There are many good reasons for using an external training firm:
- a search for objectivity,
- fresh ideas or a different style,
- the need for skills and experience you don’t have,
- or simply, the need for an extra pair of hands.
If you get the brief right and choose the right consultants, marvellous things can happen. Otherwise, as we all know, projects can go disastrously wrong.
But how do you make the best use of a training consultancy?
Here are some thoughts based on my experience of working on both sides of the fence.
1. Be clear on the purpose, objectives and success measures
If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there! Be clear on the purpose, scope and objectives of the project you want the consultancy to work on. The sign of a good consultancy is an enthusiasm to help you clearly define the scope of your task, while placing your interests ahead of its’ own. Beware the consultancy offering off-the-shelf packages.
Be clear in your own mind how you will judge the success of the project and of your consultant’s work. This will help you think through what results you are looking for and allow you to share a common understanding with your consultant. As a result, the trainer is much more likely to deliver what you want and when you want it.
2. Invite the consultant to offer a proposed approach
Try to avoid getting an external trainer to deliver something you’ve designed. They won’t own it. Experienced trainers will have evolved a series of tried and tested approaches which allow them to deliver value. A good consultancy will always tailor its services to meet your requirements. Very often, a good approach will be for the external trainer to work with the client to deliver programmes – that way, you can be assured that messages will be fully aligned with your systems and processes.
3. Provide lots of feedback
All consultants should be focused on client satisfaction. A good trainer should ask for feedback, but do let them know what they are doing well and what they can improve on. This feedback will help ensure they deliver what you want and, in the longer term, will help them adapt to serve you better in the future. It is useful to have contact with a senior person in the consulting company to help handle any sensitive issues which may arise.
4. Develop a long-term relationship with your trainers
The more you work with the same training companies and their people, the more they learn about your organisation and culture. In addition, they will take a personal interest in your success. This relationship will benefit both parties in many ways. Consider starting a ‘faculty’ where trainers can be updated on your strategy and any important data about where your firm is going and why. The more you put into these relationships, the more you’ll get out!
The only aspect you need to be careful about is the relationship becoming complacent!