Things to look for in a new training provider

Whether you are looking for a training provider for the first time or looking to replace an existing supplier with an new one, there are a number of things that are important to keep in mind. We’ve summarised some key thoughts to help you select the perfect relationship that
will deliver great learning experiences for years to come.

1. Does the training provider have a style and culture that fits with your own?

Training companies come in all shapes and sizes, so it is important to consider what it is you are looking for in a future partner. Once you’ve met your potential candidates, try to sum them up with a just a few words. Are they serious and academic or lively and fun? Compare these words with those that you might use to summarise your own organisation. Think too about the style of learning culture that you want to adopt or aspire to within your own organisation. Ask whether the new provider would help to engender that learning culture.

2. Is the new training provider more interested in solutions or outcomes?

Be really careful if your potential new training provider just keeps talking about the courses they run. They are bound to have a standard course catalogue but is that their focus? Would they just be going through the motions. A good supplier will be more interested in asking lots of questions about the change that their training will be expected to deliver. They will then taolir their approach accordingly.

3. Can the provider put me in touch with satisfied clients or offer testimonials?

A really great training company will have a large number of satisfied clients who they can ask to provide you with a reference. Ask for at least three and speak to each of them to guage how satisfied they have been with the training delivered. Ask for exmaples og training delivered in the same sector or in the same areas of your learning objectives.

4. Does the training provider guarantee adoption of new behaviours in any way?

Great training companies know that any learning intervention is a waste of budget unless the learner adopts the new actions and behaviours after the training has finished. Test how confident they are in their ability to engender lasting and  meaningful change in
the group. Would they be willing to give you a money back guarantee based on whether people adopt the learning post-training?

5. Does the training provider measure learning in a structured way?

Look for an training organisation that has methods in place for tracking the impact of the learning experience. Expect this as an integral part of the training delivery. They should be able to suggest and offer you ways of measuring the training adoption however large or small you are.

6. Does the training provider offer blended learning; other learning interventions in addition to classroom based training?

You may be quite happy with a trainer who can deliver classroom based learning but other intervention approaches are growing in popularity and effectiveness. With an increasingly mobile workforce, flexible working and a multitude of possible devices to deliver training on, blended learning delivers whenever, wherever and on whatever learners need. Look for a provider that can support the classroom training with a range of other intervention styles such as e-learning, podcasts, social Media, ‘forum theatre’ with trained actors etc. Ask them how they will reach out to the learner beyond the classroom, to support them and aid the learning experience.

Spend some time asking your potential suppliers questions around these six themes to ensure you find a company that meets your ongoing organisational learning needs.

iManage Performance is a specialist blended learning provider, designing and delivering effective multi-intervention programmes that engage and deliver every time.

Is your current performance management framework frustrating your organisation?

The way we work continues to change. Technology is making us increasingly mobile, where we work is more flexible, the expected is superseded by the unexpected, planning is shorter and what may happen next year is often a mystery. With this backdrop, some organisations are finding their staff are increasingly frustrated with the annual round of performance management. Are such systems still relevant in such agile organisations? We are not alone in questioning this, here’s a quote from Bersin Research:

“The world of performance management has been turned upside down…we expect an increasing number of companies to rethink their traditional (often hated) performance appraisal processes. Our groundbreaking research in 2011 discovered that companies which regularly revisit their goals (quarterly or even more often) dramatically outperform those which create annual cascading-goal programmes. The dynamic nature of global business makes it necessary for performance management to become ‘agile‘ and ‘real-time’. What is ‘agile’ performance management? The concept is very similar to agile software development. Rather than put the manager in the middle of the appraisal process and use a “waterfall” approach which reviews employees once per year, create a more continuous, dynamic and transparent model of feedback. Our research fully supports this direction. Companies that revise and update goals quarterly generate more than 30 per cent greater impact from their performance management processes than those which implement the old-fashioned annual review”.

Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, organistation performance management systems exist for good reason. Dropping them for less structured, reactionary approaches is not without its risks. In the early naughties, many of us were impressed by Nokia’s agile approach to the annual budget process in that they didn’t have one! Budgeting was managed on a monthly basis as they deemed their world changed too fast to manage the business any another way. Today however, Nokia are not heralded as the company that got it right in the fast moving environment of mobile communications devices. If you replace longer (or mid) term thinking with ultra frequent changes, you may well heighten the potential of becoming lost in a very large sea.

