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Using a Training Audit to Evaluate Instructors

A seldom used, but very powerful way to educate yourself on the quality of potential training vendors and their instructors is the Training Audit.

Buying the Unknown

In theory, when you purchase training programs or training design services, you're buying an "unknown". Particularly when it's the first time you're using the training vendor, buying a training program can be a leap of faith. When you buy a car, hopefully you conduct a decent amount of research on the cars that meet your needs in your price range. After you complete your research, you probably test drive the car to make sure you like it. By the time you're ready to buy, you know what you're getting yourself into. There's nothing unknown about the vehicle unless you are unfortunate enough too be served up a lemon.

With training, there's little you can touch, test or preview before you commit your training dollars. You probably do some formal or informal research on at least three vendors, call a few references, compare prices and make your decision. Using this inexact process, there are still several variables that you cannot control, making your purchase a somewhat risky transaction. What can you do to cut down on the risk?

Meeting the Instructor

First, you can set up a meeting with the instructor. Most of us have good intuition and can spot a good or not-so-good instructor after a few minutes of face-to-face conversation. This is a very effective way to help you make a decision on which vendor to use, especially when you don't have a lot of time.

When you have the instructor in your office, ask her about past experiences with the topic, sources that she uses in the training, challenges that she faces with audiences when teaching, and unique methods that she employs to teach. You might also want to get a brief sketch from her about what the training agenda would look like and what types of group exercises that she uses in the class. Question her like it's a job interview, and you'll get most of the information you need to make an informed judgment of her skills and her suitability for your group.

Employing the Training Audit

If you really want to eliminate the risk involved in buying training, we suggest employing a tool called the Training Audit. Training Audits give you a complete look at what you're buying before you buy, making your purchase a known quantity. Ask your vendors if the instructors offered in their proposals are presenting the topic you're seeking for another client in the near future. If they are, or if they're presenting a similar topic, ask if you can sit in on the training as on observer. The vendors will have to ask permission of their other clients to allow for you to conduct the audit, but nine times out of ten, the client is willing to allow you to observe. Then, mark it down in your calendar to audit the training for at least two hours. You do not have to attend the entire session to make a good judgment of the instructor's effectiveness. Spending an entire day on your audit doesn't hurt, but it could be overkill.

If you like the instructor's style, content and use of hands-on exercises and case studies, you've now put yourself in a position to make an educated buying decision. If she doesn't suit your fancy, move on to the next vendor or check to see if there are alternate instructors who teach the topic you seek. Either way, by auditing training sessions of potential vendors, you've accomplished the usually difficult task of converting an "unknown" into a "known".

Training Audits keep you more informed, open your organization to new vendors and lessen instances of buyer's remorse. Make it a part of your purchasing repertoire and your performance as a training officer will improve markedly as well.

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