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So Many Choices, So Much at Stake:Choosing the Right Training Resource for Your Organization

Like most things in business today, selecting the right training resources for your organization has grown more complex than ever. Along with the competitive demands to increase the skills and productivity of your workforce, you also must keep pace with constant changes in knowledge, technology and Federal, State and organizational regulations. It's no longer as simple as putting in a call to the training department.

Trainers: An Evolving Role

The old “one-size-fi ts-all” concept of training and trainers has been erased from HR conventional wisdom. No longer are trainers lumped into a single category of “facilitators” ready at a moment’s notice to deliver any training program, any time, any place. In fact, the reality is completely opposite. Trainers have become increasingly specialized, each with a unique storehouse of skills and knowledge honed through a variety of assignments and experiences. Consequently, effective trainers are found not only in departments of human resources and training and development but also across the entire professional realm. Their ranks now include:

Six Month's Salary

Average cost of training a new employee to a level where they are truly productive.

With so many options, the challenge is to identify the training resources most appropriate for the given training initiatives. Rather than meeting the challenge with an assumption that “a trainer is a trainer is a trainer,” organizations must recognize that trainers are specialists with specific expertise for given programs. With high costs and high stakes, choosing the right training resources for your organization must be a well researched and carefully considered investment decision. Your organization’s business performance, reputation and legal liability are all on the line.

The Three Cs of Trainer Selection

Three key parameters can help you and your organization assess, evaluate and select trainers to ensure the success of training programs, deliver critical ROI and mitigate risk:


Skills and Experience Matched to Training Objectives

State-of-the-art training incorporates a wide range of core capabilities (Table 1). Some are learned, others are gained through experience. All factor into selecting the appropriate trainer for a specifi c training function or assignment.

Individuals whose primary responsibility is delivering training sessions typically have the core capabilities shown in Table 1. Individuals whose primary responsibility is something other than training may require direct help or "train-the-trainer" support to ensure their effectiveness in a training role.

Table 1: Core Capabilities of Trainers
Administration Consultation Facilitation
  • Select, plan, organize and direct a wide range of training activities
  • Respond to corporate, department and individual service requests
  • Assist with training decisions impacted by budget, time constraints and learning needs
  • Track and monitor attendance, participation and posttraining application
  • Evaluate training eff ectiveness
  • Identify and assess training needs
  • Consult with onsite supervisors regarding available performance improvement services
  • Develop and implement training plans to strengthen existing skills or teach new ones
  • Help individuals and teams maintain and improve job skills
  • Establish leadership or executive development programs to support succession planning
  • Lead programs to assist employees with transitions due to mergers and acquisitions, technological changes or other business challenges
  • Optimize learner participation through facilitative techniques
  • Employ a variety of media for delivery of information
  • Utilize discussion, video, case studies, energizers and other experiential activities appropriate for the training audience and desired outcomes
  • Customize activities for specifi c audience needs
  • Manage disruptions during the training experience
  • Provide coaching and support for people after training

The combination of capabilities and experience are critical factors in selecting the right trainer for a specific program/initiative. To ensure the success of implementation and the highest return on a training investment, the organization must devote time and attention to identifying the set of capabilities that will be needed while evaluating candidates and ensuring the best qualified trainers are in place prior to rollout.


Implications of Governmental Regulations

High Stakes:

$251 M in fines were levied by the EEOC last year, not including the cost of litigation & judgments rendered in civil suits.

Creating and maintaining a culture of integrity is a vital part of any organization's ongoing training initiatives and adds a critical dimension to the process of selecting the right trainer. The current Federal Sentencing Guidelines, for example, require that organizations "exercise due diligence to prevent and detect criminal conduct," and to "promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law." This is one of more than 50 federal regulations that have affected organizations for decades in almost every aspect of their operations. Some regulations are masterfully crafted and clearly understood. Others are complex and written in a style or format that defies comprehension. Regardless of whether the regulations are clear or not, non-compliance can result in fines, sanctions, closures of businesses operations or imprisonment. Subsequently, training plays a vital role in enabling organizations to manage regulatory risk.

Guidance from regulatory agencies is minimal at best in defining the necessary components of training programs. The Code of Federal Regulations describes only the basic requirements for compliance; i.e., employees must have appropriate education, training and experience to perform assigned functions. The Code further stipulates that training be performed by qualified individuals on a continuing basis and with sufficient frequency to ensure that all personnel remain familiar with requirements applicable to them.

Information on what constitutes adequate training, however, and the definitions for the terms "qualified, trained and experienced" are open to interpretation. Identifying and evaluating competent resources to provide mandated training is a gray area for most organizations. If "adequately educated, trained and experienced" trainers are not available internally, look to external professional peers, networks and associations for recommendations and referrals to trainers whose expertise will ensure regulatory compliance in both content and delivery.


