So, you've decided to get some onsite computer training for your staff, great. Onsite training in Microsoft Applications can really enhance productivity, and shows you value your workforce. However there are countless onsite training companies to choose from. How will you make your selection?
Here is a list of 12 questions we think you should be asking any prospective training provider.
1) Can I speak to a Trainer?
Surprisingly many training companies are simply training supplier agencies, who locate the training need and then use a contracted IT Trainer to deliver for them. Shouldn’t you be able to speak directly to the trainer that will be delivering your training, some time before the training commences? You will then be certain that they know your requirements, and are ready and able to pass on any specific messages you want included with the training. Training is a good time to pass on company best practice, house style and policies, and you should be sure your trainer will support these important company messages.
2) Can I customise the course?
Computer courses are not "one size fits all". Although many training organisations offer "standard" courses at varying levels, these should be taken as a starting template and the provider should be ready to customise the course to your requirements. Do listen to your Training Provider though, they should have many years experience of topics that need to be included in a course and will advise you on what works. For example starting everyone in the company off with advanced Excel training may not be a good idea unless you have an extremely able workforce.
3) What course materials do you provide?
Ask about what handouts are provided before selecting the course. Many Training Providers still give out unwieldy manuals that reproduce the course but are difficult to find information in. You should look to get course materials, such as well written Quick Reference Guides that will act as useful aide memoirs after the course, not just expensive shelfware.
4) Will there be hands-on exercises?
Too many trainers mistake demonstrating an application for training on it. They'll be happy to stand at the front of the class and show how clever they are, but that doesn't make for good "knowledge transfer". Training courses should be at least three-quarters hands on exercises for your trainees. Remember “Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll understand” Make sure your trainees will be involved with relevant hands-on exercises monitored by the Trainer. Also, the benefits of what’s learnt should be made clear to the trainees. “Why should I be learning this?” is a question all trainers should be answering but seldom do.
5) Are your Trainers qualified?
Check that your trainer has some relevant qualification, either from Microsoft (MCT or MCP), the Learning and Performance Institute (MLPI), or The Training Foundation (TAP). Even with the best course material an unqualified trainer may not have the skill or experience to ensure the knowledge your trainees need is transferred to them.
6) What do you need me to provide?
If you are taking on-site training find out what your Trainer will bring. Ideally you should just have to provide a suitable room and power. Your Training Company should be able to supply PC's, projectors and all equipment, as well as power cables, mice and all the ancillary elements. They should also have licenced versions of the software you want training on, together with appropriate training data, and other course material.
7) Can you help with our Training Needs Analysis?
If you don't know what level training your staff need, your Training Provider should be able to help with Training Needs Analysis to evaluate your trainees and ensure that the right people get put on the right course.
8) What Versions do you train on?
It's not enough just to train on the latest version of Microsoft Software, you’ll want your Training Provider to have a good knowledge of previous versions so they can help your trainees with the move up to new software. Of course it may be that you are not yet on the latest version - sometimes a very wise move - so you should ensure your Trainer knows the version you run and all the training issues it presents.
9) Can I speak to one of your Clients?
Talking to an existing Client of your Training Provider is a good way of validating their claims. Ask how the training went, and whether they would use them again.
10) What support will we have after the course?
The learning shouldn’t end when the course does. Ask if there is a way trainees can ask further questions after the course. Many trainees need help or further clarification when they try and apply their learning to their day to day job. Ask if there is some way they can contact the Trainer after the course with further questions.
11) Do you have an evaluation guarantee?
You should, of course, get to see the training evaluation sheets after the course, but ask if the Training Provider has a guarantee. What happens if the evaluations are not good? If -say - they get three or more "poor" evaluations will they run the course again?
12) How much is the course?
Once you have answers to these other questions you're ready to talk about price. Price should be a factor, but not the only criteria in selecting your Training. Ask if the price is per training day or per trainee. Some Providers still use the "Per Trainee" model. Ask why it should cost more to train 8 people rather than 4. Also confirm that the price is inclusive of all equipment hire, training materials, travel and subsistence, make sure you have one total price for the training course.
Ask your questions
What do you think, did we miss any? Do you have a question you ask your Training Provider that's not here, or do you think some of these questions shouldn't be asked ? Let us know, we'd love to answer these questions for you, post your comments below.