Outsourcing L&D – The importance of cultural fit
by Danny Roberts, Head of Managed Service Development, Thales Training & Consultancy
In our last post we discussed the role L&D directors play when outsourcing the learning & development function, and the influence a good business partnership has on this. What is just as significant is the need for L&D directors to research and identify vendors that can offer the right fit in terms of culture, experience and ability to fulfil their company’s training requirements.
Whilst it’s important for a provider to have plenty of industry experience, they must be amenable to your cultural needs. For example, does the provider offer a learning environment best suited to your employees? Some people prefer classroom learning, whilst others favour workshops or e-learning programmes. Also, will the training be offered at times or places which are convenient to your employees and your business operation? If the answer to these is no, then their sector experience is all for nothing. Whilst industry experience is important, organisations looking to outsource L&D shouldn’t discount a practitioner’s other industry expertise where they can bring in external ideas that may help to change a cultural or training paradigm.
It goes without saying that the quality of delivery needs to be high, but in a managed service model it’s also essential that the provider is capable of offering the consultancy and management framework to elevate it from being just a set of training sessions to a longer term business objective led L&D strategy.
Cultural fit is also dependant on your outsourcing stance. Do you regard what you are outsourcing as a commodity and therefore transactional, or are you more about investing in something that will help transform what you do? Seen as a continuum, the “Values” or culture of your partner probably becomes more important when selecting your partner.
Ultimately, it’s about calculating risk; trying to find an L&D provider who fits your preferred balance between intimate sector knowledge and an engaged and collaborative culture whilst being able to deliver a strategic managed service.
As such the tendering process needs to be rigorous in reflecting the need to find the perfect balance for your business. However, because the L&D industry is still in its infancy, the current quality of requests for information (RFIs) are relatively poor, so much so that it makes it arduous to measure feedback. Be clear about your strategy in outsourcing and what you want from it, you will get a better response.
This puts more emphasis on ensuring that during initial enquiries and meetings with prospective managed service providers, L&D directors take away as much as possible in terms of how much they feel the organisation would be a credible partner to their business. Evaluating cultural fit is equally as important as sector experience.