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Outsourcing L&D – The importance of a business partnership
by Rachel Kay, Business Development Director, Thales Training & Consultancy
Monday, April 02, 2012

In the past few years, outsourcing elements of Learning & Development (L&D) has become increasingly popular due to a large number of organisations experiencing static training budgets. According to recent research by the Learning & Performance Institute (LPI), 44 per cent of organisations surveyed expect their L&D budgets to remain the same in 2012. Externalised L&D offers businesses the opportunity to save valuable time, whilst maximising their investment.

When it comes to outsourcing L&D, the level to which it is outsourced depends on the company and their individual needs. We’re seeing a common theme where the private sector is really embracing the opportunities associated with outsourcing, while the public sector has fallen behind slightly.
This is also supported by the LPI’s findings, which found that the public sector has been hit by huge reductions in spend.
Some organisations may decide to simply outsource the training function whilst others may prefer to externalise the entire process, from the management and administration through to the training. Whilst organisations today understand the benefits L&D will have on their employees’ performance and productivity, in times of austerity they can be forced to focus on reducing their bottom line, pushing L&D down the list of priorities. On the other end of the spectrum, some organisations are committed to continuing their investment in L&D, despite the economic conditions, and outsource their L&D because it can offer them the best return for their investment. It also provides expertises that they wouldn’t have access to in house.

Every organisation has its own unique reasons for outsourcing L&D but it is of the upmost importance that the selected vendor fully understands the company’s business, its expectations and objectives from L&D. The first step to laying down the foundations of a successful working relationship between both parties is ensuring that the responsibility falls in the right hands. We believe the business partner model is the best approach, offering the external vendor more influence internally, allowing the business to fully benefit from their knowledge and expertise. The model also specifies the vendor’s obligations through a service level agreement that quantifies their obligations, in turn placing the responsibility onto the vendor.

The L&D Director is central to the success of this relationship by identifying the correct vendors, communicating the company’s objectives and expectations, and by ensuring that the training programme is in line with the company’s culture and ideologies. Researching vendors that can offer the right fit in terms of culture, experience and ability to fulfil the company’s training requirements is critical. Employees flourish when they know that their training is in the hands of a credible organisation that understands them and the business they work for. By taking the right initial steps when choosing the vendor, L&D Directors can avoid any unnecessary complications later down the line and reap the benefits of contracting and working alongside an L&D vendor that really understands their business and can offer the expertise and skills needed by the business, to help take it forward.

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