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Kellye Whitney
Kellye Whitney, is an award-winning writer and editor. The former editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine is now the founder and Chief Creative Officer for Kellye Media, a Chicago-based media coaching, content and consulting company.

Do You Have the Right Training Partner to Meet Your Annual Goals?

Do You Have the Right Training Partner to Meet Your Annual Goals?

Training and strategic business objectives are not mutually exclusive. Ideally, there will be close alignment between the two – if an organization wants to get its money’s worth.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and it can be especially problematic when training is technical in nature. Technology changes so quickly, organizations can’t afford not to train their technical talent if they want to remain innovative and competitive. Most organizations also can’t afford to deliver training that is ineffective.

Like most executives, learning leaders have to justify their department’s expenses. To do that they must set goals and meet them, and those who are working with limited staff – which is a good number – often rely on vendors to pick up where their internal resources leave off.

It makes the training vendor partnership a critical one, and savvy learning leaders know how to navigate it well. That includes everything from ensuring the quality of the actual training product to finding a vendor that can provide strategic consultation and help to create that oh so vital learning-business alignment.

That alignment begins with goal setting. Ideally, organizations should set their training goals as far in advance as possible. “We recommend at least two quarters in advance no matter what the organization is so you can be prepared for business planning,” said Rya Tillman, customer success manager for DevelopIntelligence.

Every organization’s training needs will be different, but anticipating those needs in advance helps to create the best plan of action. Understanding what an organization needs to accomplish long term will also help the right technical training vendor craft customized learning solutions to achieve those long-term goals. “Planning in advance allows your training partner to better identify any skills’ gaps within the organization, design a program aligned to your business objectives, and deliver the biggest outcomes and ROI,” Tillman explained.

But all of that good stuff hinges on choosing the right training partner. That’s not always easy. A training partner has to do more than just provide training. An effective partnership requires that a vendor really dig into an organization’s strategic goals. The vendor has to listen, collaborate, learn along with a company, and most important, care about the company’s success.

Tillman said many training vendors appear to listen attentively, but only provide cookie cutter solutions that fail to deliver the impact needed for a successful outcome. “I would recommend looking for a partner who understands your business objectives and understands that the training audience is unique in every organization.”

A training partner should offer training in different modalities, and whether an organization wants in-person or virtual training, that partner should be nimble as learning needs and goals change throughout the year. Tillman said one way learning leaders can ensure they’ve selected the right training partner is to have as many calls up front as needed so the vendor knows exactly what are the primary business drivers for training as well as the expected outcomes for engagements. For instance, will new hires be expected to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in a programming language? How will the vendor measure that proficiency?

Sometimes even when you do that pre-work and ask those questions, things may still go awry. How a vendor responds post-class or engagement is important, too. For instance, does the vendor pivot quickly to shape training based on class feedback? “A company that is confident in its abilities will usually offer some kind of money back guarantee or will redo the class,” Tillman explained. “You want to work with somebody who can provide that guarantee up front.”

The right partner will also offer a great deal of experience in specific types of technology, and vendors’ knowledge, products and services should always be evolving. They should provide new offerings on a quarterly basis, not run the same classes over and over, year after year. Ultimately, whether it’s multiple day, in-person-led bootcamps or a one-day virtual course, a training partner should align with an organization’s needs, not the other way around. So, look for a partner that can deliver the best ROI without sacrificing quality. “At DI, we’re so confident in our services our ROI is guaranteed,” Tillman said.

A company will know it has chosen the wrong training partner if any of the following happen:

  • A class fails to deliver the expected outcome. This may indicate the vendor didn’t listen and fully understand the strategic business objectives behind that learning. Therefore, they may have offered the wrong content.
  • The training partner fails to listen to your organization’s needs or fails to understand skills gaps. Again, this will result in the wrong class offerings, or the wrong instructor selection.
  • The learning partner continues to deliver the same offering without measuring and monitoring improvements. A good learning partner will always offer course adjustments and continuous program improvements each time a course runs even if it’s the same content. Measurement is a key part of making that happen.

Training vendors that are confident in their abilities will offer some type of class, money or ROI guarantee. A truly valuable training partner will own up to mistakes if things go wrong, and make an effort to right those wrongs, whether that’s redoing a class for free or reworking customized content.

“The main thing is you’re not just hiring a vendor,” Tillman said. “You want a strategic partner that acts as that extended arm to your organization, not just somebody you’re hiring to throw a class on here and there.

“A good partner will act more in a consultative manner rather than just, ‘here’s a technical training class. We hope it meets your goals,’” she explained. “At the end of the day it’s finding that partner who really cares and takes the time and effort to understand the company, the goals at hand, what that end outcome needs to be, and how to get there.”