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Friday, 2 March 2012

Would you like fries with that?

You're feeling hungry and there's nothing in your fridge. It's too late to go to the supermarket and buy something to cook from scratch, and so you agree with your partner that tonight's the perfect night for a meal out... Do you:

a) Go to the nearest drive-through fast food chain, buy a bargain party box and eat it in the car?
b) Head for your local Indian/Chinese/Thai restaurant and order a set menu for two to take home?
c) Return to your favourite restaurant and pick the things you know you love off the a la carte menu?
d) Try out the 8 course tasting menu you've been promising yourself at a fabulous Michelin star restaurant 10 miles away?

Whatever your answer, you're probably wondering what on earth this has to do with training... (if you're not, then you're on the wrong blog!) Well it occurs to me that selecting a training company/consultant can be a bit like the above scenario:

Firstly, many businesses will only decide to invite a third party training company when they discover a performance issue that needs addressing - and there's nobody in-house with the skills/experience or expertise to deliver it. (Ref: feeling hungry and discovering there's nothing in the fridge)

Then there's the issue of needing to find a quick training solution as the issue may start to impact on other aspects of the business, such as customer complaints, lost deals, or declining productivity. The understandable temptation is to skip the process of thorough planning - after all, there's a pressing need. (Ref: no time to cook from scratch)

So it's agreed, call in a training company. But which one? There's a huge choice of providers who would all be more than happy to provide you with training. (Ref: choice of restaurants, many with colourful adverts, special offers, or waiters standing on the street to entice you in!) The business decision for training may be based on the available budget; on what has worked in the past; or on finding something different or better than before. As with your choice of restaurant, you can be sure you'll get something to eat and with any luck, it won't poison you. The same with your choice of training company: people get trained, and they usually don't return to work with diminished skills and/or confidence.

The analogy continues in relation to the satisfaction you get having made your choice. There's no denying that I sometimes have a craving for fast food, but I know it's not particularly good for me, and I will probably feel hungry again after an hour or so. It never really hits the spot, but it can be a quick fix in certain circumstances and then you're really grateful for it. You really wouldn't want a gourmet meal every time, and your local restaurants can get a bit boring...

The same goes for training:
  • There are lots of "bite-sized" training offerings that can be squeezed into a lunch break (both puns intended). They aim to give participants a quick overview or introduction to a topic and the onus is on the individuals to extract the relevant bits and apply them to their own situations.
  • An 'off-the-shelf' course is a bit like a set menu. If there's enough on there that you like, then you don't mind the odd dish (training module) being not to your liking. They usually represent good value and you know they've been tried and tested.
  • An a la carte menu is like bespoke training, in which you make your own selections. However, you do rely on the waiter (training provider) to advise you on the quantity of dishes (modules) and whether they'd go well together. Failing that, you can always return to your personal favourites.
  • Finally, the award winning meal at the fine dining restaurant. It's expensive and it's a treat, but it's prepared and served by experts and is likely to impress. This is the equivalent of the high-end learning and development 'intervention' which is designed and delivered by highly skilled trainers and coaches. It will usually have the best long-term results, but it requires a real investment of both time and money.
The last time I had a meal at an award winning restaurant, I promised myself that I should try to dine out less frequently and go for quality every time... Did I stick to that? No I didn't. We had a take-away last night. It's probably because each of the choices have their place - as do the various training options...

However, I can't help but think: who wouldn't be excited to find a mid-priced yet unfailingly high quality eatery on your doorstep, with an ever changing menu? I'd be its most loyal customer!

Do you have any experiences that fit into the restaurant/training analogy? I'd love to hear them!

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