Small is beautiful in the training world

This morning I reviewed some training material from one of the largest training companies in the UK and (imho) it was terrible. It was out of date, inaccurate, with slides packed with text, and various formatting errors. It prompted this post, which, although an unashamed promotion of small training companies, like George Training & Development, is a valid observation, I believe, that smaller training companies will always be a  better option when looking for training (particularly in the software development world).

Having worked in training for many years, both for myself and sub-contracting to other training companies, I believe there are 3 things (at least) that smaller training companies will always do better on.

    • More likely to be at the cutting edge of new knowledge.

This isn’t an issue just for commercial training organisations. All large-scale educational establishments, such as universities and colleges, struggle to keep up to date with the latest ideas and knowledge. In our ever more fast-paced world, where new discoveries can be found and spread instantly online, it still takes huge amounts of time to turn those ideas into training material. Even then, the investment that has gone into the existing training material usually prohibits a quick transition to new courses. Some of the material I was reviewing this morning dated from 2009 (another era in tech training terms). Small training companies, like George T&D, focus on acquiring and providing knowledge rather than assembling a portfolio of training courses. We’re simply closer to the coal-face than larger training companies and wouldn’t dream of teaching those ideas that went out of vogue a few years ago.

    • Usually employ experts in their field, not professional “trainers”

Hopefully all trainers are aiming to be as good at delivering training as they can be, but typically small training companies rely on their knowledge of the subject. Large training companies obviously make money out of the margin between paying the trainer and the income from the delegates. They undoubtedly employ expertise, but they are also more likely to train their in-house trainers to simply deliver as many courses as possible, without necessarily having expertise in that area. That’s fine for theoretical courses may be, but in practical, hands-on courses, there is often a big difference between theory and real-life experience.

    • Can afford to be more bespoke.

Large training courses have a long list of off-the-shelf courses, which may cover a certain amount of the learning requirements, but are unlikely to cover all of them. Small companies, agile as they are, are much more likely to be able to create training courses (or other learning packages) to suit those requirements far more closely.


Of course small training companies (as larger ones) can be bad as well as good, so how do you pick a good one? My suggestion is that the three points above are a good starting point for assessing their potential, i.e.

  1. Look at their ouput. Are they regularly producing material in their subject area, in blogs, conference talks and the like.
  2. Who is actually running the course? The course is only as good as the trainer, not the training company. Even if the training company is well known, the trainer could be inexperienced.
  3. Always discuss training requirements first. No context is exactly the same, so why settle for off-the-shelf courses the same as everyone else. It may (or may not) cost more, but it is false economy to pay for a course that doesn’t really address your needs.