Organisations need direction and they need time to align, plan and deliver. Equally they need the agility to respond to changes at the coalface. Most importantly we have found that staff need the ability to own the vision in a very tangible way. Time and again we have come across individuals who say that they are unable to influence their objectives. Those objectives may be aligned with the organisations aspirations, they may be ‘SMART’, but they are not written at what we call a ‘success level’. Now that’s frustrating; having objectives that are so reliant on external factors coming together that whether I succeed or not depends on which way the wind is blowing. Objectives that are not written at a success level, that is at a level that I can own and am empowered to deliver, are not objectives at all. If I can’t influence the outcome then I’m doomed before I begin and I will not be motivated to work through it. They are the outcome of weak organisational management that doesn’t understand how to convert the vision direction into those factors that are critical for success in meeting those objectives.

So here’s what we need in our performance management processes:

1) Good strong leadership that sets clear annual direction for the organisation, sufficiently ahead of the fiscal year.

2) Management that understands how to convert that direction into functional critical success factors.

3) Well crafted objectives that evidence the golden thread back up through critical success factors to the direction given, that are written at ‘success level’.

4) A level of agility that keeps the objectives front of mind not bottom of draw, while keeping up to speed with the coalface changes on a daily weekly monthly basis.

This 4th idea is where we address the problem identified by Bersin. At iManage we like to use the language of ‘recalibration’. Performance management needs organisational direction that is firm, clear but also has the ability to cater for local and operational changes. Priorities will come and go and managers need systems that can flex individuals performance objectives without losing sight of the golden thread or losing track of the results that have already been accomplished in the given period. In practice this requires an agility that makes it easy for managers to review and update performance objectives as the situation demands. In most roles this is likely to be an incremental recalibration rather than a major change of objectives. Systems which fail to account for this flex will undoubtedly result in frustrated employees.

So yes we live in a rapidly changing world that operates at breakneck speed and yes we do need performance management systems that reflect this. The good news is that you don’t have to totally replace the existing process in order to accomplish this. We are convinced that there is a lot to commend many organisations performance management processes. All they often need is a little attention to develop them into a truly organisational serving tool. A robust application of the four ideas above can transform such current systems in to an agile framework that guides, monitors and delivers on organisational and individual performance.

Practical ways to implement the 70:20:10 learning model

Are business serious about 70:20:10 development? Or is it becoming a lazy way of reducing budgets while expecting already over stretched staff to take on increased responsibility for their own learning?

70:20:10 Development models seem to be gaining an increasing number of supporters in HR and L&D departments. The idea itself is great and one that we actively encourage our clients to adopt, 10% traditional or formal learning (courses, workshops, academic studies etc) 20% supported learning (usually limited to coaching and mentoring) and 70% on the job learning. The frustration we have with this model is in the way that some businesses are applying it. We are seeing organisations talk about the 20% and 70% with enthusiasm, yet in practice they are putting very little in place to facilitate it.

The following are seven practical things that we suggest if you are serious about implementing a successful blended 70:20:10 learning and development strategy.

The ’70’ element

There are 4 vital aspects of on the job learning, or ‘action learning’. Action learning is an educational process where the participant studies their own actions and experience in order to improve performance. It is learning acquired knowledge through actual actions and repetitions, rather than through traditional instruction. It is particularly suitable for adults as it enables each person to reflect on and review the action they have taken and the learning points arising. This should then guide future action and improve performance.

Reg Revans summed up the action learning set process in the following formula:
Learning (L) = Programmed Knowledge (P) + Insightful questioning (Q)

Programmed knowledge is the knowledge from books combined with what we have been told to do in a particular job. It also refers to our own acquired personal knowledge. Both of these need to be questioned. Questioning asks what aspect of that knowledge is useful and relevant here and now. It is also a way of saying ‘I do not know’. Learning results from the combination of P & Q.

Action learning sets (groups of learners) can be engaged at any time but we advocate that the following 5 concepts are required to support the ’70’ component of on the job learning.

