External Training, How Good Is Good?

If you are setting a key performance indicator for external training, it’s worth asking how good is good!

Formerly with the American Society of Quality (ASQ), Sal Agnello, now Milwaukee based General Manager with (Exemplar Global (RABQSA, iNARTE), joins our regular blog panel which this week looks at the world of corporate training.

According to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), US companies spent almost $47 billion on external training providers in 2012. Not a bad amount given the state of the US economy. It’s valid I think to ask how effective the return was on that external training and did it meet the vocational outcomes for students and organizations alike? If you are setting a key performance indicator for external training, it’s worth asking how good is good!

The ASTD report went on to say that smaller organizations (less than 500 employees) were estimated to have spent 38% more on external training services than did large companies, which obviously have more internal training resources. You could argue that smaller organizations especially need assurances that their selected training providers represent sound investments in accomplishing the learning objectives for their employees.

There are no impediments to anyone using content expertise and technology to get into the training business. So companies need better ways to assess the many training providers vying for their business.

Most of this training is still instructor led, whether classroom, online, or remote. This suggests that the quality of training cannot depend solely on the presenter’s style, the depth of content or technology used to deliver the course. There are many more variables involved and choices to be made among the many training organizations in the marketplace. Ease of location, social media feedback, reading materials, etc all plays a part here.

While this represents a substantial market for training providers to pursue, their challenge is to seek competitive advantage in winning new business. One way for them to differentiate themselves in the market place is through independent evaluation and determination that the training meets best practices. In other words, determining what constitutes a ‘good’ product. Such an evaluation and validation by a third party could help an organization make a more confident choice. It is a powerful combination if you marry third party quality validation with positive customer feedback such as social media commentary.

International standards, such as ISO 29990, offer an appropriate benchmark by which to assess company training. This standard, if you haven’t read about it, is becoming an increasingly recognized tool to evaluate and ensure training quality globally. Basically it lays down requirements for providers of learning services in non-academic settings, which characterizes most employee training.

Courses can be evaluated and certified to a quality standard, such as ISO 29990, with respect to their design/development, processes and delivery. This certification process provides outside validation of a course’s quality and effectiveness. This not only provides the training provider guidance in developing and delivering training according to best practices, but also the enhanced marketability of a global certification.

I don’t foresee any slowdown in corporate training; competent employees constitute a major asset for any organization. So the more we can drive global acceptance of certification in this area, the better it is for companies wanting to select a trainer as well as training providers who seek a competitive edge.