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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

How to Make Sure the Hired Help Fails

common reasons external training help does not pan out

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Most training departments in larger organizations make use of external help from time to time. You might engage a training consultant to deliver certain topics, or to assist in development of new curriculum, or both.

And especially in these difficult economic times, you definitely want to get your money's worth.

Unfortunately, many times consultants just do not deliver the results you were looking for. Or they are effective, but their cost ends up running well beyond what you expected.

Sometimes this clearly falls on the consultant. You simply hired the wrong person, and given the intangible nature of the training business, and the glib persuasiveness of people who make their living talking, that can happen from time to time.

I believe it is more often the case, however, that the consultant who is hired has the skills to be effective, but that poor decision making and management by the client dooms the relationship to failure. Believe me, since I serve training consultants in my own business, every one of them has horror stories to tell about being hired for a job in which it was impossible to succeed.

So what goes wrong? Here are some of the most common ways corporate training departments shoot themselves in the proverbial foot, when they bring in outside help:

  • Hiring for knowledge (comfort level), not for the skills you need. We hire people who sound like us. Engineers hire engineers, clinicians hire clinicians, or at least, the experts on the project committee hire people who use their language and might share their experience. But you need communication skills, instructional design expertise, writing ability. You already have the knowledge you need in house, so hire skills, not knowledge, when you go outside.
  • Paying high performers to deliver canned content. If you have the content already developed and fixed, and it is supposed to be delivered just as it is written, do not hire someone known for their flexibility, responsiveness, and creativity in the classroom to deliver it. You are paying for skills you are not going to use.
  • No direction. This is a big one, as many, many consultants are asked to submit proposals to committees who really have not figured out what they want or need. The confusion may continue as the training is developed, and in the end, it cannot serve the company's needs, because those needs were never clear to the consultant.
  • Endless direction . . . and redirection. Another common horror story from the training consultants I work with is the client who keeps revising the mission along the way. Developed material is thrown away, replaced, and replaced again. The results are cost overruns and muddled training.
  • Not a training problem. Sometimes companies throw training at a problem, so they can been seen to be doing something,when the real problem arises from, say, management practices. It is hard to find a bigger waste of money than using training to solve a problem it cannot solve.
  • Poor preparation and follow up. Training delivered in a vacuum has minimal impact. Sometimes companies are careless about how they represent a training session, and a lot of participants end up in the training event who do not belong there, and will not benefit from the experience. Even more important, if management practices and support systems work against the training message, those forces will win out, after the event, no matter how brilliant the trainer may be.

As a training consultant myself, I want your company to get the most value possible when you hire outside help. There's nothing more satisfying than working with a corporate client who avoids the problems listed above, so we can jointly create and deliver training where the most notable impact is the change in employee performance, not wasted money and growing frustration.

© 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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