Have you ever gone to a training class, returned to the office and realized that a colleague who took the same class had a different learning experience? Different training companies teach similar concepts, especially when it comes to information technology (IT). As these training companies grow, they seem to be losing control over their training materials and quality of their trainers, causing inconsistency in the learning experience.

A Consistent Message

People prefer to learn in different ways. A formal class is often one part of the bigger puzzle, which can also include coaching, mentoring, practice, observation, collaborative learning, online experiences and much more. Formal training often kick-starts the learning process, so if different people in the same organization are not hearing the same message, they may start behind instead of ahead. When people are working together in teams, having a common way of understanding processes, definitions and how they work together is critical to the team’s success. Just one person with a different understanding can throw off the synergy of the team or, worse, send them down the wrong path.

Consistent yet Personal Training

The last thing you want, though, is a trainer who is just reading speaker notes or slides. Employees need to learn in a realistic but consistent context. My best professors in college were adjuncts who worked for companies during the day and taught one or two nights per week. I can remember my economics professor talking about things that had happened in his job at Merrill Lynch during the week. These examples gave his lectures context. He was able to relate beyond just the academic side of what he was teaching by sharing how he would use concepts in his daily work.

Finding the Right Training and Trainer

The solution is a trainer who has a deep theoretical understanding of the topic but who can also bring reality into the classroom. Today’s trainer may for many reasons not be tomorrow’s trainer, so it’s also important to develop a high-quality experience that is consistent even if the trainer changes.

If you’re outsourcing your training, one solution is to break your vendor search into multiple parts:

  • The training materials
  • The trainer’s capabilities and how are they validated
  • The trainer’s experience, including formal training, experience in the role or using the technology about which he or she is teaching, and teaching informally through coaching and mentoring

Find an organization that provides a consistent learning experience with trainers who can bring real-world experience into the classroom. Understand the types of materials and exercises they are using, and ask these questions:

  • Does each trainer use his or her own materials, or does the vendor determine the materials and structure of the class?
  • How is class feedback incorporated into the training materials and learning experience?
  • If you send two students to different class times, will they have a similar experience?

What you look for in your vendor, of course, will depend on the type of training. A software development language like JavaScript, for example, is scientific, and there are only so many ways it can be taught. On the other hand, learning a process for delivering that software to market, like Scrum, can differ greatly based on experience, as process becomes much more of an art. As a manager, seeing teams experience different training and then have different knowledge or skills can be painful. Having team members take classes together or learn from the same content can make their work better and more consistent. Keep an eye toward your end goal, and you’ll be able to deliver training that is both effective and consistent across learners.

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