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

Are You Throwing Money Away on Consultants?

hint: it just might be your own fault

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Many organizations hire external training consultants to perform a variety of roles. And many of them do not get their money's worth.

These external consultants may come in to teach particular topics, or to create training materials for company staff. They may combine training with other services, perhaps diagnosing problems with one hand and treating them with the other.

But when I say the companies that hire these consultants may not be getting their money's worth, I am not suggesting that the consultants are deceiving or conning anyone, nor am I suggesting that consultants are generally of little value.

I am suggesting that the problem with getting a good return on an investment in an external consultant often lies with client.

First of all, I am biased, since I make my living as an external consultant myself. I certainly do not plan to claim that most consultants are idiots, and that I just happen to be a genius ("Fire them! Hire me!" This approach is more common than you might think.)

And secondly, I have more than my own experience to draw on. I provide services -- training design, content development, and marketing support -- to training consultants much like myself. And working with other training consultants for many, many years has taught me that some of the most basic problems occur again and again, across different clients, with different consultants.

Let's say you hire a training consultant to deliver a seminar or workshop. As part of the selection process, you probably asked, at some point, in some wording, "What are you going to do to ensure that we see good results from your seminar? What are you going to do to make sure your class has an impact on how our employees do their jobs, to the benefit of the company?"

Perfectly reasonable questions. But unfortunately, the question you may forget to ask is, "What are we going to do to optimize the impact of the seminar we are paying for?"

Most of my consultant clients have standard classes that they offer very successfully again and again. They have tested material that has been shown to benefit many organizations, partly reflected by the fact that these consultants are asked back to present the same, or related, classes again and again. But then the seminar seems to be a clunker in one company or another.

Ask them why these certain companies didn't get the usual results, and one of the most common issues is how the participants were prepared for the event. For example, in some organizations, what matters is how many hours of training each employee (at certain levels) gets in a year. Some people are sent to seminars, or sign up for them themselves, simply because they fit the schedule . . . or because it is the end of the year and they are catching up. They don't care about the topic, they just want to "get their tickets punched." Often the company has settled for monitoring training quantity, and really isn't paying much attention to the results they are getting from training activities.

In other cases, the seminar is inaccurately represented to managers and potential participants by internal promoters. A blurb goes out by e-mail, or on the corporate intranet, describing the coming seminar in glowing terms. Unfortunately, enthusiasm wins out over accuracy, and promises are made by the company that were never made by the consultant. A group of participants shows up looking for something quite different than what they are going to get.

And that simply generates frustration on both sides, wastes money, and lowers expectations for and interest in future training events.

Hold your consultants accountable to deliver great material well, to have an impact on your business. But hold yourself accountable for laying the groundwork that is necessary to have that kind of success with training activities.

© 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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