HOW much?! Bespoke Training vs. Off the Shelf

Categories: Winnthinks

Hands up if you buy in training as part of your remit. You do? Awesome! Please may I bend your ear?

First of all, THANK YOU for taking the development and wellbeing of your people seriously. The provision of good quality training and coaching support is the sign of a conscientious, savvy and results-focused business. People who are left unsupported and undeveloped will – and do – moulder away into mediocre performance very quickly. Or they do the smart thing and move on to somewhere they are more appreciated.* Thank you also for providing a living to the thousands of L&D professionals out there who rely on your custom. I am one of them.

But my questions to you are these: What do you think you’re paying for when you hire in a training professional? And what goes through your mind when you receive the trainer’s quote for the work you’ve asked them to do?

I’d hazard a guess at that second one – something like this, perhaps?

HOW MUCH?!!!!!!

In these straitened times every budget-holder must, of course, make sure they’re getting value for money with the goods and services they’re buying in. Negotiating the price is part of the training procurement game, every trainer and coach knows that.

But there is, I believe, a fundamental misunderstanding by some buyers of training that what they’re paying for is ONE, REALLY expensive day.

So, here’s a gentle reminder. When you hire me, or whoever your favourite training provider might be, you’re buying in:

  • Improved performance leading to greater productivity
  • A major step in resolving a problem or series of problems
  • A powerful message to your people that they are valued
  • Reduced staff turnover through improved engagement and satisfaction
  • The insights of an objective expert who can look at your business and see what you perhaps cannot
  • The sharing of years and years of experience
  • Painstakingly accumulated knowledge including costly study and CPD
  • Specialist skills that will deliver learning that sticks
  • Meetings, phone calls and emails
  • Hours of research and training design time
  • Materials, travelling time, set-up and put-away time
  • Post-delivery review work and interpreting participant feedback
  • Oh yes, and a day’s training (or an hour, or a week…)

I could go on. In short, you are paying for a measurable return on your investment. And some.

That being said, you only have so much training budget to go round, so how can we trainers help you stretch that as far as possible? Which training solution is the right one?

  • For individuals or small teams needing some basic knowledge and skills: a place on an open course run by a good quality provider should be perfectly adequate. Look for content that is pitched right and ensure everyone is a willing participant – otherwise they won’t engage with the day. There are plenty of open courses around, and if you have a group of people who need to attend, you can often bring an existing open course in-house for a reasonable cost. Ask for recommendations of good suppliers in your area.
  • For individuals needing to develop their soft skills, leadership qualities or confidence: find a qualified coach. Look for someone who has undertaken formal coach training and who is accredited by one of the professional bodies, like the ICF or AC. Coaches tend to specialise, so shop around for a good match.

  • Where there is a specific issue or complex scenario to be worked with: e.g. helping a whole team to perform better against specified targets, or deal with difficult change, or a need to change approaches and attitudes – this stuff cannot be done by going the ‘off the shelf’ route. This requires research, dialogue, understanding, considerable skill and a bespoke solution. And that’s going to cost more.

One last thought: bringing in an external training provider is not, by itself, going to work any miracles. Behaviour change requires sustained effort, and that must be consistently driven internally by clued-up, engaged leaders and managers at every level. That means having a performance management approach that supports and nurtures everyone over the long term – and that cannot be delivered in a single day, not at any price.

*In 2014 a report by Oxford Economics calculated that the average cost of replacing a single staff member is over £30k. That puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?


  1. Great article Rebecca! I’ve recently had conversations with people about understanding my worth, and how what they’re paying for is so much more than their training sessions, or written down plan, but rather my wealth of experience built up over time and technical knowledge that I’ve paid for.
    Because of the requirement of CPD, and my own self motivation, I’m constantly improving.
    My last corporate job didn’t give me any training beyond the 3 week introduction to the company. It was demoralising, and possibly why I place such a strong emphasis on my own development now that I run my own business.

    Great Winnthink! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hey Angela, thanks for the feedback – you make the point so beautifully. Done well, personal development in every area – including fitness and training where you excel – pays back so much more than the £sterling you invest in it. Long live personal development!

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