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By Ray Compari, Assoc. Dean & Director, Executive Education at Rutgers School of Business-Camden

In today’s ultra competitive environment, employee training and development can provide a much-needed edge. But with budgets as tight as they are, it’s critical that you make theright choice for a training partner. Whether you are currently working with a training partner or considering starting a relationship with one, here are 5 questions you should ask. The answers will guide your decision and help maximize your investment.
1. Is the training content custom or off -the-shelf?

You can tell the answer to this question by the approach the training company takes in your first meeting. Do they want to understand the challenges your business faces? Do they ask the right questions about your business processes, priorities, and culture? Does their training design include interactive courses or is the content simply traditional classroom lecture? Or, are they just trying to sell you the training content they have previously developed?
2. Is there flexibility for implementation?

One of the biggest challenges of training is making it easy for employees to participate, share and learn. Does the training company come to the table with fl exible formats, timing, and cost options? Does their program include only classroom or only online courses? Do they provide any creative options that address the challenges that your company faces such as engaging different ages of employees from Baby Boomers toMillennials? Can they provide examples of past engagements where employees wanted to participate in company training programs?
3. Does the training company have an academic connection?

Of course your business is all about real world strategy and execution. But an academic training partner from a highly ranked school can bring the best of both worlds. An executive education program affi liated with a university
includes both academic thought leaders and industry practitioners. Integrating background theory provides intellectual rigor and helps employees understand the “why” in addition to the “what.” An academic partner also brings the resources and credibility of the university to your company and employees.
4. Does the training company have experience to train employees globally?

Chances are, some of your employees work in a location other than your home office. It’s critical that your training partner understands how to leverage technology while still providing engaging, collaborative, high touch training programs to employees at every level. It’s one thing to be able to operate training programs remotely, but it’s quite another to design and implement training programs on a global scale. Culture, language, and time zones are just a few considerations. If you need training that reaches outside the U. S. now or in the future, ask prospective training companies about their global experience. More important, ask their global clients about their satisfaction level.

5. Does the training company have a track record of delivering

This is what it’s all about. Results come from partnership in everything from training design and goal setting to implementation, refinement, and measurement. Many companies can implement Level 1, 2, and 3 learning, which means they can engage employees and provide information. But the true benefit ts of training come at Level 4 learning — can employees use the information to do their jobs better? Th is is the true measurement of success. Take some time to understand the measurement process the training company uses to measure success. And, ask to talk to current clients. Th ere’s nothing better than having a conversation with someone that works with the training company on a day-today basis. It’s worth a few minutes of your time. Partnerships don’t happen overnight, but it’s partnerships that produce results. Asking the right questions to choose the right training partner takes time, but the payoff is profit.