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According to Training Magazine, average corporate training budgets depend on the size of the company, and range from $290,000 (fewer than 1,000 employees) to $13 million (more than 10,000 employees) annually.

Throughout my 20-plus years in the corporate training industry, I consistently see mistakes—especially by smaller companies that lack learning and development expertise —that prevent organizations from reaping the highest return on that major investment.

If you’re a senior leader in your organization, read on to avoid those mistakes, and make a more informed training decision for your organization. If you’re an assistant or office manager, or even a seasoned L&D professional who has been tasked with this, set yourself up for success. Share this article with your boss to get them to engage in the process with you.


Mistake No. 1: Delegating the Job of Vetting Trainers

All too often, leaders at smaller companies hand off the task of identifying trainers and collecting bids to others. Yet training is a complex purchase, and you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage if you narrow down your options from a stack of standard proposals.

I find there are two reasons that decision-makers don’t want to engage in this process themselves:

  1. They don’t want to be “sold,” so they insulate themselves by assigning an assistant, office manager, or other team member to vet trainers.
  2. They don’t think it’s a good use of their time.

If you’re worried about being on the receiving end of a hard sell, know that experienced and reputable trainers want to ensure a good fit just as much as you do. They’ll turn you down if it’s clear their services aren’t a match for your expectations.

As to the second point, having the right person involved in vetting your options makes all the difference in whether your employee training will deliver the results you want. In my experience, training is always more successful when corporate decision-makers are invested from the beginning. This is time well spent – and it reduces the chances that you’ll make any of the other mistakes on this list.

Mistake No. 2: Not Being Clear on Expectations for Corporate Training

For people tasked with vetting potential trainers, it can seem like a daunting process, especially for those who rarely or never do it. In their haste to make a decision, some companies skip a very important step: defining what they want and need from the training, and not all providers can deliver in every situation.

Expectations for training can range from “I need to check the ‘we offered training’ box,” to radical culture change.

If your needs are at the low end of the range, you may have feelings like these about employee training:

  • We have a lot of training to do this year and a limited budget.
  • Everyone is different, and whatever each staffer takes away from the training is fine.
  • We don’t have any specific needs to address; we just want to provide the team with an overview and some general best practices in the topic of the training.
  • The training will be a success if everyone enjoys it.

At the opposite end of the range, your needs and expectations for training might be very high. In this case, your feelings on the topic probably resemble the following:

  • We have identified specific skills gaps and/or specific issues that need to be addressed.
  • A skills gap or problem is hurting the organization now, or we predict it will in the future.
  • We’re growing, but the way we’re now dealing with the issue or topic to be addressed by the training is not scalable.
  • This issue is affecting our ability to achieve our goals.
  • The cost of this issue or problem is too high.
  • The opportunity cost of not having these skills or not solving this problem puts the company at a disadvantage.
  • We need everyone on the same page with regard to this skill set (technical skills or soft skills).
  • The training will be a success if most or all of the attendees implement what they learn and the ultimate result is long-term behavior change.

I pose this question to my potential clients: “If 1 is the low end of training expectations, and 10 is the high end, what is your number?” Most companies’ needs fall somewhere along the spectrum, rather than at the extreme ends.

This is one of the main reasons a company leader should be involved from the beginning in investigating training options. Leaders have high-level knowledge of the company’s weak spots and skills gaps and can better evaluate and convey what training should address.

If you’re closer to the low end of the needs scale, a general training provider can be a great fit. If your needs fall toward the higher end of the spectrum, a specialized provider is likely to be a better fit. If you aren’t sure about your needs or expectations, start with a specialized provider. They typically have a more extensive qualification process, which will help you even if you ultimately need more generalized training. Consider it free consulting!


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Mistake No. 3: Not Speaking with the Trainers During the Selection Process

Perusing a trainer’s website or brochure is only the starting point in understanding their offerings. When you take the time to speak with trainers, you’ll come away with information that’s a lot more useful and nuanced. The best trainers value this chance to delve into specifics with you. You can find out whether the trainer has experience with the particular issues your company is facing, talk about the long-term results you can expect, and discuss whether the trainer can tailor the offerings to provide the specific results you need.

Getting details like these is especially important when you have high expectations for your training. But even if you don’t have the budget or the need for transformational training, speaking with trainers who are qualified to provide it will help you to crystallize your training needs, give you a better understanding of what you can expect from the training and the training provider, and, ultimately, make a better training decision.

Mistake No. 4: Making a Corporate Training Decision Solely on Price

If your needs and expectations for training are low, you’re probably safe going with an “off the shelf” training option with an economy price tag. However, if you’re in the mid-range or higher on my 1-10 scale above, don’t leap to a decision just because one trainer seems like a bargain. Trainers who can drive the deep and lasting change you need probably won’t even agree to participate if you’re “price-shopping.” It might be because their training is too prescriptive and so their pricing isn’t standard.

Remember, though, that while some training is more expensive, it’s also more likely to solve your specific problems and therefore have more potential for higher long-term return on investment. The key is to have clear and specific communication with the trainers you’re considering so that you feel confident you’ll receive the results you’re seeking for the amount you’re paying. This is another reason that leaders should be involved in the vetting process.

Selecting a trainer could be among your most important decisions this year. Missteps are costly, especially if you choose lower-cost training that doesn’t deliver the results you need – and ends up not being a bargain at all. Following this process will put you on the path to smart decisions about your corporate training investment.

You might also be interested to read 4 Tips for Purchasing Corporate Training.

If you’re learning about purchasing training and could use some help, feel free to reach out to me at maura(at)regainyourtime(dot)com. I’m happy to offer you the benefit of my 20+  years in the corporate training industry, even if you’re looking for training on a topic unrelated to my subject-matter expertise.