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How do you chose training courses


What methods do companies use for chosing training courses and providers? I'm setting Bladonmore's marketing budgets for next year and would be interested in hearing from users of training services (particularly communication skills) factors they use in decision making.
Benjamin Ball

11 Responses

  1. How we choose external providers

    I don’t know if this will be of any help to you but how I have chosen external training providers in the past is as follows:

    1) Recommendation from other trainers
    2) Old work colleagues who have gone into consultancy
    3) Going on courses myself to see what they cover etc.
    4) Getting a free demo/low-price taster from providers
    5) Trainingzone – brackets kinds of providers and what they can offer – I’ve given them a call fromm there
    7) Buying off-the-shelf (example: Fenman, videoarts)

    Factors in choice:
    1) Cost is always a major factor – balancing off quality against cost
    2) Validity of material on offer – does it sit in with your training plan?
    3) How long will it be before the training become out-of-date (like off-the-shelf H&S packages)
    4) How reliable are the providers in their delivery of the goods?
    5) How does the course/package sit with what the company offers already?

    It has been in the past that we have managed to get a quality training course written for us inhouse by a team of secondees, brought together on a project. Whatever money was budgetted, a portion was put aside and then given to the participants as a bonus if the course was a success (ie. it allowed KPIs to be reached, had the desired effect and the evaluation results were good)

    Good luck,

  2. Methods of Selecting Training Providers
    I will await the debate that TrainingZone intend to have around this question with interest as having been both a customer and a supplier, I have seen both sides of the equation.

    Two methods that seem to be gaining in popularity are:

    (1) throwing the guantlet down with invitation to tenders to a group of companies

    (2) allocating budget up-front to a discrete number of providers via a preferred supplier system

    I have mixed thoughts about both!

    I can see where these approaches would work for other procurement projects, but I still think we need to think much more broadly than a checklist approach when it comes to training and development activities.

  3. Selecting Trainers
    What a super question!

    Having sat on both sides of the desk, as a buyer and a supplier, what I think I did wrong in the past as a buyer was to be far too unclear on my requirements, objectives, measurables, etc – and now, as a supplier, I see many of my clients inclined to fall into just the same trap!

    So may I make a plea for some really hard thinking on what is really wanted, style, content, measures of success, participant backgrounds, business context, etc, upfront? My company always makes a point of asking if we are not told, but it is soo much more effective when this thinking has been clarified at the start, across your management team of those involved…

    As for the selection process thereafter, I would warmly recommend asking for a brief list of your possible providers’ relevant past clients who had similar needs, whom you can contact.

    I hope this helps?

    Best wishes
    Jeremy Thorn

  4. Can they improve my ideas
    Perhaps it’s a bit cheeky to reply as a supplier, but how I’d hope my clients would choose someone to work with would be broadly as already suggested with a couple of extra criteria:

    Do they walk the talk? So, for communications skills training, how well do they communicate? Especially when asking questions and listening to my needs.

    Can they make my ideas even better through their experience?

    Will they provide a programme that is precisely targeted to my people’s needs, or try to make something off-the-shelf fit?

    Can they relate to my company’s values?

    Hope this helps
    Best wishes,
    Jonathan Haigh

  5. How do you choose training courses?
    Like Jeremy and Tim, I have been on both sides of this fence.

    At the end of the day, I think that choosing a training provider comes down to three main things (there are many other factors, of course)
    – the competence of the provider
    – the quality of their training
    – ‘best fit’ with your company (goals, culture and values) and the people in it.

    There are a huge number of external providers whose skills vary from brilliant to terrible and it can be a tricky business choosing which one/s to pick! Personal recommendations from friends and colleagues are a good way of avoiding (or at least partially negotiating your way through!) the minefield, especially if the recommended providers can supply names of happy customers of theirs with whom you can discuss your requirements and the suitability of the provider.
    I am sure this debate will run and run!
    all good wishes
    Andie Hemming

  6. Selecting suppliers
    Firstly, as Jeremy Thorn has already mentioned, it is extremely beneficial when the customer has a clear idea of what the business wants from the training in terms of clear SMART objectives, and can help to reduce the risks of an unsuccessful training solution being implemented. From a suppliers perspective, it is very difficult to work in situations where the objectives aren’t clear, or worse where the objectives seem to change at every meeting. Clarifying objectives at the outset is an important discipline for both the supplier and the customer.

    In terms of selecting suppliers, most of our work has come from word of mouth, where our existing customers have recommended us to others. The only downside of this for both the customer and the supplier, is that it does make it difficult for new trainers or training companies to break into the market, unless as is commonly the case, they start off doing some work for ex employers.

    Which leaves the problem, and as Andy Hemming has said, it is often very difficult to identify a truly good trainer who can provide innovative and effective training solutions. This does I believe lead many organisations to stick rigidly with existing suppliers, even when these are expensive or when other suppliers could potentially add something new.