1. A learning culture is facilitated through the use of formal performance management processes

Organisations that are successful in creating a learning culture take care to embed learning into the formal routines, rituals and processes of the organisation. Learning needs to be positioned as an organisational value which cascades down into the day to day practices of the business. Tangibly this means that every individual must have (in addition to their operational objectives), specific and personal learning objectives which are to be attained. These learning objectives must have equal weighting with the business oriented goals individuals are tasked with in the normal business cycle. If performance related pay is part of the existing performance management process then reward should equally be linked to changes in learnt behaviours.

2. The ’70’ component – on the job learning, requires a consistent long term marketing strategy.

A true learning culture does not come about by chance. Like any good product, consumers need to be constantly reminded of it’s availability. Individuals therefore need to be frequently reminded that learning is a constant and continuous goal. The design and implementation of an internal L&D marketing strategy is core to the ’70’ component of on the job learning, ensuring that learning is constantly ‘front of mind’ instead of ‘bottom of draw’. Both traditional and social media should be used to create interest, enthusiasm and deliver a drip feed of learning content.

3. Supporting resources.

Providing a mobile workforce with powerful sound bites of learning gives users access at the point of need. A rich library of self help learning materials can be tailored and made available to staff to support the learning experience. Using reading materials, podcasts and vidcasts provides highly accessible training materials for those on the move, enabling a significantly higher number of touch points with the learning content. The goal should be to create a ‘kit of parts’ enabling learners to consume learning whenever, however and on whatever they choose.

4. Utilisation of formal assignments:

Personal assignments requiring research and a formal documented conclusions remain an effective route to individual ’70’ on the job learning.

The 20 element

By providing the learner with multiple touch points with experts, we are able to enhance the depth of understanding attained and spread domain best practice. Our approach to this involves two concepts:

5. Formal Mentoring (directional input)

By establishing a formal developmental mentoring programme learners are provided support from acknowledged (Internal or external) experts. Training for mentors and mentees should be provided to establish effective mentoring behaviours where:
Two way learning is encouraged
The power and authority of the mentor are ‘parked’
Mentors helps mentees decide what they want and plan how to achieve it
Begins with an ending in mind Built on learning opportunities and friendship
Most common form of help is stimulating insight
Mentor may be peer or even junior – It is experience that counts

6. Informal coaching (non directional input):

Alongside a formal mentoring structure the organisation should implement an informal coaching culture that simply becomes “the way we work around here”. Understanding the concepts of a non directional coaching needs to be taught and embedded into daily practice. Social learning is perhaps the most important tool in achiving an effective learning culture.

7. Access to Short on demand learning interventions:

Learning applied at the point it is needed helps to facilitate immediate adoption and behavioural change. By providing access to bite-sized education in practical techniques we become more effective and we get more out the resources we have. For example we offer two solutions to deliver this demand lead learning:

120 minutes of high impact education:

Short focused workshops lasting just 120 minutes, or sessions like our lunch and learn 60 minute interventions provide frequent but manageable sized learning opportunies.

Virtual Classroom:

Live training, carried out online. Using for example Adobe Acrobat Connect™ you can do all those things you do in a traditional face to face workshop. Input content, discuss ideas with the group, breakout into small groups, work on exercises, and come back to share plenary findings. This is an incredibly cost effective way of delivery training to dispersed workforces, and a great way supporting other blended learning interventions. Blended learning refers to a type of learning that combines multiple delivery methods throughout the learning process. The 70:20:10 learning model is an ideal way to structure those different intervention methods. Today more methods of delivering learning exist than ever before, and successful blended learning maximises the use of all possible delivery methods. It is true that some users experience of blended learning has been disappointing, disjointed and a cobbled together blend of different solutions. Learners are left feeling that they are enrolled on a number of separate learning interventions not one continuous programme delivered through a variety of methods.

A totally integrated 70:20:10 blended learning solution will have multiple delivery methods with one continuous stream of learning. Done well this model is a great guide for bringing about change and improvement through learning and development. Remember that the 20% means twice as much learning as the traditional solutions and 70% means seven times as much learning! That will only happen if HR and L&D teams help facilitate it through ideas and efforts such as those outlined in this piece.

Informal Learning – Bus or Bike?

Formal learning is a bit like a bus. The learner gets on and the driver takes them on a journey from A to B. Informal learning is like a bike, the learner gets on and chooses where, when and how fast they make their journey.

