Using external consultants - ideas for quality control

Where there is a specialist training need, or particular expertise is required, training professionals such as yourself may opt to contract the design and delivery of training out to external specialists or consultants.

But how can you be sure that the consultants you choose will deliver the training product you need? Also, how can you be sure that their standards and values are in keeping with those of your organization?

If your past experience of external contractors has left a bad taste in your mouth then the few guidelines presented here may help to make your next experience a more successful one. Similarly, if you have not used external contractors before and you are keen not to get your fingers burnt, then these guidelines will be helpful to you.

1. Request to see a copy of the contractor's code of practice.
They should have one, and they should be very pleased to let you see it. The code of practice will help you to ascertain whether any fundamental conflicts exist, between their values and your own organization's values.

2. Request the names and contact details of at least two referees, i.e., organizations or bodies for whom the contractor has previously carried out training.
Hearing about the experiences of previous clients will help to get a feel for the contractor's approaches to quality, their attitudes to their clients, their ability to work collaboratively with client organizations, and the likelihood that they will deliver what they promise.

3. Ensure that you have a complete list of all contractor staff who will be involved in the training project, and arrange to interview each of these, either individually or together as a group. .
A common 'trick' - if trick is the right word - is that contractors, once they have secured a contract, may allocate to that contract individuals other than those with whom you entered into an agreement. You may then find, too late in the day, that those individuals do not have the specific skills or experience which the contractor had undertaken to contribute to your project. There is nothing to stop you specifying named individuals, and insisting that it is those individuals and no other who works on your project.

4. Request to see a list of the aims and objectives for the proposed training project, plus an outline of the activities planned, in order to achieve these.
This will help to give you a feel for how the contractor intends to approach the project, and whether or not you feel comfortable with that approach.

5. Make the provision of such information as is identified in points 1 to 4 above a pre-condition of contract.
If the contractor is unwilling or unable to meet all or any of these information requirements, then you should probably think very seriously before entering into any agreement with them.