Technology/artificial intelligence, flattened organizations, labor shortages, supply chain/sourcing issues, faster cycle times, globalization and other factors associated with the 21st century business environment are changing the work landscape. Due to the various sources and ever-increasing pace of change, the role of training and development has emerged as an increasingly important factor for individuals’ career success and for organizations’ ability to compete. Individuals want — whether for reskilling, upskilling or newskilling — a platform for short-term skill acquisition to support their career aspirations. At the same time, organizations need the ability to quickly pivot to the demands of fast-changing markets and position themselves as desired work environments to both attract and retain human capital.
But, with budgets as tight as they are, it is critical that individuals and organizations — through the executive team or human resources professionals — make the right choice for a training partner. Whether you are currently working with a partner to support your learning needs or considering starting a relationship with one, here are 5 questions you should ask. The answers will guide your decision, help maximize your investment and increase the probably that you will achieve your intended results.
- Is the training content custom or off-the-shelf?
You can tell the answer to this question by the approach your potential partner takes in your first meeting.
For individuals, does your potential learning partner start by asking you what your career aspirations are? Do they look at your goals from the perspective of both underlying discipline content and how it can support your career aspirations? Will you have individual attention as you work your way through your course — whether as an individual learner in a self-paced course or in a cohort?
For organizations, does your potential training partner want to take the time to understand the challenges your business faces? Do they ask the right questions about your business processes, priorities and culture? Does their training design include interactive courses, or is the content simply traditional classroom lecture? Or are they just trying to sell you the training content they have previously developed?
- Is there flexibility for implementation?
One of the biggest challenges of training delivery is making it easy to participate, share and learn.
A question for both individual learners and organizations — does the training company come to the table with flexible formats, timing and cost options? Does the program include only classroom or only online courses? Do they provide any creative options that address the challenges that your company faces, such as engaging different ages of employees, from baby boomers to millennials to Gen Z? Can they provide examples of different ways they have worked with organizations? Can they handle unexpected externalities that arise during an engagement and still deliver as promised?
- Does the training company have an academic connection?
For individuals, the application of skills to support your career goals is paramount. For organizations, training is all about real world strategy and execution. An academic training partner from a highly ranked school can bring the best of both worlds. A professional and executive education program affiliated with a university incorporates both academic thought leaders and industry practitioners. Integrating the theoretical support provides intellectual rigor and helps employees understand the “why” in addition to the “what.” An academic partner also brings the resources and credibility of the university to your company and employees.
- Does the training company have a track record of delivering results?
This is what it’s all about.
Results come from a partnership in everything from training design and goal setting to implementation, refinement and measurement. Many companies can deliver learning at three levels of engagement and information: Level 1 (reaction — the learner “likes” the course), Level 2 (knowledge transfer — the learner recalls content in the course), and Level 3 (behavior — the learner applies what is learned)
The first three levels must be delivered — as a minimum.
But the true benefits of training come at Level 4 (measurement — individuals use the information to do their jobs better, get the intended promotion or secure the new job) and Level 5 (return on investment — the benefits of the investment exceed the cost). This is the true measurement of success.
Be sure to take some time to understand the measurement process the training company uses to measure success. For individual learners, look at the testimonials that the provider shares on its website. For organizations, ask to talk to current or past clients. There’s nothing better than having a conversation with someone who works with the training partner on a day-to-day basis. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.
Partnerships don’t happen overnight, but it’s partnerships that produce results. Asking the right questions to choose the right training partner takes time, but the payoff shows in the results.
- Does the training company have experience to train employees globally?
While applicable for individual learners — especially as it relates to understanding learning styles associated with different cultures — this question is probably more applicable for organizations.
With changes in the landscape of the workplace brought on by globalization and, more recently, with the pandemic, it is not unlikely that some of your employees work in a location other than your home office. It’s critical that your training partner understands how to leverage technology while still providing engaging, collaborative, high-touch training programs to employees at every level.
It’s one thing to be able to operate training programs remotely, but it’s quite another to design and implement training programs on a global scale. Culture, language and time zones are just a few considerations. If you need training that reaches outside the U.S. now or in the future, ask prospective training companies about their global experience. More important, ask their global learners or clients about their satisfaction level.
Positioning your individual career or your organization for success requires the highest level of integrity in conducting your due diligence of potential training partners. Taking the time to “go slow to go fast” is an investment that will better assure you achieve your intended results. You want to select a training partner that has a track record of delivering results and instilling confidence in learners and employers.