Tips on avoiding rip-off trainers

Not all trainers or courses are the same!

You can’t buy a Rolls Royce for the price of a bicycle.

In these days of reduced funding for training & development, it is vital that organizations invest their training budget wisely. With the number of “trainers” increasing every day due to the economic crisis and massive lay-offs in most industries (at least in Europe), it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a cheap trainer can do as good a job as a more expensive one. This is an error that can have unexpected and undesirable consequences for the organization, the trainees and the training manager / HR department.

All training courses & trainers are NOT the same. Soft-skills training has progressed amazingly rapidly over the last few years and while many trainers are updating their knowledge, courses and skills many are not.

There are thousands of freelance trainers & small training organizations who exhibit exceptional knowledge & skills and do a fantastic job. This article is about the other kind….

We believe that there should be total transparency between training provider & clients so, to help ensure that organizations do not fall victim to some of the more common tricks used to bring in new & unsuspecting clients, I would like to propose to Training Managers or HR Managers that the following points be considered when choosing a training provider.

While they might seem obvious, I hope they serve as a refresher!

– Does the training provider have a web site. If it does, does it contain the following information?
– The address & physical location of the office? If not, why not?
– Is there a land line telephone number or only a mobile number?
– Is it possible to visit the office(s) to see if it looks professional?
– How long the organization has existed.
– What is it’s business philosophy?
– What is it’s training philosophy?
– Is the organization dedicted to business skills training or is it a language school trying to move into the business training area?     Would the expectations about results be the same?

– If you have a complaint or problem, how can you resolve it personally without contact information?
– The longer it has existed, the more likely it is to be proficient at what it offers.
– A clearly stated business philosophy helps the potential client to see if the organization is compatible with their own philosophy.
– The training philosophy should show how it views the overall role of training in helping client organizations achieve their business objectives.

– The amount of detail provided on the web page about the following areas is of vital importance:
– Course content: 
– Is the material covered in each course clearly outlined on the web page?
– Are the learner-centered objectives clearly identified?
– Is the material presented in a way which shows that it is relevant to YOUR needs?
– Is the material original & copyrighted by the provider or is it based on a book or other source?
– When, and by whom, was the material written & copyrighted?

– If the material is easy to understand, it makes it easier to decide IF it might be right for you.
– You want to ensure that you are paying for training based on research & material from the 21st century and not the last century.
– It is vital that you know what the learner-centered objectives are to ensure that they are what you want them to be able to do after the course.
– If the material is original and copyright, it is probably a sign that the provider is actively searching for ways to improve.

– Prices: Transparency.
– Is it easy to find the prices for courses on the web page or are prices “negotiable”?
– Are their “Terms and conditions” clearly stated, understandable and acceptable?
– Do they charge the same per course irrespective of the number of attendees in the group?
– Do they have a sliding price scale for different size groups?
– Are there minimum or maximum group sizes recommended?
– Does the price include “after sales support”? If yes, what?
– What “Added value” elements are included in the price?
– Is the price of all the training material included in the price?
– How many trainers work with different size groups?
– Do they ask for pre-payment before the course?
– Does the provider include guarantees about the trainer’s experience & qualifications?

– If prices are negotiable, How do you know whether you are paying more or less than other clients?
– If they charge the same price irrespective of group size, What could that signify about the quality of the training?
– If there is NO free post-course support, how can the trainees resolve doubts, problems, etc?
– Always find out if everything is included in the price or if there are additional, and expensive, “extras” to be paid for.
– Any qualified trainer should be willing to provide documentary evidence of their training path.

– Clients:
– Is there a list of satisfied, & verifiable, clients listed on the web page?
– If not, Will the provider give names, phone numbers or email addresses of other satisfied clients?
– If not, why not?

Does the provider have a blog? If yes…
– Is the content original (written by one of the employees of the organization)?
– Is the content merely a “Cut and Paste” from another blog or magazine?
– How frequent is the BLOG updated?
– How useful are the articles posted on the BLOG?
– Are the posts just “tasters” or do they provide useful information for free?
– Does it appear to be another channel to sell their courses or services?

Qualifications offered by the organization.
– Does the provider offer course with some kind of validation?
– If yes, is it an external organization recognized as an officially authorized training validator?  (A university, ASTD, IPM, or some other internationally recognized organization, etc., or some other type of professional organization?
– Is it validated by the provider themselves?
– Who are the validated qualifications recognized by & for what?
– How are the learners tested and can they fail the course?

– Who are the trainers?
– What are their academic qualifications?
– What experience have they had in the real world?
– What is their speciality?
– What additional training have they had?
– What trainers would be giving the course for you?
– Would they be prepared to give a short demonstration lesson – free – to show their “Stage Skills”?
– Will they let HR or training staff from the client company audit (sit in on) the course?

A brief note about cheap or free courses!
– These types of courses can often result in a situation where the attendees see the training as being an easy way for the organization to merely “do the minimum” necessary to use whatever funds or subsidies are available instead of actually investing in something with real value.

– Many organizations tend to keep using the same training provider, with very cheap prices, over many years. However, the courses have remained more or less the same since the beginning and the provider has little incentive to update them. Organizations MUST understand that the world, the people, the way of communicating and the techniques being used have changed, and advanced, since the last century: The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t!

– Do not be tempted to use a training supplier just because a competitor or friend uses them. You may never know the reasons for this supplier being chosen!

Having seen various organizations being taken for a ride by cheap, untrained and unprofessional training providers and freelance trainers , I feel that this type of activity affects all professional trainers and training providers.

Remember: If you pay peanuts, you buy monkeys.

Your feedback would be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. November, 2012.

About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
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