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If you remember doing those join-the-dots puzzles as a kid, then you will remember that if you didn’t join up the dots correctly the picture came out wrong.

It’s a good analogy for what a training organisation has to do to get its standard of service right.

Join-the-dots puzzles need planning. You need to look at the way the numbers run before you start or you might go wrong from the off. And they need attention to detail. You’ve got to concentrate and take it one step at a time – it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and make a mistake. And it gave you a buzz when the dots were all joined and the picture was complete – remember that buzz? That’s part of the same family of buzzes that a trainer gets when a class or a webinar goes well, or an administrator gets when a client thanks them for their service or gives them five stars on a feedback survey, or a manager gets when they see the monthly course occupancy rate is above target, or a learner gets when they leave a course feeling it was time well spent.

If you are asking yourself what is the point of this extended comparison between a childhood puzzle and delivering a great training service then you might be in need of more help than you think.

Running a training organisation is a perfect study in join-the-dots. The design, development, delivery and evaluation of training programmes is only part of it. Great marketing and sales, excellent customer service, thoughtful and responsive learner support and client follow-up are other parts. But neither or both are enough to guarantee good outcomes unless your trainers and managers and administrators are skilled, motivated, caring and pushing themselves and each other to a higher plane.

We know from the inspections we carry out and the evaluation forms and performance data we analyse, that, in many ways, organisations delivering mandated training ( the sort that leads to the time-limited, accreditations of competence that people need to carry out health and safety critical activities) have a harder task in joining the dots than those with wider scope of content, levels, flexibility, clients and learners to work with.

The prescribed, repetitive, and intensive nature of mandatory programmes can lead to trainers feeling they little or no discretion to vary training delivery, managers becoming obsessed about attendance rates and gross margins, and administrators are locked into a battle with late bookings and last minute changes. If they are not careful, Training Organisations end up spending most of their time struggling with negative internal attitudes to the training service they are providing.

A more positive outlook would see the trainer focus shift from the constraints of mandatory content to the techniques and benefits of learner-centred delivery (every group of learners is different), managers focused on the client and learner experience and the downstream impact of training (all keys to profitable growth of the business) and administrators focused on giving great customer service and gleaning information from clients and learners that will help trainers deliver better outputs.

The join-the-dots challenge for Training Organisations delivering compulsory programmes is to visualise the end to end experience they want to give clients and learners and systematically make that picture a reality. Then it’s a simple matter of doing what they do a little bit better every day…