Trainers – how to tell the good from the bad

I’ve spent the last couple of days preparing for, and then delivering, a three-hour online training session about social media.

And as always I was in a state of low-grade nervousness right until I hit the leave button at the end of the training session.

That’s because I have never liked public speaking. And because I’m always convinced that the training I have prepared won’t meet up to the expectations of the trainees. I keep doing it though, because I love helping other people to fly and because there’s such satisfaction in having someone say “I get it now – thank you!”.

My own motivations and fears are of course not of any relevance to the people I am training – all they want to know is whether what I have to say, or to show them, will help them in some way.

Credence goods

There’s a problem there though – because training is a credence good: something with qualities that cannot be observed by the consumer after purchase, making it difficult to assess its utility. (I’ve written about this concept in the context of editing: Editors – how to tell the good from the bad).

How then does an individual or organisation know if a trainer is any good? Training is a major industry, there’s an online course for everything and it can be super expensive – so there are good reasons to have some criteria to use to assess the potential value of any training one is considering buying.

How to tell if a trainer or training organisation is any good

1. If you’re being promised training that will change your life, or make you bucketloads of money, beware. Good trainers know that there are limitations to training. You’re looking for specific, measurable outcomes rather than vague promises.

2. There should be clear outline of what the training will cover, and how long it will take.

3. There should be a clear indication of if the course is certified or accredited with an outside agency (note though: good training may very well not carry a certificate – what you are looking for is transparency about what you are being offered).

4. There should be clear indication of what training materials will be provided, and what format the training will be delivered in (online, video, notes, audio?). There should also be an indication if there are any requirements that you need to fulfil (for instance the training is only available on a PC and you can’t do it on your phone).

5. The trainer or trainers’ credentials should be readily available.

6. You should be able to get references or testimonials from people who have previously done the training.

7. If the training seems much cheaper than any other training on offer beware – and similarly beware of unusually expensive training. The more expensive it is, the more there should be a widely acceptable and accredited qualification attached to it.

8. Are you able to discuss your needs or the needs of your organisation with the trainer, so that it can be established if the training meets your needs. If there isn’t a clear fit, and the trainer insists that nevertheless you should proceed and do the training anyway, move on. All training should be needs-based. (If you are purchasing a course “as is” – an online course on Udemy for instance – then it is up to you to establish if it meets your needs).

9. Are the trainer or training organisation willing to suggest ways you can find training that meets your needs elsewhere, or to do the training in some other way?

10. Is there a way that you can get your money back if it becomes apparent that the training just doesn’t work for you?

11. Is there an explanation of the theory underlying the training – an indication of any kind that the person has a thought-through method of training, and a way of measuring outcomes?

As an example: My own philosophy of training

I have sat in many meetings where “training” was proposed as a solution to a problem in a workplace, which always led to a group session, a workshop or a course of some kind.

But group training very rarely addresses individual issues, which are often at the heart of difficulties in the workplace.
For that reason, my first step as a trainer is to assess the issue (a needs analysis) and suggest the kind of training that is actually needed.

Based on the needs analysis, it might be found that specific individuals need mentoring. That can be often done by someone within the workplace – if I think an organisation or individual can get the job done in a way that is better for them, I will say so. If I undertake training, it can be done on an individual or small-group basis.

All training needs to be tied to measurable outcomes, which I discuss and establish before training begins.

And all my training is based on hands-on learning, rather than theory delivered in PowerPoint (though there might be some of that too).


How to learn new things
Who cares about award ceremonies? I do

Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your communication needs (writing, editing, coaching and training, social media). I also help small businesses and organisations with project and operational management.

I write a post every week, some about my professional life and work, and some about broader issues. You can get either of those, or both, in your email, by subscribing here.

Main picture: William Moreland, Unsplash

Comments are closed.