Q: I work as a manager in a small family-owned business. After working on my boss for a few years, he finally agrees that our employees could use some training in key areas. I am now in the process for looking for someone to come onsite and train certain employees in team building and basic math. What should I look for in outside trainers? How do I decide who to select and who is the best?

A: Great question. It is really important that you take the time to find a qualified training vendor especially since training is new for your work environment. It will be important to show success so that your boss will be more amenable to conducting training in the future. Here are a few tips:

  • First, and most important, is that you or someone internal must drive the process- not the outside trainer. If your firm were investing in a new computer system or expensive piece of equipment- you would never base your decision totally upon what the outside vendor says you need. Most likely, you would first think through what is most important and consider various options. When you consider bringing in an outside trainer, make sure you have a sense of:
    • what you want these employees to be able to do upon completion of the training;
    • how you (or the training vendor) will assess whether the training has been a success.

Good vendors will help you think through these issues but you should also do your homework ahead of time.

  • Look for trainers who have reputations for excellence- those that are great collaborators and communicators and are able to customize instructional content and materials that incorporates terms and examples from your own work environment. Ask your peers in other organizations for referrals.
  • Ask for, and follow up on, references. Interview past clients.
  • Review samples of their past training programs and evaluations.
  • One business we worked with would ask trainers to conduct a mini-training session with a few employees as part of the interview process. If they lectured more than 50 percent of the time, the firm would consider not using them. Or the firm’s HR would require they lecture less than 50 percent of the time. Employees, many of whom are older adults, should not be made to feel that they are back in school; they should be engaged in the learning process, not passive.
  • Upon completion of the training, sit down with the vendor and review what worked well and what could be improved. This will give you ideas on how to structure future training.

Mutually productive relationships with outside consultants and training vendors happen slowly over time. Invest the time to find the right vendor upfront – one that is responsive and will fit into your company’s culture. Building this relationship will yield many future benefits.