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The five principles of excellent training delivery


Duncan Brown, director of Training Excellence at CFE, sets out the five core components of excellent training delivery.

Recent research by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills has highlighted that, after the many millions spent, overall outcomes from the government's Train to Gain programme resulted in no significant impact on learners' earnings. Of course, that's probably one of the reasons why the coalition decided to close the programme this summer and divert funding to apprenticeships – but this experience matters if we're to ensure that training contributes to the UK's economic recovery.
Through 350 assessments of training providers under the Training Quality Standard, and research into hundreds of employers' experiences of taking delivery of training solutions, CFE knows that measuring impact is vitally important, and is what makes the difference in training delivery. Otherwise how do you know whether the solutions you're providing to your customers are actually helping them?
Was there a difference in our workforce's performance because of the training? What could've been the difference if we'd taken a different approach to the training programme? Were we even tackling the right problem anyway? These are the types of questions which face employers when considering whether to invest in learning and development for their staff, and particularly so in difficult economic times when all investments must be able to demonstrate a return.
"...without any evidence of impact, training investments can easily be seen as an optional extra when times get tough, often deterring employers from investing in the skills of their workforce."
From our work in partnering with government in England to develop and operate the Training Quality Standard (TQS) we know that impact is tough to measure: only a fifth of those assessed were measuring impact properly, with even fewer doing it consistently. Because it's difficult, too many training organisations don't even try – they acknowledge it's important, but leave it on the 'nice, but not now' pile. And so without any evidence of impact, training investments can easily be seen as an optional extra when times get tough, often deterring employers from investing in the skills of their workforce.
However, the best training organisations tackle these issues head-on and set out to be accountable to their customers – in creating an impact on the business workplace as a result of their training they deliver.
For example, following our work with St Helens College on the TQS, the college restructured its approach to working with employers. The college firmly believes that, "you're not helping the employer if you provide training that doesn't improve the business". For that reason, the college now sets out to fully understand each customer's business needs to ensure it only proposes training that will achieve impact for them. Upon completion of the training the college undertakes an impact assessment with each customer to evaluate whether the business benefits sought were achieved.
Measuring impact isn't just the icing on the cake though – our own experience with hundreds of training organisations shows that those measuring impact are those that deliver effectively across all their operations. But excellent training organisations don't just perform well by accident – they understand that they constantly need to adapt and evolve, putting their vision into operation through effective delivery processes, backed with the right people and resources.
So from our own extensive research programme into employers' expectations, and training providers' own operating models, we have developed five principles which define the core components of excellent training delivery. Together, they offer a vision of high innovation, high impact operations to which all training organisations should aspire:
  • Ready communications: excellent training organisations communicate readily, clearly and frequently with all stakeholders about what the organisation is doing to satisfy their needs
  • Rigorous analysis: excellent training organisations rely on facts and rigorous analysis to make decisions on strategy and service delivery, securing impact for customers' businesses
  • Responsive service: excellent training organisations respond to customers' needs and expectations with high and responsive standards of service, driving customer satisfaction
  • Robust deployment: excellent training organisations are robust in deploying their internal plans and their proposals to customers, achieving sustained business results
  • Rich content: excellent training organisations draw on innovation and best practice to create and deliver rich content which secures impact for customers’ businesses.

Underpinning the five principles is a description of what excellent training organisations do – engaging customers in dialogue to fully understand their business needs, which they pursue with relevant products and services, and then delivering against them to high standards of quality.
"All providers should set their sights high, so they can look beyond today's limits, have confidence in the service that they offer to their customers, and focus on how they can continue to create value and impact for them."
Because each principle describes a facet of performance in absolutist terms, no organisation is likely to achieve completely against all five. However if you can demonstrate you deliver well - and sustainably - against each one, ensuring you have the structures and capabilities in place to deliver your mission, then you can consider your organisation to be among the best.
It is only by setting their sights high that training providers can genuinely engage with the question of excellence. All providers should set their sights high though, so they can look beyond today's limits, have confidence in the service that they offer to their customers, and focus on how they can continue to create value and impact for them through the work that they do.
And once impact is unlocked, it results in significant changes and tangible benefits, not only for customers, but for training providers themselves. In the current environment of increasing competitive pressure and demand for results such changes can make the difference between success and survival.

Duncan Brown is director of training excellence at CFE – research and consultancy specialists in employment and skills. For more information on training excellence visit

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