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How to choose a training provider


Outsourcing training to a specialist provider is an increasingly popular choice in today’s organisations. There are a large number of training providers to choose from, each offering different training solutions, so how do you find the provider to suit your needs?

Robinne Collie, Managing Director of The Gourmet Challenge, outlines the questions and issues managers should consider to ensure they’re selecting the best provider for their organisation.

Define the training requirement

It’s most important to understand who the training is for and what should be achieved through the training programme.

1. Define the training objectives

To find the ideal provider, firstly you must have a clear idea of your training objective. In light of this, you should review existing training plans and commitments, and the training needs of staff.

Also consider the question of post-training evaluation. The training provider will have evaluation forms to assess their own performance, but you will need to assess whether your objectives have been met. A de-brief the day after a training programme is often a good time to discuss this with team members, who have had time to reflect on their perceptions of the day. It might also be possible for the provider to include this facilitation in their solution for you. Whichever option you choose, it’s important to start thinking about this now.

2. Think about the people in the team

Consider the ways in which the team learns best. Remember that everyone has different learning styles, so, for example, are you looking for a classroom-based programme or something that takes employees out of the traditional office environment, or perhaps a combination of both?

Take into account the individuals that make up the team and the impact that a training programme will have on them. Issues such as their age, gender, physical fitness and personal circumstances should be considered. (A part-time worker who needs to make child-care arrangements in order to attend the entire course may need some additional support).

Doing the research

Once you have an idea of what you want to achieve, spend some time researching providers who may be suitable, and then create a shortlist from which to select the provider. There are a number of sources of information about providers that will enable you to make an informed choice:

1. Consult widely within your organisation

Ask colleagues and peers for recommendations of providers they’ve used in the past, as well as the names of providers they’d avoid in the future! Not only will this help you to choose a provider, but by involving your team or a particular department in the decision making process you can start to build buy-in and support for the training itself.

2. Trade Media and Events

Attend HR, development and training exhibitions, as well as potential provider web sites and the trade press. All these sources will help point you in the right direction.

3. Network with HR Professionals

Networking with other HR professionals will give you an insight into their approach to outsourcing training. Ask them what they’ve done and what providers they have used in the past. This is a fantastic way of sharing knowledge and meeting people in your field, and a good potential provider will facilitate you speaking to their clients for a reference.

Selecting the provider

Once you’ve made your shortlist, make contact with the potential providers:

1. Request for Proposal (RFP)

Give potential providers a brief of your requirements and objectives. Tell them what you hope to achieve through the training and let them suggest ways they will meet these needs, matching their products and services to your requirements. This may be done in writing, face-to-face or even over the telephone. The brief should contain details of your training objectives, any logistical details (location, timing etc), budget (if determined), and requirements for post training evaluation if required.

2. Gauge their response

Their response to your brief will help sort the professional providers from the rest. In response to your brief:

- They should ask lots of questions to make certain they understand what you are looking for, and not to presume your needs. Be wary of the provider who doesn’t ask you a question as they will assume your needs are like others and offer you an “off the shelf” solution.

- They should be prompt and professional in their response. This will be evident in how quickly they respond to the brief, and the manner in which they do so.

- They should provide you with some form of written proposal outlining their understanding of your needs, and a proposed solution, even if it is high level at this point in time. It will give both them and you a platform for moving forward.

- They should be upfront if they do not offer services or products that suit your needs, and refer you to a provider who they know will be perfect for you, rather than try to convince you to change your requirement to fit in with their product set.

- They should follow up with you and ask for a meeting to take things forward. This is not an indication of an over zealous sales person, but rather that of a provider who sees you as an important potential client and values your business.

3. Making the choice

The final choice of provider will be one who meets an array of criteria:

- They are able to provide you with the service/product to meet your training objectives.

- They are professional in their manner and approach.

- They have good credentials and clients who will give positive referrals.

- You perceive they offer value for money (this does not necessarily mean that they have to be cheap).

- They are able to answer your questions about training to your satisfaction, thus demonstrating that they have a understanding of HRD principles, and are up to date on the broader range of tools and techniques relevant to their training area, not just their own approach and product/service.

Finally, if all the above criteria are in place, you should not be too reserved in working with new training providers. Often companies will have a list of “preferred suppliers” which has merit, but all to often, these providers may not be able to best meet your specific needs. There are others who would do a fantastic job, but are not considered. A provider who can meet your training objectives with a fresh, innovative and professional approach should always be considered!

The Gourmet Challenge will be at HRD 2003, featured at the 'Topic Taster' showcase, and will be hosting a session on how cooking becomes a metaphor for the analysis, assessment and review of individual and team characteristics and skills and how this can lead to improved team performance.


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