Needs assessment/evaluation/selection is the roadmap to smart hires and weeding out vendors that don’t fit.
BY TOM KUKLA
Your dealership has enjoyed solid growth over the last four quarters. It has expanded, and now you have key people in new positions and new people in key positions. You want to keep the growth train chugging along, so your dealer wants to ramp up training in both the sales and service departments. What is the best way to evaluate a vendor?
Help is needed to design and deliver the training. Obviously, there are lots of ready and willing training vendors out there. But, before you stroke a check: How can you be confident you’re making a smart hire?
The dealership industry is a major buyer of training services, and believe it or not, there is a framework or process your dealership can follow in picking a vendor for any type of training. It is a three-step process with needs assessment, evaluation and selection.
Each of the three steps has an easy-to-follow checklist, with questions to help you perform due diligence when picking a training partner. Let’s start with needs assessment. After all, before you can train, you must decide what you need to train.
Needs Assessment Checklist
- First, identify the problem you are trying to fix. Is it truly a training issue? For example, say turnover rates in all departments are above the industry average and hurting the bottom line. Maybe a new onboarding procedure is needed rather than training managers on hiring practices. Be specific as to how this problem affects the employees and the business
- What skill training is involved?
1) Does the problem affect current skill sets?
2) Are new skills needed, e.g. dexterity with social media?
3) Are new techniques needed with current skills sets, such as selling to a millennial vs. selling to a baby boomer?
4) Is there a gap in leadership/management training?
- Which dealership departments are involved?
- Who from each department should participate in training?
- What are your expectations for the training’s outcome? What will “success” look like?
- What is your training budget?
- What is the deadline for completing training?
- Have you faced this problem in the past? If so:
- How did you address the training issue before?
- What training firm did you use then, if any
- What were the outcomes?
- How satisfied were you?
III. What do you believe is the best training methodology, or combination of methodologies, to provide the desired outcomes, by the deadline and within budget? For example, does your team tend to respond better to live coaching than videos?
- Half-day, full-day or multi-day live training
- One-on-one coaching
- Group coaching
- Video training
- Look at multiple training vendors. But, how many should you examine? Try more than one but fewer than five, and evaluate vendors based on:
- Training topics and offerings – what are they?
1) Are the vendor’s topics a good fit with your needs, and timely?
2) Are the vendors sufficiently diverse with their offerings, or do they only train on one topic?
3) Has the vendor updated its training menu over the last two to three years?
4) Your dealership’s way of doing business has changed during that time; is the vendor innovative enough to help you?
- It is different training a 40-year-old than a 20-year-old
- Ask the vendor how its training programs have changed
- Training methods – What can each vendor offer?
1) Can the vendor pick from among diverse training methodologies?
2) Is there one methodology that is a best fit for your needs and budget?
- Personality, style and presentation
1) Is this vendor a good fit for your dealership?
2) Will participants look forward to spending time with this trainer?
3) Is the trainer enthusiastic about the topic and opportunity?
4) Is the trainer curious, asking questions about your dealership or employees?
- Or, does the trainer seem to assume he/she knows everything?
5) Is the trainer a good listener?
6) Is the trainer observant?
- Like a good sports coach, the trainer should want to observe first-hand what’s going on in your dealership rather than just suggest a curriculum
- Does the vendor suggest an initial on-site visit?
- Size of the vendor
1) Size is NOT important. Dynamism, adaptability, resilience and innovation are.
- Follow-up and your future needs
1) How does the vendor say it will follow up to assess if training “sticks”?
2) Is this vendor so dynamic that you can envision working with the firm five years from now?
3) Will the vendor provide reinforcement tools and materials for after the training?
Subhead: Final Selection Checklist
- You’re down to a finalist, but you’re still unsure. What other assessment steps can you take?
- Test drive – Is the vendor willing to perform a complementary, modified program? Perhaps a limited audience or shortened version?
1) After giving a test drive, would this firm suggest a different type of training than was originally proposed?
- References – Do they check out?
1) Check multiple reference sources BEFORE making the final selection or committing to a contract
2) Check with your peers, the vendor’s current clients and/or former clients. As a general rule, checking two to three references is fine
3) Be as specific as possible when checking references
- Ask for dealerships that needed a similar training solution
4) Questions to ask references
- When was the last training you received from this vendor?
- Who delivered that training?
- Was the content relevant and timely?
- Was the pricing fair?
- Would you hire the firm again? Why or why not?
- Are there any other comments you would care to make that might help in our decision?
- References check out, and you’re ready to move forward
1) The final piece is to ask to see the training curriculum in advance
- Timing of deliverables
I believe that consistently following this simple framework of needs assessment, evaluation and selection will help tremendously in making a smart selection of a training vendor for any type of training your dealership needs.