By Corporate English Solutions

31 October 2022 - 10:34

Questions about your training provider's soft skills content

Ever been confused about why training failed to deliver impact when the content seemed so good on paper? Ever feel that you’ve wasted time onboarding new training providers and rolling out their programmes? Struggle no more in choosing the right training content provider: discover 5 questions to ask next time you evaluate training providers to drive up learning and performance success. 


Reading time: 5 minutes

How successful are you at finding the right training provider? One whose content delivers skills development, engages your employees and leads to behavioural change. 

As an L&D specialist, you well know how important learning opportunities are to attract – and retain – talent in the business. A recent report stated that 40% of employees with poor training will leave the company within the first year. Another report stated only 12% of employees applied new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs. You also know that effective learning is when the employee is active, emotionally engaged and sees their progression

Finding the right provider is crucial but can be hit-and-miss. Training can fail to meet objectives or deliver on results the training provider claimed in preliminary discussions. It’s vital, therefore, that you have the right information to guide you when checking the suitability of the training provider’s content. 

Happily, help is at hand.

Read on to discover 5 questions to ask when assessing a training provider’s content. 5 questions to drive learning success, behavioural change and ROI.    

Question 1:  How relevant is the content to learners’ needs?

Bring out these two tools from your L&D toolkit: your learning needs analysis and refreshed skills competency matrix. The data from these will help you evaluate the content’s relevance. Ask:

  • Does the content focus on micro skills development? Focusing on broad skills may lead to cognitive overload. Check for differentiation: how do they stretch your higher-level learners to keep them challenged? 
  • Are the tools, frameworks, strategies and techniques relevant and applicable to your employees’ specific skills gaps?
  • How much do learners use their own context and situations? Evaluate course content for its relevance to the culture of the business, team and learner.

Question 2: How does the content engage and motivate learners?

We’ve all been there. In a training session so boring that our attention wanders to what we’ll have for dinner. 

To make sure the training keeps learners engaged with their minds, not their stomachs, ask:

Learning design 

  • Is content visually attractive, memorable and easy to use? Does it use short videos, audio, or infographics? 
  • Is it adding in fun, surprise, mystery or stories? 
  • Is the content varied? Ensure it’s not all lecture style or slides. 

Personally engaging

  • Does the content generate positive learning emotions like excitement and curiosity? 
  • Are stories and simulations used to stimulate a personal emotional connection? 
  • Are employees given the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences and give and receive feedback?

Question 3: How do you ensure the content’s learning effectiveness?

You already know that learners need to be active for training to be effective. A recent Harvard study confirmed just that: task-based learning helps knowledge retention and skills development. What’s more, content which is emotionally engaging is highly effective, as evidenced in this study

  • Is there a clear learning journey from start to finish? Can learners see clearly the why and how of the learning?
  • Does the design leverage learners’ prior knowledge? Evaluate the course content for ways in which learners are invited to connect new knowledge to what they already know. This is an impactful way to learn.
  • Are learners active? Doing task-based activities improves knowledge and skills. Check for problem-solving activities, peer feedback and opportunities to reflect.
  • Are activities meaningful and relevant to what they experience in the workplace?
  • Is the content using techniques to make it memorable? Acronyms, frameworks, or powerful images?
  • Are there pre-, during and post-course assessments that evaluate what learners can do rather than what they know? Do the assessed tasks aid action planning and transfer learning to the workplace?

Question 4: How does the content design contribute to improving business impact?

This is why training takes place in the first place: to impact the bottom line. 

  • How will the content positively impact business performance? Look for content that links to your performance, productivity, staff engagement and brand/reputation measures; keep in mind the specific business impact you need.
  • Do the provider’s analytics and reporting measure behavioural change and ROI and not just satisfaction and knowledge?
  • Does the content give learners the tools to evaluate skills gained, post training? 
  • Does the content provide evaluation criteria for employees and managers to assess work behaviours and outcomes post training? 

Question 5: How does the content design remain up to date with current trends and development?

For your business to retain its competitive edge, employees need to be on top of trends and best practice. The same applies to the training content. Ask:

About the content

  • When and how is the content updated? 
  • Are all key stakeholders involved in giving insights? 
  • Do the provider’s post course evaluation surveys collect actionable data that relate to your learning priorities? 

Ask about the training provider 

  • How are training content providers keeping themselves up to date? Find evidence of research undertaken, articles published and conference presentations given. 

Keep these 5 questions to hand the next time you are evaluating training providers’ content. These questions take the agony out of choosing the right programme. They also eliminate the risk of the next training being hit-and-miss. 

British Council has over 80 years’ experience in analysing needs and developing and delivering English and communication skills content that works. See how you can partner with us to upskill your teams and make an impact on your organisation’s performance. 

Find out more here >