FOIMan guides you through the process of organising in-house training in freedom of information, data protection or information management, helping you to get the best value from your chosen provider.

1. Do you need in-house training?

Paul presentingMuch as I’d like you to ask me to come and deliver training, make sure that you’ve thought it through. Training courses are not a magic bullet to instantly improve your compliance. They work best if they are part of an overall strategy. Consider what the aim of the training is. Is that aim best achieved with a training course? Is there a clear message that you want the training to get across? For example, if you are still developing your policy, it may be better to wait until it has been settled so that the trainer can ensure that the course reflects it. Alternatively, you may want to use an outside trainer to facilitate workshops designed to help with the development of your policy. You will get the best results from the in-house training if you have thought through these questions before you even start asking for quotes. If you’re not sure where to start with developing your training programme, FOIMan can help with that.

2. Who needs training (and what kind)?

Not everybody needs the same training. If you don’t consider the audience’s needs, it can lead to the training being a waste of time, money, and being a pretty excruciating experience for all concerned.

Think through what messages are relevant for particular audiences. It will often help to break down your employees into three groups:

  • practitioners: FOI, data protection, information and records managers, information governance staff – they’ll need more in-depth training as a rule
  • co-ordinators: staff in departments who provide leadership or more practical assistance with compliance on a day-to-day basis – depending on their role and the way your organisation manages these issues, they probably don’t need the same level of training as practitioners, but more than most staff
  • others: everybody needs to know something about these issues, but most staff probably only need a short briefing (or an e-learning module may be the most effective solution).

3. Can you make the case to those holding the purse strings?

Training can be expensive. There are ways to limit the cost (see below: How can you save money?) but you need to make sure that you can make the case to those in charge of the budget. If you’ve thought the training through as described above, that will help.

4. Who should deliver the training?

There are a growing number of information rights (data protection, GDPR, freedom of information) and information/records management training providers out there. It makes sense to get a few quotes from providers before making a decision. Who you contact is up to you: you may have attended training with a particular speaker or company before; perhaps you’ve heard recommendations from others; or the company has a good reputation in the industry.

5. How can you save money?

A lot of the well known training companies sub-contract training to freelance speakers (like myself). That means that the cost of booking training with them has to cover both the trainer’s fee and the company’s administration and profits. It can be tempting to go down this route as these companies have an established reputation. However, one way to keep costs down is to ‘cut out the middle man’ and go straight to the trainer. You can do this with FOIMan – just get in touch for a quote and you will very often find that it will be substantially cheaper than going through one of the bigger companies. Also, don’t be afraid to ‘haggle’ if there’s a particular trainer you want to use but the price isn’t quite right. Especially if you are dealing with the trainer direct, they will often be prepared to offer discounts to ensure that their training is affordable. For example, if you have a particularly small group of people (say 2-3) to train, the trainer will often be willing to discount their normal rate to ensure the training is cost effective.

6. What should you agree with the trainer?

As with so much else in life, the more you put in, the more you’re going to get out of the training. If you book the training and then don’t speak to the trainer until they arrive to deliver it, don’t be surprised if some of what they say is counter-productive. Specify clearly what you want the training to achieve, including key messages. If there are relevant policies and procedures that you want the trainer to highlight or incorporate, make sure you provide them with copies (and remember they won’t have access to your intranet!). Explain who the audience will be – is it staff from other departments without much knowledge of the subject, or members of the information governance team who’ve been doing this for years but just want an update? Ask the trainer what equipment they need. Most speakers will bring their own laptop but may want you to provide a projector or TV screen they can connect to. Flipcharts and pens may be requested. Many providers will ask you to print or circulate handouts (which they will provide digitally) for delegates (don’t forget to bear this in mind when budgeting as printing costs can get expensive, especially if a lot of staff are being trained). Finally, make sure you agree timings and tell the speaker where the training will be held pretty early on – especially if they are travelling any distance as they may need to make travel arrangements.

7. What should happen on the day?

If you’ve been communicating with the trainer since you booked the training, the day should go smoothly. Ensure that you’ve told them where to come to on arrival, and who to ask for. It is helpful if someone is available to escort them to the venue and explain any housekeeping arrangements, and if necessary to deal with any last minute problems with the venue or equipment. Try not to overburden the trainer with administration – remember you want them to be focussed on delivering the training and answering any questions that delegates may have. You do want to keep a record of those attending though so make sure a signing in sheet is made available. Budgets are tight, but a good way to ensure that employees turn up and pay attention is to provide tea and coffee and possibly even lunch. If this isn’t possible, make sure that delegates know in advance so they can bring coffee with them. Trainers won’t expect to be fed (though it’s nice when it happens!), but talking for much of the day is thirsty work, so make sure that you provide a jug of water or ready access to water in the room.

8. What happens afterwards?

Keep the signing in sheet as a record of staff who have received training. If you have asked delegates to evaluate the training, read their feedback to see if there is anything to be learnt for the future. Trainers will very often collect feedback themselves so agree with them if you want this to be shared with you.

Most companies will invoice for training after the event. If there are special requirements like needing a purchase order number to be quoted, ensure you’ve communicated this to the company by the time the training takes place. Make sure you pay the invoice on time (especially if you’ve asked me to deliver your training!).