June 3, 2009

Get Your Training Produced -Internal or External Resources, Training Context

This is the second part of an article written by Roman Battan, a co-worker of mine at Convergence Training. If you would like to contact Roman directly, he can be emailed at: rbattan@capstonetechnology.com or give him a call at 360-834-0991 x241.

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Internal Resources or External Resources?

Allocating resources for training is not an easy decision during tough economic times. Like everything else in business, it always comes down to money. By using internal employees to develop training, you spend money indirectly on wages and if you hire an outside firm or consultant there are direct contracting costs. These may both sound bad, but keep in mind that if you don’t spend money on training now, you’re going to lose money through poor product quality and downtime and be worse off in the long-run anyway.

Internal and external training resources both have their merits and drawbacks. For example, internal employees have an intimate knowledge of production processes, but usually lack the skills to develop an effective training program with adequate instructional design. They might be able to write a manual, teach a class, or design a PowerPoint, but the transfer of knowledge may be diminished or ineffective based on their inability to appeal to the diverse learning styles of other employees.

External training providers are usually located on the other end of the spectrum. They know how to design training in general, but may not have the intimate knowledge of your manufacturing processes. This is typically where we encounter the two different kinds of trainers providing Soft-skills and Hard-skills.

Hard-skills trainers who are specialized in your industry and have a proven track record are ideal candidates as an external training provider. They require little or no guidance from internal employees, they understand essential equipment and processes, and have working knowledge of proper instructional design. Trainers with these essential qualifications are more difficult to find than Soft-skills trainers that are willing to take a crack at building training. Don’t be fooled by these unqualified characters.

Training in Context

It is not surprising to find that most training vendors in the sea of providers have based their business models on teaching Soft-skills. Why? Because – in my humble opinion - Soft-skills are easy to teach, they don’t require an in-depth technical knowledge of a particular process, and they are usually based on common sense and theories wrapped in jargon. If by now you’re thinking that I don’t care for Soft-skills training, then you would be correct…mostly.

The decision to move forward with any training company or training consultant should be solely based on the context of your business need. If you have a poor management or leadership team, then Soft-skills might be the answer. If you have poor product quality then Hard-skills training for your production workers should be your focus.

All too often the rule of ‘training context’ seems to be ignored. Almost every new client that I encounter says the same thing, “Our current training provider relied on us to write the training. Then they charged us a boatload of money to turn it into a video or PowerPoint presentation.” When pressed, clients usually reveal that the trainer was a corporate preferred, soft-skills vendor that tried to develop training when they had no understanding of the subject matter. In other words, the wrong tool was used for the job.

Choosing a Training Provider

Choosing the wrong training vendor for the job is occurring at an increasing rate everyday as the workforce turns over and demand for ‘real’ training continues to grow. Companies are desperate for quality training programs yet continue to fall prey to bogus training providers. This is when it’s important to be patient and keep a few things in mind when selecting external training resources.

Just because you or your corporate office has a preferred vendor for training doesn’t mean that you should always use them. It’s important to scrutinize their technical know-how and demand that they are experts in your field of business. Always demand their qualifications and don’t be shy about evaluating some of their past work. Finally, be sure to shop around. There are plenty of competitive companies out there.

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