A Cultural Fit That Maximizes Training Impact

After identifying the appropriate set of capabilities and considering compliance issues, the final step in selecting the right trainer is determining which candidates have the right chemistry or cultural fit with your organization. Every trainer offers a unique set of skills, experiences and talents as well as a unique personality. Presentation style, sense of humor, level of enthusiasm and many more individual characteristics figure into the mix along with industry knowledge and professional background. For example, a warm-fuzzy trainer may not be the best match for a serious audience in a traditional organization. In fact, if any two competent trainers present the same material to your workforce, it's likely that one will have more impact on your employees than the other. Here are some of the things to look for when evaluating trainers for the right chemistry to deliver high impact training:

Case in Point

Challenged to increase both attendance and revenue, the Wisconsin State Fair Park set out to become the Midwest's friendliest fair. From the start, the organization recognized that it did not have sufficient expertise internally to launch a major customer service training initiative. Consequently, management looked to an external resource that could deliver customer service training initially, then help the organization to identify and develop capable trainers from within. The objective: to build a self-sustaining customer service culture over a three-year period.

VisionPoint's Sue Mueller, Manager of Training Solutions, took the lead, working closely with a steering group of fair managers, supervisors and line employees to tailor course content and outline each phase of the initiative. Here are highlights of how the organization applied the "Three Cs: Capabilities, Chemistry and Compliance" across the project lifecycle:

Year One (2003): Capabilities. Using external training professionals, customer service basics were rolled out to more than 1300 line level employees along with executive training and benchmarking to lay the groundwork for internal training capabilities.

Year Two (2004): Chemistry. Identified and trained a core employee group to take ownership of the customer service culture and serve as "ambassadors" to the rest of the workforce.

Year Three (2005): Compliance. Involved original ambassadors in refining program content, extending the customer service culture into recruiting, job fairs and employee orientation and setting minimum employee performance standards for customer service; doubled the number of internal trainers to 50.

With customer service training now delivered by a group of passionate and qualified trainers, fair employees understand the vital roles they play in making the Wisconsin State Fair an unforgettable experience for fair-goers.

As a result the entire staf of the
Wisconsin State Fair Park lives by their pledge:

Everyone is a customer, and every customer needs to be appreciated and respected. We
accomplish this by being well informed; by connecting to, listening to and responding to
customers; and by closing our interactions with "Glad I could help you!"

Putting It All Together

The three Cs — Capabilities, Compliance and Chemistry — offer organizations a powerful lens through which to view, assess and select the appropriate resources for every type of training. In an example of how these criteria are combined and applied to specific types of training, refer to Table 2, the Resource Matching Matrix. It offers an at-a-glance review of trainers by type and details the training situations they are best suited to, as well as those assignments for which they are not a recommended fit.

In addition, consider the following guidelines you and your organization can use to identify appropriate trainers for specific training needs/sessions:

Bottom line, when the right trainer is put in front of the right audience and given
the right support, your organization's training has a formula for success.

Table 2: Resource Matching Matrix
Training Circumstance Optimal Resource Additional Considerations
Topic involves personal performance applicable to any position or function (e.g., conflict resolution, problem solving) Internal Trainer (any department) For personal performance type issues, select internal trainers with a highly-interactive facilitative style
Upper management wants everyone in the company to ‘be a trainer' Internal Trainer (any department) It's important to make sure employee trainers are sufficiently skilled in facilitation fundamentals
Training involves communicating policies, procedures, HR guidelines or proprietary company information Internal HR Professional It's important to use a variety of facilitative techniques to engage participants in what can often be considered “information overload”
Topic requires “top-down” communication, execution or support to have desired impact Internal Executive Management or Frontline Supervisor It's important to make sure management employees are sufficiently skilled in communicating change, translating strategy into meaningful daily activities and facilitation fundamentals
Outside dose of reality or perspective is needed External Training Professional Caution: Avoid fostering an “initiative of the month” atmosphere by using external experts prudently
Experienced trainers not available internally or credibility of internal training is an issue External Training Professional Be sure to partner with training organizations or select external trainers based on capabilities, compliance and chemistry
High rate of employee complaints to HR or there are pending lawsuits related to the training topic Attorney or External Trainer with expertise in compliance field Consider pairing your attorney with an external training expert or a member of executive management to maximize the training impact

About the Authors

Laura (Tarrant) Bernstein is an acknowledged master trainer and innovative business executive. Her contributions to the training industry are reflected in the development of award-winning training programs, her tenure on the board of ISA (Instructional Systems Association) and her prior leadership experience at The Dow Chemical Company, Delta College Corporate Services, AchieveGlobal and American Media.

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