Some people suggest that formal learning is dead and informal learning will take over but informal learning is not superior to formal. Both are equally valid. We simply need to plan solutions that are like both buses and bikes.

People with good ideas sometimes take them too far. Like Pareto who observed the  80:20 principle but went too far in suggesting that you lose 80% of your friends because they only bring 20% of the value! Informal and formal learning are both valid methods of learning but perhaps at different times and scenarios. We just need to find a way of using them both through our life of learning.

I learn daily, I love to learn, I often learn subconsciously like when I hear two colleagues disagreeing on something and somehow I store up understanding of ‘what to’ or perhaps ‘what not to’ say when I’m talking with those people in the future. We do an enormous amount of informal learning, all of the time. Yet when I conscioulsy think about the biggest lessons I’ve learned recently and the changes that have come through them, they have come about through the formal learning cycle.

A significant example of this big change for me is caught up with a personal confession that may be incriminating so please don’t tell! I have been throughout my life a daily law breaker!! You see from my teenage years (having motorbikes on the local wasteland) I have loved speed. This resulted in a driving style that broke the speed limit almost every time I got in a car.
Sometimes deliberately sometimes through absent mindedness. Anyway, I kidded myself that I was a great driver especially
when I took up Motorsport and started to bring home occasional 3rd, 2nd and 1st place trophies.

Today I am pleased to tell you, I do not ever break the speed limit on the roads – no really

Today I am pleased to tell you, I do not ever break the speed limit on the roads – no really, I have totally and majorly reformed my awareness and practice. I know the correct speed limit for any piece of road I am travelling on. I have strategies in place for maintaining legal speeds whether in town or on the open road. Remarkably, this life change took-place overnight about 18 months ago. I am still maintaining my new behaviours every day.

So what was the catalyst for this change? Was it my informal learning? Where driving is concerned there has certainly been lots of it over my lifetime. I love to drive and I like the skill of driving, I have paid attention to great driving and learnt many lessons especially on the track. I have sat next to ex touring car professionals and learned first hand how they loaded the springs a fraction of a second before a turn to ensure that the car is balanced and settled as they take a corner on the slippery limit of adhesion. I suspect there has been countless occasions where I have learnt how to drive better almost subconsciously through what I have witnessed and experienced. All of this is great informal learning but my biggest learning
and biggest change took place through an afternoons face to face speeding ticket training course – formal learning. Which of these learning approaches are most valuable? Surely they both are!


If someone tells you formal learning is dead then give them a reality check. Yes, informal learning works and us L&D professionals can help facilitate it much more but don’t let the bus tyres down yet because we all need the big crisis / wake up / game changing formal learning interventions too.

The truth is, we need a mixture of interventions in well structured and well designed blended programmes that maximise learning. Buses and bikes all the way.

How we Learn 2: Using More Learning Science To Design Training Solutions.

In a previous blog called How We Learn, we discussed 3 common learning theories and considered how they may be used to develop a blended programme. This blog looks at another three theories that can be used to create an effective blended learning programme in our organisations.

“More than 99 % of experience is fleeting, here and gone. The brain holds on to only whats relevant, useful, or interesting – or maybe so in the future”.

Benedict Carey


Learning science points to the fact that where we learn really does make a difference to how we learn. Two big lessons stand out:

We test best when we are tested in the same place as we learned. Scuba divers were sent 20 feet underwater to study 36 words. One hour later, half were tested on dry land and the other half were tested back under water. Those divers tested underwater remembered 30% more words than those tested on dry land tests concluding that recall is better if the environment of the original learning is reinstated.

But what if we are not going to be tested in the same place that we learnt in? Professors at Michigan University gave their students 40 words to learn. Some Studied in a cluttered basement room with no windows and also in a neat windowed room overlooking a courtyard. Others studied in one room only. Three hours later they were tested in a third neutral room. The results; the one room group recalled an average of 16 words, where the two room group recalled 24. A simple change in venue improved retrieval strength (memory) by 40%

Spacing Out

In 2008 Widsehart & Pasher at the University of California took 1354 people of all ages. They were given 32 obscure facts to learn e.g. ‘which European nation consumes the most spicy Mexican food? Answer Norway’.

