Resist the urge to pick training based on time and cost alone

Captain Kirk often put up a good show of resisting evil forces, but I fear most of us fail when it comes to opting for an ‘easy solution’

If he was organising H&S training the evil force that he…MUST…RESIST…would be to go for the simple ‘book someone to tell ‘em’ solution….and maybe some hard over-acting would be involved.

I often say that if you kept boiling down health and safety the 3 main staples of it are Policy, Risk assessment, and Training.

So it comes to training, guess what is uppermost in the minds of those who make an enquiry about our training? (bearing in mind we’re not talking about qualification courses here with highly fixed learning outcomes).

  •  Perhaps details about the content of the course?
  • Maybe ideas about what the attendees will be able to do afterwards?
  • Or perhaps something about how tailored the course would be to their organisation/culture and risk profile?

Think again…most enquirers want to know: how long is the course and how much does it cost.

Usually the person commissioning it hasn’t a clue what sort of outcome they want or need – very often it’s an MD’s PA or Office Manager who’s been asked to put together some ideas. Clearly, and understandably, they don’t want to get into the detail of what the purpose of the course is in the first place…it’s just training, init?!

If one considers a training course or programme as a project, then – like other types of project – there are 3 main interdependent variables:


Cost and


If both Time and Cost are squeezed, which they often are, guess what the influence might be on Quality? (in other hands of course!).

This is great for unscrupulous or uncaring trainers because very often there’s no come-back.

Just get people together, get them chatting and sharing, tell them some stuff they perhaps didn’t know (and probably don’t need to know), a few fun exercises, lots of reading from PowerPoint slides and Ta-Da! They’re trained! Over to you!

Scrupulous (funny how we rarely use this word these days) trainers will fight to make an impact on the learners so that there’s been a positive and noticeable impact on their post-training behaviour – because the training is designed that way. Of course, this requires open access, discussion, tailoring etc. and this is something that the ‘quick booker’ doesn’t want to get into particularly given the myriad of firms bidding for work and the difficulty of determining what the outcome they want actually is.

Recently though, it’s been encouraging how many trainers I’ve come across have adapted to include post-training coaching as part of the package – unfortunately, this seems to apply to high-value contracts with so-called ‘soft-skills’ training e.g. Communications, Leadership etc.

What is not often realised is that Health & Safety isn’t just ‘compliance vs. non-compliance’, but involves a huge amount of ‘soft-skills’ e.g. consulting with the workforce, communicating verbally and in writing, weighing up lots of competing variables such as risk, cost, quality etc.

What to do instead

I would urge those organising training to resist the easy ‘chalk and talk’ brigade – health and safety has to be tailored to the culture and risk profile of the organisation, and this includes training.

Take time to meet and talk things through with the training company – use their expertise up-front to determine your organisation’s training need in this complex area. If necessary, pay them to do this – rarely will the cost of a course include pre-course visits and analysis that may well prove that you need less than you thought you did 🙂

And lastly, no matter how experienced the trainer is, if they are overly officious and bore you to tears, think of the effect on your workforce and resist the temptation to book them because they’re cheap and the course is quick.