    Training zone’s listing of trainers is useful as is, which is essentially a database of courses provided by a large number of training companies. Referring to these might alert you to potential new suppliers – and there are things you can then do to judge the quality of what they do. For example:

    1. Find out who their existing customers are.
    2. Ask to see examples of training materials they’ve produced (for example manuals/workbooks/trainer notes etc).
    3. Speak to one or two of their existing customers.
    4. Review the courses they have developed for your organisation before proceeding to delivery. When developing a tailored solution, we always go through the training notes, handouts and workbooks with our client in detail before rolling out the training to the intended audience.
    5. Sit in on some of the training if this is practical.
    6. Agree how the course will be validated and insist on a feedback report, which reflects back to you exactly what participants on the course thought of the training (without breaking any confidentialities of course).
    7. Identify ways of evaluating the effectiveness of the training in advance, and make sure you don’t forget to do this.

  7. Motivation!
    Unless the people you choose can motivate the delegates to put the stuff into practice there’s little chance that much will result. I agee with the points about culture, objectives etc. made by other contributors but surely the key is getting something to happen afterward? For that reason I’d look for a company that focuses on two things:
    1) Practical ideas that can be used tomorrow in the workplace rather than fancy theory.
    2) Motivating the staff to put into practice what they’ve learned.

    If the people you choose can do that then they are good communicators. Why? Because communication can only be seen to have taken place once the other person acts!

    Robert Hazell
    [email protected]

  8. Identifying and selecting training providers.
    I agree with the thread that you really need to know what you want first with smart objectives. I recently was tasked with sourcing a Project Management course for and in identifying the core competencies at each level was able to plan what I wanted for each. It was then a matter or reviewing the provider’s material to identify a short list of potential providers. From there it comes down to your firms view of the future and what qualifications you want your staff to have if any.

    I found that searching chartered organisations and leading Open University gave me an overview of what type of organisation would provide the best training at the correct level.

    It has worked so far.


  9. Choosing a good quality training provider
    If you want to be sure that a training provider offers a good quality service, check whether they are accredited by my organisation, The Open and Distance Learning Quality Council (ODL QC). If they are, you know that they have been independently assessed, and meet our published standards (see

    We are an independent body, set up by government 30 years ago to do this job. So our experience, and the guarantee we give to learners working with an ODL QC-accredited provider, gives you and them an assurance of quality.

    David Morley

  10. Alternate Approaches
    I’ve been in a number of situations where ‘providors’ are not readily available, or, because of some level of isolation, their materials / learning approaches / overall attitude are less than desired. Thru this I’ve learned to:
    – Have a very clear picture of what the training need is, and also a clear picture of the expected change in competencies, always after detailed discussions & conurrence from the line manager(s) concerned.
    – Initially search internally to see whether there is someone within the organisation who already has the identified knowledge / skills. If so, convince the manager of this employee that there are powerful benefits all round to use this employee temporarily as a trainer. In this scenario I always personally work with this employee to encourage / assist the development of the needed materials.

    If needed buy base materials (materials only) from a providor and adjust them as needed.

    -Numerous times I’ve hired providors on the basis that the providor presents the program once or twice, then conducts a ‘trainer the trainer’ program for a selected internal group (some staff from the central training & Development team, and always some staff selected people from the line (probably people who feature on the current succession and management replacement plan.) And with the rights to continue to use the materials internally. In fact in one country here in SE Asia I’ve earned a reputation for these demands. Initially providors shyed away from me, but over time the best providors are now very keen to work with me. I’ve also learned to negotiate strongly for the best fees.
    – In any event I demand that there must be:
    – A pre & post test
    – Participant participation, starting very quickly into the training activity.
    -Myself or a senior member of the trainig team, or a staff member from the line (already trained to present another program – as describedearlier) observes the first presentation made by the providor.
    I have learned to basically never accept ‘off-the-shelf’ training courses from outside vendors. In fact a number of times I’ve aborted discussions with vendors because they wouldn’t be flexible about content or approach, or include pre / post tests.
    I always work, before the training activity, with each line manager who will send a team member(s) to the training activity, to plan an activity for the team member who just attended the training to promptly make a presentation to their team, to share the highlights of the program, or to share any methodologies learned.
    I (& my training team) spend a lot of time with line managers, and their team members, to
    gain insight into the competencies needed. I place great emphasis in my discussions with line managers to talk about the competencies needed to take the organisation into superior performance, and to prepare the organisation for the future (the appropriate box on the Balanced Scorecard).

    Alan Williams
    Bangkok, Thailand

  11. See For Yourself

    In addition to the excellent suggestions below, I’d add two points:

    1. NEVER use a company or trainers who get a consistent rating of 81% and over. Studies have shown that the highest ratings are not usually given for the quality of the training (transfer of knowledge) but for the trainer’s “social skills”.

    The best trainers, in terms of producing long-term value for money tend to be rated in the 61%-80% range. (Though obviously it doesn’t “guarantee” that someone is a good trainer just because they get this kind of score).

    2. ALWAYS have a course that you intend to use checked out by yourself or someone who judgement you know you can rely on.

    I once worked for a large company who regularly used a particular “outdoor adventure” training company for team training courses. They must have spent £250,000 or more with the company, yet when it was finally revealed that the courses were a waste of time, the answer from the training department was “Well, we can’t afford to personally check out every course”.

    But they “could” afford to waste over a quarter of a million pounds on just one course?
    (I have no idea what the total cost of this “hands off” policy was.)


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