Superman or Superficial?

02 October 2014

In recent years, just about every retail group of a significant size has formed their own training department or academy, but is the impact they bring effective, when in-house trainers are expected to be all things to all men?

Superman or Superficial?

In reality the Training Manager is typically responsible for all aspects of non-technical training in all departments all of the time. Is this person being asked to be some sort of Superman, or are they just superficial?

With Customers better informed than ever before, the calibre of retail staff needs to be consistently enhanced, particularly in respect of winning the appointment or sale and demonstrating expertise. The platform for all of this is emotional intelligence delivered through the “softer skills” like relationship building.

Outsourcing specific elements of training is the way to maintain the quality and availability of what is offered, and that’s what the best retailers already do.

The enhanced outcome from buying in resource is recognised by even the biggest automotive organisations in the world. Toyota, General Motors and VW all buy in out-sourced expertise to assist their Academies to deliver world class training. They recognise that it can help them to not only acquire intellectual property, but also support their operational goals by addressing the priorities more quickly. It’s no coincidence then that when manufacturers launch cars for example, they bring in large numbers of experts who are great communicators and skilled in product training.

Deciding when outsourcing is appropriate is a relatively straightforward process. If the training needed covers issues that are main stream to the company, then the chances are that this would be best delivered using an in-house resource. This might include induction programmes, appraisals or training on systems and procedures that have been developed in-house.

Non-core topics can be more efficiently addressed by an outsourced training resource. The best practices are already out there – so buying them in from an organisation that constantly keeps its ear to the ground makes sense. Starting from scratch with a blank sheet of paper takes forever and works out more costly in the long run. Let the experts with the specific field of expertise you require share their researched, tested and tailored approaches with your company.

According to ASTD, the US based training body in their “State of the Industry Report”; 40 hours of research are invested on average for every 1 hour of training developed. At Coachworks, from our own experience we know that it takes a minimum of five days to research, design, write and develop materials for a one day training programme. So, when calculating the cost of offering the training in-house versus outsourcing – remember to factor in research and development costs and ask yourself, is your training team best placed to deliver on this operational need?

Research also shows that training is often taken more seriously by employees when it is presented to them by an external expert. Outsourced trainers have an industry wide perspective and the best in the business are respected for their experience of different environments and ways of doing things. It’s important, however, that you choose the right training partner, as achieving a good cultural fit is as important as gaining the expertise or meeting the operational deadline!

The key to delivering world class people development is to use the right resource at the right time. So, make your internal training resource more efficient by directing it towards your core business needs, and allow your training or academy manager to source and project manage external training resources to meet those extraordinary needs or tight timescales. After all, your trainers are only human…not superhuman!

To learn more about ways in which Coachworks Consulting currently helps manufacturers and retailers achieve their operational goals, or to discuss you particular needs and the possibility of outsourcing some of them, contact Ella Rolph on 01335 324 325 or on

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