Making the right choice - selecting your learning and development provider
When engaging external consultants to deliver some or all of your learning and development, making the right choice is fundamental to the success of your project. A lot rests on the decision - getting real value for money, effecting tangible change, the reputations of the teams and individuals championing the chosen supplier.
The learning and development marketplace is a crowded one - getting it right can be a time consuming and sometimes bewildering challenge: the whittling down of potential suppliers to a best-fit shortlist; the subsequent evaluation in a way that is both fair and goes beyond simple cost comparison to establish the true value they will bring.
There’s no short cut to making the right choice, but we recommend that you ask five questions to get to the heart of whether you’re speaking to the right people as efficiently as possible:
1/ Is there a cultural fit?
This may sound intangible – but without it the relationship between you and them will be bumpy and brief. This goes beyond understanding your sector, the environment in which you work. Do they understand your values and ethos? Your heritage and history? The DNA of your organisation? How you see the world? The things that are important to you?
This might be the first time you have met. But is it clear that they have done some initial research? That they are interested, respectful and curious? That they are quick to pick up the signals from you? If they don’t, suggest it - ask them how would they invest in the process of finding out more.
Quiz them on their values – are they not only espoused but enacted? Do words and actions go together? Ask them how they deal with challenges, conflicts and confidentiality; with issues that are sensitive, difficult and nuanced. If their values are not compatible with yours there is no basis for a further conversation – let alone a professional relationship.
2/ Do they have a process?
Your time is precious. You need to know this provider has a robust process – one that makes the journey from initial brief to successfully delivered solution in an efficient and effective way. Try using this process as a benchmark:
The process gives primacy to your needs. It is focused on creating significant, sustained value in your organisation.
3/ Can they engage our people?
Ever been there? At the back of a room in an agony of boredom as the consultant running the session plods through dull, inert material that is as relevant, interesting and compelling to you as a ham sandwich to a wheat-intolerant vegetarian.
Quiz them – do they have a structured approach? Have they thought this through? Have they even recognised how critically important it is to achieve engagement and participation from your people?
This model can be used to assess whether your supplier has a clear, structured and proven approach to engaging learners. It’s based on five discrete but related dimensions:
Connect is about creating a comfort zone – a safe but exciting place where valuable work can be done.
Engage is about the relationship between provider and client – one in which there are high expectations on both sides.
Challenge takes people beyond the ordinary, the day-to-day – from where they are now to where they aspire to be.
Support recognises that making that transition may not be easy.
Exemplify is showing not telling, about a provider's commitment to be at their best and to give of their best.
4/ Are they passionate about what they do?
Do they want to do this? Or do they need to do it? The gap between those two things is the chasm that divides committed volunteer from reluctant conscript. Get them talking about learning and development. Do you see animation and energy? Do you feel a sense of enthusiasm and excitement?
Enhancing their skills alone is not enough. Highly developed skills are only truly effective when combined with self-awareness, with personal qualities such as integrity and resilience and with the highest standards of personal conduct and behaviour.
Learning is a holistic process – one of personal and professional development. Of drawing on what people have learnt in their lives beyond work. Of helping our clients to aspire to the idea of ‘the complete professional’ – the self-aware individual who gives of their best in every dimension of their role.
5/ Will they deliver value for money?
Budgets are under pressure. You need to know that this provider will provide a substantial return on the investment you make in buying their services.
Challenge them on evaluation. On how they define the metrics by which success is measured. On the approach they take to added, created and sustained value. Ask them for references and testimonials. What do their clients say? How much repeat business do they win?
The final question.....one to ask yourself
Insist on meeting the people who will deliver the work. And then ask yourself the critical question – can you imagine these individuals having an informed, insightful and valuable conversation with the key people in your own organisation?
Remember that ‘nice’ is not enough. You need intelligence, acuity, good judgement and a high level of skill. You need providers who can match the quality and professionalism of your own people; who can win your trust and respect; who can build a partnership with you.
If you would like to have a further discussion about how to make the right decision is choosing your learning and development provider – get in touch and put us to the test. Ask our five questions and as many of your own as you want. We will be more than happy to give our answers.
Find out more about our learning and development services
Request a call back
Speak to us: +44 (0)20 8371 7011