Participants studied on separate occasions over 26 different schedules of intervals and times to test. Intervals ranging from 10 minutes to 6 months. They found the best study intervals differed depending on the time to test:

Time to test Best study interval
1 week 1-2 days
1 month 1 week
3 months 2 weeks
6 months 3 weeks
1 year 1 month


In 2006 Robert Bjork and Nate Kornell tested 72 students using a selection of landscape paintings by 12 artists. Half studied the artist one at a time, seeing one ‘Cross’ painting after another for 3 seconds each with the name of the painter below the image. Then they saw 6 paintings by the next artist. (blocked practise).

The other half saw the same paintings with artists names mixed up rather than grouped. After a distraction, they had students view 48 unstudied landscapes one at a time and then asked them to match each with its artist by clicking one of the 12 names.

The mixed (interleaved) practice group selected the correct artist 65% of the time. The block practice group selected the correct artist 50% of the time.

Understanding these and other insights from learning science enables us to build effective interactions in our training programmes. It is such science that Imanage Performance uses in the design and creation of bespoke blended learning programmes that not only engage but actually changes people for good. Contact us to find out how we could bring a new breed of blended learning solution to your organisation.

How we learn 1. Using learning science to improve learning programmes

Learning science has provided many insights into how people build and retain new knowledge. Understanding these theories can make a significant difference to the way we design our organisational learning.

Strangely, some of our best held beliefs concerning learning are in fact counter to what the experts have found. For example, we might encourage someone to remove interruptions and focus their concentration when learning but evidence shows we remember more if we are distracted during the learning cycle.

If we are serious about changing people for good then we need to think about how learning science can shape our learning interventions whether it’s e-learning, face to face, social learning or a blend of all possible interventions.

“More than 99 % of experience is fleeting, here and gone. The brain holds on to only what’s relevant, useful, or interesting – or maybe so in the future”.

Benedict Carey


In this blog post we will take a closer look at three common learning theories and how they relate to the development of a blended learning programme.

1.Forgetting to learn!

The brain is an incredible device. It has powers beyond anything that has been created by mankind. Consider for a moment how it has catalogued your life so far. Think of any early memory such as the garden or back yard that you played in as a child. Focus on some detail of that environment. What do you remember? You’ve just retrieved a piece of information that may have been dormant for decades!

Ebbinghaus came up with the theory of disuse way back in 1885. However, his forgetting curve has become the old theory of disuse being replaced with the Bjorks new theory, Forget to learn! The Bjorks argue that forgetting is the best friend of learning. It is the tool that helps us filter the important from the mundane. It allows us to build longer more significant memories. They cleverly point out that without a little forgetting you would get no benefits from further study. They suggest that the harder we have to work to retrieve memory the greater the strength of learning.

Forgetting deepens learning, by filtering out distracting information and by allowing some breakdown that after reuse drives retrieval and storage strength higher than they were originally.

2. Incubation

Ever been stuck, moved away for a time and then come back a while later and been able to immediately solve it? It’s a scientifically proven aspect of learning!

Two learning scientists, Sio and Ormerod divided these ‘incubation’ breaks into three; relaxing, mildly active and highly engaging. Remarkably their results indicated that it didn’t matter at all what type of break people had, the thing that mattered was simply that they had been taken from the project. On average participants remembered 90% more of the interrupted and unfinished projects than the ones they completed!

Zeigarnik’s research into this same area discovered that people actually got the best from incubation if they were interrupted from their study at the point they were most involved.

In fact a 5 to 20 minute distraction (like checking your emails) is the most effective way scientists have discovered in helping people solve problems.

3. Pre-testing

Another fascinating insight comes from two learning science academics Wozniak and Spitzer. Building on earlier studies they have discovered that pre-testing a subject prior to being taught has a massive increase in the way subsequent information is remembered.

Providing prompt feedback is given to the learner, answering a pre-test with no prior understanding of the topic can enhance subsequent retention of the corrected answer by up to 30%.

Understanding these and other insights from learning science enables us to build blended learning solutions that not only engage but actually change people for good.

Contact us today to find out how we could bring blended learning to your organisation.

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I'm Bob Bannister, owner, and trainer at iManage Performance, the specialists in training for remote workers and managers with over 20 years of experience in this sector.

As the UK has rapidly shifted towards working from home, this challenges the norms in which we work and manage We can help to fast track your remote management or team skills. Speak to us about our training options today.

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