Getting the best out of Outsourced training - A guide

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“The players everywhere are more knowledgeable and sophisticated. The pace is faster. The stakes are higher. And the playing field is anything but level. The new leaders will welcome change rather than resist it.” Dennis Waitley in his bestseller -Empires of the Mind.
 

In a world where change is the only constant, organizations in order to remain competitive, need to train their employees in new skills, attitudes and competencies on an ongoing basis. Achieving this task internally is extremely difficult due to the vastness of specialist expertise required. Having been in training for some time now and having watched many companies go through this process with success and disaster in equal measure, I thought it would be useful for many organizations to provide a guide to manage this process better and get returns out of it.

 

The first aspect that I want to focus on is identifying clearly or defining what your training needs are and which can be met internally and which need to be outsourced. Here are a few useful pointers:

 

Check where your organization is at the moment, and where you would it like to be in the future. Vision for an organization is important, and every step it takes should be in that direction. Look at the strengths and weaknesses, and prioritize which areas to focus on for the training. And then figure out which of the three broad areas of training does the required training fall - Knowledge, Skills or Attitude?

 

Now, ascertain which training area is top priority. Then, FOCUS – rather than generalize. If you have a clearly defined target, you will have a better chance of hitting the bulls-eye. Instead of saying that you need to develop the team, be more specific–do you wish to improve the communication between members of the team, or do you want the team to be more goal or target oriented?

 

Next, define the required end result or expectations. Unless the organization is able to define the end result required from a training programme, it is very difficult for any training to be effective. In my experience I have seen companies ask for training programmes using the easy route – asking the probable training service providers what programme they could offer. Training is a scientific process that should bring about the desired change. It should not be implemented just to report that training was done. Therefore follow one of Dr. Steven Covey’s habits – Begin with the end in mind.

 

Done with all this. Now the next aspect to consider is the timeframe for the training need. Since you have already figured out what the end result should be, it will be a lot easier to estimate how long it will take to achieve the result. Bounce this off with your internal project teams or respective section heads and ensure whether the timeframe matches the project schedule and does not adversely impact regular workflow or impede successful organizational flow. Bear in mind that it is easier to effect any attitudinal change over a few spread-out sessions rather than have the entire programme crammed into a one-day or a half-day programme. Hands on training – incorporating interaction with the participants are very effective in a training programme. Lectures will only help disseminate information.

 

That brings us to an aspect most organizations are conscious of in this slowdown times –costs. On an average training costs vary from about Rs.10,000 to Rs. 25,000/- per day, depending on the type of training and experience of the trainer. There are a few trainers who cater to international audiences who charge much higher rates. Over and above this, the hotel will levy a separate charge if training is not conducted in the organization’s premises. Some trainers even offer their own training facilities. In which case a reasonable amount is charged extra for the use of their facilities and lunch, tea, snacks etc.

 

Having covered what the organization needs to be ready with, let me give you a few tips to help find the right training service provider. It might sound easy but actually it is not so considering the multitude of trainers of all hues circulating in the market. The best way to begin is by referrals. Ask around, someone you know may know a trainer who can deliver the goods. If not, there are many other ways to find trainers – yellow pages, classified ads, placement agencies (since they normally know trainers who are associated with the companies they serve), and in a host of other ways.

 

You have got a few references and need to finalize the service provider. Here are a few questions you could ask the short-listed firms/trainers to help choose the right one for your need:

 

a) Knowledge. It is always good to know what background the trainer comes from. Where did he gain his information – through a diploma, a degree, on-the job experience, or a combination of factors?

 

b) Practical Experience. The person, who has practical experience in the business or corporate world, would be an added advantage. It is always better to get someone with practical knowledge in the field rather than look for someone who is only theoretical in approach. An interview with the trainer is by far one of the best ways to gauge what you are getting into, and what you could expect. Price is a negotiable factor, and this should be specified up front to avoid any unpleasantness or misunderstandings later.

 

c) Timeframe and Costs. These should be checked out for obvious reasons. Confirm both these details in writing, and ask the trainer for a written confirmation as well. Also check whether there will be any hidden costs for equipment - specially rental charges for higher cost items - LCD/Video Projector, Sound System.

 

d) Programme evaluation. It is always better to find out whether there will be any tangible way to check the effectiveness of the programme. A written evaluation by the participants lets the management as well as the trainer know how the participants felt about the programme. Attendees could also be asked to submit their own feedback to the HR Department.

 

e) Follow-up programmes. It would be good to ascertain this so that forward planning can be done accordingly.

 

Ask questions, and you will know whether the answers are making sense. You know what training you want, and it is you who have to determine whether the trainer will be able to deliver the goods.

 

Let me also outline here a few other factors that affect training to keep you forewarned and hence prepared:

 

Batch size – How many people can attend the programme? This fact will probably be determined by what area of training is being addressed. If hands on experience were to be imparted, then it would be terribly tedious to sit through fifty people doing something one after the other.

 

Location – In house or at an outside location? Here factors such as the ideal situation is one in which the participants will not be disturbed for routine work, or “urgent matters”. The best alternative is training outside the normal office environment and where participants cannot be disturbed or distracted.

 

Duration - Some types of training can be completed in one stretch, but others, like communication skills, are ideally dealt with over a period of a few weeks, for about three hours at a time. Instead of two sessions of 7 ½ hours, it would be better to have five sessions of 3 hours each.

 

Trainer or Team - For longer courses, it is best to have a team of trainers. But if the sessions are spread out as in the example above, then it would be okay to have a single trainer. One needs to weigh the pros and cons of each option.

 

Having armed you with tips and factors with regard to training let me close my article with a few insights and a summary. From my experience with training, I find that there is no fixed pattern for training. Plus, technical and soft skills training budgets should be allocated separately, since this normally applies to different categories of employee. However, some areas would need to be addressed across the board, such as Team Building and Communication. If the HR Department is unaware of the finer points of drawing up a detailed training plan, an outside consultant could be called in to draw up a detailed plan. A note of caution – many trainers use out-dated American Training Programmes, which might not be the best for the Indian scenario. A good trainer will have his own course materials, and will be able to justify why and how the programme has been designed.

 

As the global market place shrinks, there will be a greater need for working to international standards. Companies will need constant training just to keep working at earlier benchmarks. The world is changing too fast for us to sit back and do fire fighting. We will need to be proactive and ‘quick off the blocks’ if we are to stay competitive in a world that demands excellence not as an extra, but as part of the main package. On that note I would like to end with the hope that what I have written here would be of some use to many of you.

 

The author Ian Faria is Director of The Academy for Personal Excellence and Power. Queries can be mailed to: training@businessgyan.com

Issue BG3 June01