I have worked in learning and development as both an internal professional and as a self employed consultant over the years and as such I understand what each need from the other. So I thought I’d write a “Starters guide” for whichever role you currently undertake.
What the Learning and Development professional needs from the Consultant
As Internal L&D professionals we often have a calendar of events as well as many ‘ad-hoc’ requests. When we ask for proposals and outlines from a consultant, we often need a rapid response and we need to know when to expect that information so that we can put the calendar together quickly, book the rooms or respond to the senior manager’s request.
We also need to know the ‘all inclusive’ costs – no surprises. We have budgets to work within.
Also, we need to know that we can leave you with a room full of our staff and they will be safe, respected, engaged and developed. In addition, we want our organisation and senior management reflected in a positive way to the participants.
In the same way, we expect to be treated with respect as well. I have seen a colleague verbally abused because a room was set up incorrectly. As an Internal L&D professional I have been on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse from a consultant who was an unsuccessful tenderer. You need to understand that you won’t necessarily get every gig you put in for. We make decisions based on content, flexibility, reputation and price. You are one of the consultants we are inviting. It doesn’t mean we don’t ‘love you’ or won’t engage with you on another project.
Such behaviour is not acceptable and to be honest … not too bright on your part!
Of course, we also expect you to turn up on time (and by on time we mean 30 to 45 minutes before the participants are due to arrive), ready to go, all your equipment and resources in hand and for you to maintain a professional presence at all times.
During the program, if you can link to the other programs we offer staff (avoid too much self promotion), that would be useful as well. Let us know if there are any issues with the room or the participants.
On a final note, if we can’t be there at the end of the day, would you mind turning of the equipment (especially the urn), turn off the lights and throw out any food stuffs (especially milk), and if possible tidy it all up a bit. Leave the room as beautiful as you found it (or better). We may have another program in there early tomorrow!
What the Consultant needs from the Learning and Development professional
Ideally, the consultant would like plenty of lead time to prepare for a program. I know this isn’t always possible (Stuff happens), but understand that many of us are self employed, so if the gig is in a week, we might only have a day to work on the program and bring it up to speed.
Where possible respect our diaries! By that I mean choose a date and stick to it. Constantly rescheduling can make it difficult to accommodate your needs. More than once I’ve rearranged my diary to accommodate the needs of a new client (shifting dates around in my diary) only to have the new client cancel or reschedule (in one case three times) – and often at the last minute.
We also need to know the participant numbers well in advance so that we can prepare materials – or even an ‘absolute maximum’ number. I know it’s not ecologically sound, but I’d rather have two extra sets of everything than to be short on the day. On that, it is often useful for us to have details of attendees, such as job title and classification, to help us prepare. Especially if there are any special considerations, or if you want us to provide certificates and so on.
Because things go wrong on the day, we don’t always remember to bring everything and sometimes we need equipment that isn’t in the room, it would be great if you were there to greet us well before the participants arrive. We need to know how to adjust the air conditioning, lighting and any new fancy equipment and systems you have installed. Just in case, leave us your contact details in case we need you through the day.
Space maybe the final frontier, but we need a “goodun’” I know it’s not always possible and a good consultant will make the most of the space allocated, but the less suitable the space the harder we have to work to keep the focus and attention of the group. A boardroom is NOT conducive to group work, neither is a lecture theatre. I’ve recently been asked to work in some ‘modern learning spaces’ on University campuses. Sure, they are beautiful, but six bar stools around a central pole doesn’t lend itself to comfort and engagement – half the group have their backs to me. We will make it work, but if you don’t think the space is ideal for training at least warn us beforehand so we can make the necessary adjustments to content and delivery.
Oh, and speaking of space, we will need access to the space at least 30 minutes before the participants arrive to set up and settle in. I arrived thirty minutes early for a program at a fancy hotel once, only to be told that the room was occupied by a group having a working breakfast. They ran twenty minutes over time and left bits of breakfast from one end of the room to the other. I got access to the room just as the program was scheduled to start and needed to rearrange all the tables and chairs while staff vacuumed.
We want to keep everyone safe, so please ensure the equipment is well maintained and up to date. You wouldn’t believe some of the ‘dodgy’ whiteboards I’ve battled with over the years! We might also need some power points, extension leads and power boards to plug stuff in to … and a cover for any leads that are a tripping hazard. A jug of water is very important – but not too close to the plugs etc.
For both sides, things go wrong … at the worst possible moment, that’s understood. As an external consultant, I have a wonderful relationship with the L&D professionals I deal with. We work in ‘partnership’ to make each other look good and to ensure a smooth and seamless learning event for our participants.
We all know the importance of communication – let’s do it. Looking forward to working with you soon.