No matter the size of your organization’s learning and development department, there are always urgent or last-minute training projects that will require additional resources to complete. Before this happens, it’s a good idea to find a top training company you can trust to call on for assistance. Here are three practices you can use to get the most from the partnership.

1. Determine Selection Criteria.

When selecting a training company, be sure it will meet your needs for current and future projects. Think about the core competencies you’ll need employees to develop. The most successful training projects begin with a needs assessment to identify knowledge and skill gaps, make sure they are aligned to the business objectives, and determine the audience.

Consider training delivery – does your company use instructor-led training (ILT), or are more of your courses moving online? Do you want to test alternate modalities such as mobile learning or microlearning to see if you can improve your engagement and retention rates? Choose a training partner who has expertise in the latest modalities.

Different projects require different resources. You may need to hire an instructional designer to supplement your internal department or bring on an entirely outsourced training team. Partner with a training company that has consultants in a range of learning roles with the ability to ramp up quickly and get the project on track.

2. Understand Your Responsibilities.

A learning and development project can include numerous roles, including internal subject matter experts (SMEs), instructional designers, technical writers, graphic designers, developers and quality assurance staff. To ensure a successful result, you need to understand your responsibilities to your training partner.

At the beginning of a project, the training company project lead will develop a project charter, which will assign roles and outline the responsibilities of each one. Be sure everyone understands not only his or her own tasks and deliverables but also those of the other team members. This clarity ensures that all team members are clear on whom they should go to with questions or concerns.

Creating and maintaining a schedule is important to timely project delivery and is a key part of the overall project plan. The project lead, who builds the schedule with the team, must be familiar with the details of each role and how long specific tasks will take. Once the lead has built the schedule, hold a review meeting with all team members to obtain their buy-in on deadlines, allow them to raise concerns and adjust timelines accordingly.

To develop a strong partnership, it is best if the training company’s management style aligns with your internal approach. Communicate which tools will be used to manage and host meetings and share and review materials. Make these decisions up front, and confirm that everyone has access to the tools (with sign-ins, passwords, etc.) at the beginning of the project to avoid any delays.

3. Establish a Clear SME Review and Approval Process.

Project schedules can often be sidetracked by delays in material reviews, because, as knowledgeable and in-demand resources, SMEs are always busy. A good training partner will review the data provided by the SME, asking questions to validate the information and avoid misunderstandings. A part of the project plan, your partner should determine at what stages sign-off will be required, who will be approving the materials, which materials will be reviewed, how SMEs will provide feedback and how to handle any issues that arise. Consider the type of content and delivery; generally, the more technical the content or delivery modality, the more review time you will need.

The plan should also capture deadlines for approvals to ensure that SMEs and other decision-makers know they are required and that they will be available when necessary. It is helpful to schedule these dates on their calendars and build in sufficient review time. Let them know that prompt sign-offs are required to maintain the schedule.

Just as a sports team can only win the game if everyone knows and plays by the rules, your training project will only be a success if all roles work together as a team. Use these best practices to have the best possible partnership with your contract training company.