How does a company ensure that it’s getting the best return on its investment, or indeed, that the results justify the time away from the office and the expense incurred? Richard Chappell, UK MD, Learning Tree International, suggests ten questions to ask a potential training provider.

Richard ChappellGreat training should energise and inspire trainees in addition to providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs successfully, which in turn, should make their organisations stronger and more competitive. Forget the hype and provider claims, it boils down to one thing, are your people more effective in their jobs when they get back to work after their course?

So, where do you start? The following ten questions will help ensure that you realise the full benefit that you should expect from your training investment:

1.  How can I be sure your training will increase my staff’s productivity?
If people aren’t more productive after their training, it could easily be a waste of your money and their time (which is also your money), so, ask the provider what systems it has in place to measure the effectiveness of its training programmes.

2.  How do you measure increased productivity?
You should be looking for an average increase in post-course productivity of around 30 per cent from your training. By measuring increased productivity three months after they complete their course, you gain a considered view or measure, and not necessarily the post-course ‘high’.

3.  How do you measure attendee satisfaction?
All training providers will obviously tell you they’re good but it’s only when their customers say so that it really counts. Customer feedback is also vital for the provider to use routinely to improve course content and delivery. So always check just how thoroughly a provider obtains customer feedback and whether this information is then shared productively with their customers.

It’s very important to have a structured approach to this. The feedback from trainees filling in a questionnaire on the last day of the course is immediate and very valuable. You should ask the provider, though, what longer-term steps it has in place to measure the success of its training.

Organisations invariably get the most benefit from their training when the training provider sets measurable goals at the outset, having identified specific results or deliverables for each member of staff and the organisation itself.

4.  How often do you update your course content to ensure relevancy?
The one constant in today’s competitive, global marketplace is change - and, with technology, change is fast and unrelenting. If your training partner’s courses are offering last year’s (or even last month’s) content, your organisation could easily find itself left behind.

Make sure your provider reviews its courses and updates them regularly if necessary - not just at the start of the year - to ensure they reflect the very latest information technology and workplace trends, so your people are learning what’s relevant to their work today.

5.  Who writes your content?
Some courses are geared more towards selling product than giving people a thorough grounding in its use. It’s worth considering the pros and cons of material written from a vendor - it may be information straight from the horse’s mouth but will it be forthcoming on flaws - will the training provider point these out?

6. Do you keep your classroom environment and instructional methodologies current with and relevant to today’s real-world workplace?
Training should also show you how to apply the technology to real-world problems rather than just teaching the theory, which can be very difficult to relate to particular issues and situations when the trainee returns to the workplace.

Don’t be impressed by sumptuously-furnished training rooms. Leading-edge instructional design depends on classrooms that use the same technology that attendees use on the job. You need to look for state-of-the-art presentation technology, software and hardware that are consistent with today’s high-powered, totally wired work environment.

7.  Are your courses eligible for professional certification?
Part of providing your staff with the best possible training is also giving them the opportunity to achieve their educational goals and further their careers. If this is required, check that that the courses run by your training provider will do this and that there’s a progression path to their goal from the course they start with.

8.  What are your instructors’ qualifications and how are they trained and evaluated?
Most people working in IT today have a good level of technological expertise in the area in which they operate, which makes it vital to check out the calibre of the instructors who’ll take their knowledge to the next level. Always ask your provider for information on their qualifications, their real-world experience of the technologies they teach, and the level and frequency of the instructor training they receive. It’s well worth checking out the detail, not just accepting paper qualifications.

9.  Can you develop a scalable training programme, regardless of the size of the organisation?
A training program with a global footprint has its own unique set of problems and obstacles and is not a job for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. If you have a large number of people in different locations across the world to be trained, it’s essential to confirm that your training partner has the people and the infrastructure in place to deliver the results you need consistently in all the locations, across all the skills.

10. Can you guarantee satisfaction?
Always ask what steps the training provider will take if you are not happy with the training provided.