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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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Who will you trust? (Part 2)


I recently posted a blog (Who will you trust) about factors which should influence your decision to hire a specific coach. Similar to the coaching profession, anyone can decide to call themselves a trainer or leadership expert. An external trainer will set you back anything from £300 to £2500 a day. You may ask, what’s the difference between a trainer which charges £300 and £2500; actually not a lot. It’s all about how much you value their worth and how good they are at identifying the value of their proposed solution to you.

So, how do you go about finding a identifying a reputable external training consultant to work with your business?

1. Price is not a guarantee of success or experience

Unlike some of the regulated professions such as financial services, accountancy or the law, anyone can call themselves a training consultant or trainer, and charge what people are willing to pay. Before you sign up with a training consultancy do ask for (and check) references from previous clients. If the person does not have any attributed case studies, testimonials, or feedback on their website be wary...

2. Check out their history and experience

There is a level of skill to designing a learning programme – and when I talk about a learning programme I am not just talking about classroom training.  Just because someone has had significant line management experience, or achieved a leadership position with an organisation doesn’t mean to say they can design or run a training programme. Facilitating a workshop is a skill, which not everyone can do well. Be wary of someone without specialist learning and development experience who is calling themselves a trainer (or more commonly leadership/management expert!)

3. Coaching – the 'new' training?

Since coaching emerged as a separate discipline in its own right, I’ve noticed a worrying trend. Coaching seems to be the new training. When you look closely, actually the provider is offering training not coaching. When people talk about team coaching, they are very often referring to facilitation. Expect every training organisation to offer you executive coaching. Do check out their coaching qualifications and membership of a coaching federation. If the organisations don’t fulfil the criteria that I outlined in part 1 of this blog, then walk away.

4. The myth of the silver bullet

We’ve all done it – seen a training course as a silver bullet which will magically ‘cure’ someone of a deep-seated development area. Sending someone on classroom based training is the least effective way for someone to learn. If you think it about it, rarely does someone get 8 hours of learning from an 8 hour course. However, skilled the programme leader, there will always be parts of a training course which you don’t need. 

Sadly what is often a common occurrence; line managers abdicate their responsibilities, and send a direct report on a training course to fix their behavioural problems. Unless you are supporting the direct report’s learning before and after the programme, the reality is that any changes made after the course are very unlikely to be sustained. When I talk about supporting learning, what I am meaning is the following:

  • Agree before the programme personal (and specific) learning objectives for the direct report which directly relate to the strategic and operational needs of the business
  • Meet with your direct report after the event and agree how you will support them to implement their post event action plan.

Over 80% of people after attending a training course will either, not do anything different after the course or try a few things, find it difficult and give up.

A good training consultant will spend as much time talking with you about how you will intend to support learning back in the workplace, as to the actual training need and potential solution.

5. Enjoy the smoothie

A good training consultant will advocate a blended learning solution. What this means is a solution which involves a variety of learning events, tailored to the learners needs, which take place over a length of time.  For example, it could include classroom training, self-study, field work, coaching, e-learning etc

6. Savile row? or off-the-peg?

If you are being asked to spend more than £1500 a day per trainer, then you should expect a fully bespoked learning programme. This means you should see evidence of a full training needs analysis, which informs the final design and pay for design time. You should also expect to have a pilot programme to test out your proposed solutions.

7. Check out the small print

Do ask what is and isn’t included in the quoted price for you. For example, many training consultants will quote a figure excluding expenses. Venue costs, travel, VAT, accommodation, materials, subsistence may actually add up to a significant cost. A good training consultant will be able to give you a clear steer on what these expenses will add up to.

8. Return on Investment

A good training consultant will work with you to identify your proposed return on investment for your training budget.

9. Tools of the trade

By this I mean valid PI insurance, and likely to be VAT registered. After all you would expect your accountant to have PI insurance and charge you VAT. So, why not your training consultant?

Right, that’s my rant fully over. If you would like some advice on how to get more out of your business’s training budget, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. + 44 (0) 1234 48 0123 or

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Heather Townsend


Read more from Heather Townsend

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