The key to assessing potential training providers is to find out how well they fit to what you want to achieve with the training. It’s important to get to the point quickly and here are a few questions that can help you decide if the people you’re talking to are ‘right’ for your company.
Are they prepared?
Before you present your company and situation to them, let the training provider describe what he/she already knows about your organisation. At the very least, they should have done their homework by reading the homepage. The most impressive of providers will already have incorporated your internal company language into their (written or oral) presentation:
- If you sent them information prior to the meeting, are they referring to its content correctly?
- Have they picked up any company brochures while they were waiting for you in the lobby?
- Do you have to repeat yourself or are they listening to you describe your organisation attentively? (taking notes, rephrasing what you said, using company language)
- Does their presentation reflect what you are looking for?
What kind of business do they have?
You need to know whether you´re dealing with a one-man-show (flexible to your needs but limited in scope) or a training company (offers standard content but can provide wider services). Additionally, you need to know how their business model fits your company and whether their training approach is compatible with the leadership culture in your organisation:
- How many people work there?
- Can they provide you with trainer profiles?
- Who would you work with on the actual design of training content and why is he/she the most qualified?
- What kind of international work have they done in the past?
- What is their policy should a trainer drop out at the last minute? (replacement, back-up)
- Which institutions do they cooperate with? (business schools, leadership think tanks)
How do they approach designing training content for new clients?
You can buy standardised content from any reliable provider, or you can ask a provider to customise training content to your situation and needs. If you choose the customized training option, you can ask:
- How do they normally go about creating a new design for a first-time client? (design phases, milestones, client approval, dry runs)
- What do they suggest they need to get to know your organisation in order to be able to create a suitable design? (discovery interviews with stakeholders, plant visits)
- What level of customisation are they willing to provide? (adoption of company-internal language/abbreviations, integration of company goals/competences/principles into training content, incorporation of internal specialists in training programmes)
What methods of quality management do they apply?
No training measure should be an individual, stand-alone event. Any professional training provider should have a variety of methods to ensure the applicability of training content to the business and the transfer of learning to the workplace. For longer-term or repetitive measures, they should suggest methods to maintain high-quality content and to review and update these contents to your changing business environment:
- Other than the typical “happy sheets”, what kind of evaluation methods do they offer?
- What methods have they used successfully in the past to ensure an effective learning transfer? (also ask about negative experiences and their underlying causes)
- What is their approach towards blended learning? If you have an online learning platform, how could the training contents be linked back to it?
- What certifications do they possess? (industry certificates like ISO or individual certification like personality diagnostics)
What are their expectations regarding contracting?
Most companies have internal standards about contracting external suppliers, whether it be about payment terms or travel regulations. Most training providers do not like to have to accommodate their contracting terms but, as the customer, you should ensure that the contract details suit your business:
- What are their daily rates? (beware of different rates for design, preparation and delivery)
- What kind of payment terms do they suggest? (timing of invoices, listing of travel expenses, payment of instalments)
- If they create materials customised to your organisation, what are the intellectual property considerations? (ideally, you should be able to use this material internally for other purposes)
What references can they provide?
Ultimately, you need to check the references of any training provider before contracting them. Be aware, however, that some references given may be outdated or refer to projects not applicable to what you require for your business:
- What other similar clients have they worked for in the recent past? (same industry, similar size, similar business model)
- What other similar projects have they successfully run in the recent past? (focus of contents, hierarchy level of participants, scope of measures)
- Can they give you the name/contact details of reference clients? (a good provider will want to check with that client first!)