I was involved in a fascinating discussion on Twitter last week. It was all about the role of the external training provider, and how they market themselves to potential clients. One person commented that they are very suspicious of any independent trainer who claims to be able to do anything. Another agreed, but pointed out that as an internal trainer ‘doing anything’ is exactly what is expected of them! So, when an internal trainer (used to doing everything) becomes an external trainer are they somehow de-skilled?

I don’t think so. I think it is a matter of perspective. I started my professional life as a corporate trainer and I got to know my business and my industry incredibly well. I had a great depth of knowledge that I was able to share in the training that I ran. However, what I lacked was breadth. Luckily I realised this, and when I left that job I deliberately chose a role as an employed consultant, to provide me with much more breadth of experience in a range of industries and much more diverse roles.

Now, having been an independent trainer for over five years I’m in the opposite position that I was in at the end of my corporate career. I have a great breadth of knowledge. I know a little bit about almost everything and I have some experience in a great many industries. However with the exception of designing training (which is my speciality), I would not describe myself as an ‘expert’ in anything.

Thinking back to my days in corporate life and considering those people who hire my services now, I believe that you hire an independent for one of two reasons. Either you don’t have the time or resource to do a job yourself (though you may have the expertise), or you don’t have the expertise. Each of these situations calls for a very different kind of independent. In the first instance someone who can do anything to a degree (who has great breadth of experience) will probably suit your needs just fine. In the second instance you need to find a bona fides expert i.e. someone who has great depth of knowledge.

So, think about how and why you could use an external trainer. Start with then end in mind and search appropriately. We independents exist to fill temporary gaps in internal teams. One size does not fit all, but somewhere out there is the right person for the job. Internal teams have to be clear and honest about what they need. External consultants need to be clear and honest about what they can do (and what they can’t!).

Sheridan Webb

Keystone Development

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