globe connected with lightWhen you’re working with the training provider there is always a trade-off between using off-the-shelf materials (which are often cheaper) and more tailored solutions which take more time to diagnose and develop.

Off-the-shelf solutions are fine provided you have a standard need. Most people can follow a common format to learn basic presentation skills for example. However you need to make sure that your off-the-shelf solution does meet your specific needs.

Several of our people this year have attended key accounts training from a number of reputable suppliers, however we found that a large proportion of the content was rather generic and not of use to us. The alternative would have been to work with a provider to develop our own bespoke program, but as people are spread around the world we don’t really have a critical mass for this.

In our virtual teams training for example you need to make sure that the program you’re looking at actually focuses on the specific type of virtual team you’re interested in. The challenges of a global virtual team working across cultures and time zones will be very different to that of one that just operates across functions within a location. A generic off-the-shelf program is unlikely to meet your specific needs.

When we attend training most of the cost is usually around travel, accommodation, multiple participant time and organisation. It’s critical that we make the best use of that valuable time.

However, if we work with a training provider starting from a blank sheet of paper we are effectively paying them to learn on our behalf – this can get expensive. It can be tempting to work with a trusted supplier who works on another program for you, and for example, if they run a great presentation skills programme and understand your culture is feels like a lower risk to let them take on another program. However, is pretty unlikely that they will be experts in this new topic. You risk getting a well facilitated program that doesn’t reflect best practice or key content.

You can reconcile this problem by working with a content expert who is experienced enough to already have content that meets most needs but flexible enough to select only the elements that are relevant and valuable to you.

We call this “menu selection” rather than true tailoring. We work with you to understand your needs and in over 90% of cases we already have existing intellectual property in these areas and can quickly put together a tailored program but based on existing and proven successful models and tools.

In the rare situation where a completely new topic comes up its usually in our interest to do some research ourselves as this adds to our intellectual property base and keeps as up-to-date. Alternatively we can work with you and your colleagues to produce something specific to your company. Either way this is much more cost effective than having someone develop the solution from scratch.

Whichever approach you choose to make sure that your providers are content experts with strong facilitation skills. Participant time is too expensive and valuable to waste on learning that doesn’t challenge people and bring about change in ways of working.

If you want to find out more about how we do this in matrix management, virtual teams and global working training, please talk to one of our specialists.

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About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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