Why training providers are suspicious of Consultants and why we shouldn't be
When you're in the online training business, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in your specific platform and the benefits that make your solution the be all and end all of great training. Other platform providers I speak with will often focus on the "great solution they provide that will solve all a customer's problems". And that may very well be the case. But bring up the subject of working with an external consultant employed by said company, particularly one in the health and safety space and the tone of the discussion 'chills' somewhat.
Why is it that so many learning platform providers have a problem dealing with external H&S consultants particular around needs analysis and the development of the accompanying solution?
There are four main reasons.
1. The solution they have provided is not quite as 'fit for purpose' as perhaps the original scoping discussion suggested and they are concerned that the solution may be found lacking.
2. It may be that where they have provided generic materials that sit on their platform, often at some cost, these materials may not be quite as useful to the customer's business as the customer would hope and to that stage, the customer hasn't had the time to dig far enough into the details to realise this.
3. The consultant, who will have significant experience in the overall H&S space and the importance of tying all the various paths together, may not believe that the platform meets the needs of the overall solution.
4. And finally, every business has to focus on the bottom line and an expensive platform may be overkill and divert an unnecessary level of investment away from other health and safety demands.
The reality is that having an external consultant either set up from scratch or run the slide rule over an existing H&S plan can only be a good thing for a business and the efficacy of said plan. As the old saying goes, sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.
Let's look at the reasons we mention above and see why there is no need to be concerned at the involvement of the external consultant in either the purchase of an online learning platform or the implementation of that platform.
1. In the heat of the moment, as the customer is refining their choice of platform, it's very easy for the provider to mold their solution to the specific needs of the training that is required. Where a consult and comes into play is to take the clear scope provided by the customer and not only to make sure a platform meets the needs of the job but just importantly to see where that platform can integrate with other solutions to save customer resources and improve overall outcomes. No single platform will be perfect and having a disinterested party involved ensures that all parties get the best result, and sometimes that means missing out on the job!
2. When it comes to generic materials, this is where a consultant can save the customer an enormous amount of distraction and resource. There are many 'libraries' that offer a vast range of generic training materials. For the most part these are copyrighted and cant be altered to fit a customer's specific needs. And the larger the library, the larger the financial commitment. So by linking to the wrong resource, even if it is embedded in a platform, a customer can find themselves with a costly commitment that very few of the staff if any will ever use simply because they are not really linked to the overall H&S plan. There are exceptions of course and the manner in which the NZ grocery industry has engaged with Provention is a good example. While the materials sit on a learning platform, in this case Intuto, the materials can't be altered because the industry wants consistency (and the materials are excellent in every way to start with) but sadly this is not always the case and a consultant can make sure the best solution is arrived at.
3. Let's face it. Online learning is not a solution that will fit or is required for every health and safety plan. Yes there is a general understanding of the benefits of online learning generally but sometimes there are other solutions that fit the bill. Depending on the situation, walk and talk as a training tool can be an incredibly powerful and again, the disinterested consultant is in the best position to determine the best combination of solutions, at least at the outset before the business transitions to a more permanent solution. Every solution provider should be prepared to face up to the realities of customer need. And in my very best Uriah Heap impression, at Intuto we are "very very humble" when it comes to pushing the benefits of an online platform and working with a consultant like Health and Safety 101 provides us with a reality check, useful for the customer and Intuto, the platform provider.
4. The Bottom Line. Enough said. If a platform provider isn't prepared to hear the advice a H&S consultant provides to their client in terms of the cost vs return on a given platform, then they are probably too expensive anyway. Every dollar matters. I hope the days of "you never get fired for buying IBM" are long gone. Modern systems including learning platforms should be full (ish) featured and low cost. Let integrations drive the feature set and let the H&S consultants drive the brief. The overall cost and return for the client will be significantly enhanced.
So that's it. Online learning platform providers should embrace the expertise that H&S consultants provide and where the outcome for the provider is negative, learn from the experience. If they don't then they can expect to be out in the wilderness and out of business very soon.