Decision-making can be tough, especially when it involves choosing among several options and knowing that the choice you make will have a lasting impact on the future. We’ve all been there — furiously making pro/con lists, riddled with anxiety that we might make the wrong choice.

In the training industry, one of the biggest decisions a training leader can make is which training provider is the best choice, among a host of options, to develop a successful training initiative. After all, this decision will have a direct impact on the future of the organization, and a slip-up in choosing the wrong training provider can result in low return on investment (ROI) and employees who see no improvement in their performance.

Companies go through intricate processes and detailed audits to assess training providers before choosing the one they think will develop the best training initiative. If you’re thinking of investing in a training program, what should you be looking for in a training provider to ensure it will deliver a successful training program? Here are three essential elements to take into consideration:

1. Make Sure the Program Is Customized to Your Organization’s Culture and Industry

Think about a time when you had difficulty participating in a conversation because you couldn’t relate to anything the people were saying. Similarly, it is critical to ensure the training program in which you invest is carefully tailored to the experiences and daily lives of your employees.

Off-the-shelf training programs won’t do the trick. Invest in a training company that takes the time to get to know your organization through methods such as field study work, assessments and ride-alongs to ensure the training content meets your company’s specific needs and challenges. Only then will you achieve the greatest ROI and see the most substantial performance improvement.

2. Make Sure the Initiative Focuses on Authentic Skill Development and Allows for Flexibility in Application

You’ve probably heard of the “spray and pray” method, which refers to a sales situation in which a sales professional shows up to a customer meeting, “sprays” a bunch of features about their product and prays something resonates with the customer that will lead to a sale.

Some training programs follow a similar method: They “teach” a bunch of “best practices” in hopes that participants will be able to figure out a way to use them. In other words, they don’t help participants develop the skills they need to make these best practices happen.

Scripting also plays into this dynamic. Many training programs use scripts as a foundational element of their training content. They will supply you with the exact wording to use or the exact process to follow as it applies to a certain, specific situation. But this approach isn’t an effective way to train, as the daily situations in which your employees find themselves aren’t rigid.

Rather than using scripts, your training program should provide a framework that you can adapt depending upon the situation. If your training program focuses on authentic skill development and allows for flexibility in application results, trainees will leave training not just with ideas of what they should be doing to improve but also with changed behaviors they can immediately incorporate into their role.

3. Ensure the Program Includes a Provision for Reinforcement

Reinforcement is critical to sustain the performance improvement and financial gains that are a direct result of your training initiative. Just as we would never mow the lawn once and expect the grass to stay at the same freshly-cut length all summer, we can’t expect employees to regularly act upon what they learned in training without the resources to continually support it. Training, like mowing the lawn, is not a one-and-done event; we must continuously attend to it even after the initial event is over.

Follow your training program with a comprehensive regimen that reinforces what participants learned in training. Whether through individual coaching sessions with managers, quick-hit digital knowledge checks, or webinars and activities, reinforcement is necessary to build upon the behavior change from the training program and cement the learning. When developing your training program, plan for reinforcement, and be sure your training provider has experience building customized reinforcement solutions.

Investing in a professional training initiative is a significant decision. While it can be overwhelming, considering these three elements helps ensure that you properly assess your options and make a decision that will result in the greatest ROI and performance improvement impact for your company.

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