience in your sector, and who has good credentials as a trainer. If you want a quick intro to the topic for junior managers who contribute to occasional projects, then your criteria can be less stringent. Applying these criteria should help weed out some unsuitable candidates, but it does not guarantee that those who get through can actually cut the mustard.
    2. Ideally get a recommendation from someone your trust and who used the person in a similar capacity (some trainers are great for certain types of work but may be less suitable for others). You can check references but people are unlikely to offer up a referee who is going to criticise them.
    3. You should meet with them and you can see samples of their materials. As Rus says good materials does not equal good trainer, but it does no harm to make sure they fit your needs. Discussing the the design of an event is usually the most revealing – you’ll get a good steer about their approach and the rationale behind it. A good design is half the battle. You should also make sure you give them a clear and helpful briefing about the event, why it arose, any hidden agendas, about the group and about what success should look like. Some failures are not about poor trainers but poor client conception and briefing.
    4. Finally, get them to run a short session or a pilot before committing to more. Make sure the key presentational and facilitational skills are in place. You can be a bit more forgiving if they don’t know all your internal jargon, for example, but if those types of things emerge, at least you can give them some help before they do any more work for you.
    Hope this helps

  3. the key to getting it right?
    Fully agree with what has been said here and add:
    Just because a trainer did a great job yesterday – does not mean they will do a good job today – trainers are human – allegedly…
    A trainer that works well in one culture may not work well in another.

    Its a people thing

    People buy people. If you like the person, if you respect the person, if they appear honest and credible then it will in all probabilities work well for you. Be careful that the person doing the ‘selling’ is the person that will be doing the delivery – if not meet the people doing the delivery BEFORE agreeing to the work/ contract being assigned.

    if you go the strict process route of tendering etc and only look at the mechanics the you are on to a looser before you start – as many sadly find out.

    If its a public course provider you are looking for – then that is easy – ask to attend on a money back agreement!

    Good luck

  4. asking about how to select an external trainer
    Hi, I would echo the points raised in this discussion already.

    It would be useful for you to require the candidate(s) to make a presentation to the Interview Board, on a pre prepared subject, which you will have communicated to he/she/them beforehand. On the day, they would treat you as prospective delegates for the (specify duration here) session.

    As you are looking for project management training, potential session titles could be:

    ~~~ How would the project manager obtain authorisation for the project to proceed – what information is needed?

    ~~~ What are the typical challenges that face the project manager in progressing the project?

    ~~~ Out of all the project lifecycle steps, which do you consider to be the most important and why?

    Rus is quite right, it is not necessary nor required to have a course on PRINCE2™ when the typical delegates will be people working in a project, not managing it.

    I am quite happy to field any questions on this, or just to sound out any ideas.

    Pashori Lal
    APM approved PRINCE2 Practitioner Trainer
    MSc Change Management
    078 1205 0098 024 7668 3447


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