Assuring Training Quality


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Training should be considered to be no different to any other business process - and as such it should be subject to the same rigorous quality controls as any other critical process. As more organizations outsource the delivery of their training, assuring training quality is assuming a higher profile and importance.

Many businesses talk about being 'world class' without really knowing what it means - apart from being the best in the world, which brings us back to where we started and does not really tell us how we are going to achieve it.

For me, being 'world class' is simply doing the basics - and doing them right. This might seem very easy - but how many organisations do you see getting the basics consistently right?

The elements of 'world-class training' are:

This article describes an audit process that was designed to assure the quality of training suppliers by making sure that the basics were done consistently well. The audit is used to:

The process described here can be used for internal as well as external suppliers.

Minimum standards of performance

The performance of training suppliers is assessed in six areas:

The minimum standards shown here are only given as examples and should be modified to suit the circumstances in your own business.

Business relationship

Invoices

Cancellation and substitution

Pricing

Expenses

Communication and administration

Enquiry handling by supplier

Course and service information

Joining instructions

Course development

Process

Case studies and syndicate exercises

Course materials

Training manuals and handouts

Overheads

Training delivery

Ensure that each individual obtains the maximum possible learning from the course by:

Provide opportunities for participants to:

Training evaluation

Suppliers will be expected to work with their clients to evaluate the contribution of the training to individual, organisational and business performance.

End-of-course review

Post-course transfer of learning

Training audit process

Although this audit process (Figure 1) was designed to ensure the quality of training we receive from outsourced suppliers, it can easily be adapted to assess internal training suppliers.

As you get into the detail of the audit you will come to realise, as we did, that this audit is as much about assessing your own training process as about auditing your suppliers. The reason for this is that suppliers can only provide you with world-class training if your needs analysis and post-course follow-up are also world class.

In addition it is important to understand that the purpose of the audit is to develop your suppliers and your relationship with them. It isn't about finding reasons for dumping your current suppliers and finding new ones. Constantly changing suppliers can only lead to an unstable training process.

However, the process does allow for parting company with a supplier if the supplier, despite being given every chance and encouragement, still fails to meet your stringent standards.

Figure 1 Training audit process

Select course to be audited

The full audit is a long process so you will need to be selective about which courses you audit. The following are criteria which would increase a course's priority for audit:

Advise supplier of intention to carry out audit

The supplier should be advised of the intention to carry out the audit and a suitable date for the audit should be chosen.

Ensure supplier is aware of standards and process

If the supplier is not aware of the audit standards and processes, arrange a meeting with the supplier to explain the approach. A copy of the process and standards should be given to the supplier.

Select parts of course to be observed

The supplier should provide the assessor with a copy of the course agenda and objectives so that a decision can be made on which parts of the course should be observed. Normally, short courses (one to two days) are observed in their entirety. Longer courses would require a minimum sampling of two days.

Review pre-work

The supplier should send the assessor a copy of the pre-work at the same time as it is sent to the students.

Carry out course and trainer observation

The course is observed by keeping a log of comments and the trainer is observed against a number of attributes. The 'trainer observation form' (see Figure 2) has a 1-5 rating check box and a comments section for each of the attributes. The ratings are defined as follows:

  1. Not acceptable
  2. Poor
  3. OK
  4. Good
  5. Master performer
Figure 2 Trainer observation form

The target rating is 4 or 5 for each of the criteria. The performance of your assessors should be moderated by having new assessors observing the same course as an experienced assessor until rating consistency is achieved.

Interview students

While you are observing the course, take the opportunity to interview the students on their impressions of the course.

Give trainer immediate feedback

Give the trainer feedback at appropriate points throughout the course and summarise the feedback at the end of the course. Feedback is most effective if it is as close to the behaviour as possible. The written report should contain no surprises.

Interview supplier

Interview the supplier using a supplier questionnaire as a guide, similar to the one shown in Figure 3. The purpose of these questions is to determine the quality of the supplier's training process and to ascertain whether the supplier has met the standards for:

Review validation sheets

Review validation sheets to see what additional insights can be derived from the students' perception of the course. A guide to interpreting validation sheets is given in Chapter 10 of Managing the Training Process.

Figure 3 An excerpt from a supplier questionnaire

Interview students from previous courses

The purpose of this step is to check the effect of the course three or more months after the student has left the course. Use a student follow-up questionnaire, similar to the one shown in Figure 4, as the basis of a structured interview. The questionnaire can also be sent out to graduates of the course to obtain a larger sample.

Interview sponsoring manager(s)

The students' attendance on a course will have been sponsored by their immediate managers. Interview a sample of managers to see whether they have observed an improvement in performance as a result of course attendance. Also interview the organization's training manager to gain additional data on the effectiveness of the course.

Write report

Structure the report around the supplier standards and provide copies of questionnaires and observation forms.

Discuss report with supplier

Always meet the supplier to discuss the report and to communicate your recommendations. Sending the report without a meeting or an explanation is not as effective and it misses an opportunity to strengthen the customer-supplier relationship.

Supplier responds to report

Ask the supplier to make a written response to the report which will include their reaction to the observations and their plans for improving their performance.

Re-audit

If the initial audit was satisfactory, it may not be necessary to carry out a complete re-audit, but it will be necessary to assure yourself that your recommendations and the supplier's action plans have been carried out.

The audit will have to be repeated in its entirety if the initial audit was unsatisfactory. The supplier will be given every chance and assistance to reach the required standards, but you will have to look for alternative sources of supply if the second audit is unsatisfactory.

Figure 4 An excerpt from a student follow-up questionnaire

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