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Choosing the best trainer for the job; awarding the contract
This article takes a commissioning manager through the final stages of reviewing applications for a contract and on to suggest good practice in awarding the contract.

Reviewing a selection
Using a quantitative process of scoring against explicit criteria is the primary method of reducing the received applications down to a manageable number that you might want to investigate further. A commissioning manager would be expected to consider between three and six proposals and invite these practitioners to a selection event. These events may be either:
  • an interview
  • a presentation

A commissioning manager may find running an interview more familiar than a presentation especially if they have recruitment responsibilities. An interview is predominantly about asking pertinent questions. How might you ensure you ask the right questions that will help you decide? It is recommended that you have two sets of questions:
  • common questions; those that will be asked of all candidates to explore how each might tackle a particular aspect of the project, perhaps around the process and reporting
  • exploratory questions; those that are specific to a particular candidate and relate to clarification of points expressed within their application

When receiving answers to your questions it is advisable to remain neutral in your response so as not to offer any false indication of whether a response is appropriate. Of course if a response is totally off the mark, perhaps the candidate did not understand the request, then you should seek clarification.

A presentation is a popular way of seeing an applicant undertake an activity. That said, presentations can be very difficult to evaluate unless a defined set of criteria is in place and those observing know what they are looking for. A presentation could be very entertaining however may not meet good learning and development practice principles. TrainerBase devised an 18 point learning activity assessment criteria and this is available in the appendix. TrainerBase also provides advice and guidance on the selection of practitioners.

One last element that ought to be considered during the final selection process is contract negotiation. It is possible that a commissioning manager may not be able to agree to the structural terms of the most appropriate applicant. Rather than reject what initially appears to be the best solution, the commissioning manager should seek to negotiate more agreeable terms. Do be aware that a commercially focused learning and development practitioner is not going to give anything away unilaterally and may reduce aspects of the service to accommodate a perceived loss to the value of their prospective contract. A certain reduction in service may still render the candidate’s application the most appropriate however; too much of a reduction in service offered by the candidate may render that contract unworkable. This latter situation may result in the awarding of the contract to another practitioner.

Awarding the contract
Having reviewed the applications; short listed down to a number of candidates that you invited in for a presentation, you have now collated all the quantitative and qualitative data and have a winner. It is now time to award the contract. Inviting the winning candidate to sign a contract can be a great relief but is not the end of the process. May I advise that you do not communicate with unsuccessful candidates until after the winning candidate has signed acceptance of the contract.

Communicating with the unsuccessful candidates can be awkward but a simple ‘thank you for applying’ email goes a long way. And you never know you may have an opportunity to contract with them on another project. Do bear in mind that you may be asked for feedback on what an unsuccessful candidate needed to do to have won. There is an obligation for Public Sector organisations to provide this feedback. It is good practice that all sectors should follow. And if you have a rigorous selection process, providing feedback will be straightforward; you will have all the data that can inform the unsuccessful candidates on areas where they fell short against the winning candidate.

A commissioning manager may need to engage in final negotiations with the contract winner. These negotiations are not about structural elements; those should have been sorted prior to the award of the contract. Final negotiations will be fine tuning:
  • communication protocols (method, frequency)
  • payment specifics (how invoices are to be submitted and to whom)
  • contact/engagement details (dates, times and venues for delivery)
  • deliverables (what resources will the contractor provide)
  • provisions (what will the commissioning manager be required to provide)
  • reporting procedures (what does a commissioning manager expect at the end of the project)
  • evaluating outcomes (target/what is being evaluated, method)
  • remedial actions (what will be the protocol if something occurs that is outside the contract agreement)

The selection and awarding of a learning and development project is not the end of line for a commissioning manager. Monitoring the delivery of a learning and development event is an active task requiring project management skills. And what about the success of the intervention; has the time, effort and money invested been well spent. The next article will consider this.

Contributor Profile

Peter Mayes

Peter Mayes.

Peter Mayes is the founder and editor of TrainerBase; dedicated to helping business and other organisations find trainers and trainers find business.

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Tel 07970 746077

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Contributor: Peter J Mayes

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