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  • Writer's pictureIrina Ketkin

Choosing the Right Outsourcing Partner for Learning and Development


As much as we want, L&D can’t be everywhere all at once. This is where vendors and partners come into play. They can help you save costs, provide specialized expertise and scale your interventions worldwide. But how do you pick the right outsourcing partner? Let’s explore the key factors you need to consider when selecting the right L&D vendor.

Table of content:



1. Clearly Define Your Learning and Development Objectives

Whether you are designing a complex leadership development program or implementing the latest Learning Management System (LMS), the very first thing you need to decide is what your objectives are.


To do this:

· Identify the end-users and/or target learners of your intervention(s),

· Consider their skills and knowledge gaps,

· Define specific learning outcomes you want to achieve,

· Determine the budget for the L&D initiative,

· Set realistic timelines.


This list is de facto your ideal outsourcing partner criteria. This step is truly the most important on our list because it serves as a yardstick to evaluate all potential vendors.


Learning Objectives Examples


Leadership Development Program Objective:

Enhance the leadership skills and capabilities of middle managers in the organization to drive effective team performance and promote a culture of innovation. By the end of the program, middle managers will be able to effectively communicate organizational goals, motivate and inspire their teams, make informed decisions, resolve conflicts constructively, and foster a culture of innovation. This program will be delivered to 100+ managers, the budget is $100 000, and the timeline is Jan – Jun 2024.


Learning Management System Implementation Objective:

Implement a user-friendly Learning Management System (LMS) to enhance the training and development of all 3000 employees spread across 10 locations in Europe. The LMS should enable employees to easily access training materials, complete courses at their own pace, and track their learning progress. The LMS should provide a centralized platform for delivering diverse content formats, such as videos, interactive modules, and assessments. It should be customizable, integrate with existing systems, allow for easy administration of users, and provide ongoing technical support. The LMS should be implemented by Q1 2024 and within the allocated budget of €50 000.




2. Assess the Outsourcing Partner's Expertise and Experience

One of the main reasons you’d turn to an L&D partner is for their experience or expertise, which may be missing in-house. You can evaluate their industry knowledge, the types of clients they have worked with in the past, their understanding of adult learning principles, instructional design methodologies, and how they use emerging trends in L&D by looking at previous work samples or organizing a short demo. An experienced partner will bring valuable insights and best practices even in a 30 min conversation.



3. Evaluate their Technology Capabilities

This may not be valid for all types of L&D initiatives. For example, if you’re on the hunt for a new LMS, the vendor’s technological infrastructure will be at the forefront of all discussions. But when it comes to other learning interventions, like development programs or one-off training workshops, all you need to know is how to reach the vendor via email and phone.


If technology is an important part of the conversation and at the heart of what you’re trying to do (again, a good example here are LMSs and eLearning course creation), then make sure the vendor’s technology aligns and can be supported by your existing organizational systems.



4. Review Content Development and Customization Capabilities

Sometimes you’ll need off-the-shelf content. But more often than not, you’ll require at least some customization to the learning experiences you are after. In those cases, an important question to ask is, “Can this vendor create a customized learning tailored to our organization’s needs?” A good indicator of this is if they have access to subject matter experts who can develop relevant and engaging content.


Generally speaking, it’s always a good practice to look for partners who can design learning experiences that are interactive, learner-centric, and aligned with your organization’s culture and values.



5. Consider Scalability and Flexibility

Keep in mind that your organization may grow and evolve in time. Therefore, your L&D needs may change as well. In those cases, you want to make sure that the partner you are going with can scale their services to accommodate your future requirements. Assess their abilities to adapt and customize solutions based on your changing and/or various needs. For example, people in the UK will need a different approach than people in Japan. Likewise, people in marketing will have different learning needs and preferences to people in IT.


Another thing to be on the lookout for is the flexibility the vendor can offer in terms of project timelines, resource allocation, and budgeting.



6. Assess Communication and Project Management

Open and effective communication is critical for any successful partnership. To ensure a sustainable and successful relationship with the vendor, make sure you agree in advance who will be responsible for:

· Scheduling and administration (i.e., venue booking, snacks, invites, etc.)

· Deliverables (i.e., design and delivery of learning experiences)

· Reporting and monitoring

· Measurement of learning experience/initiative success


Overall, you want to make sure that both you and the outsourcing partner agree on your responsibilities and are clear on the project management methodologies you’ll use. This will ensure smooth collaboration and timely delivery.



7. Check References and Client Feedback

You may have agreed on everything with the future partner, but before you finalize your decision, ask for references and feedback from their current or past clients. This should give you some additional insights in their performance, reliability and client satisfaction levels. You should also look for online reviews, testimonials, and case studies to gauge their reputation in the industry.


Having said that, do not disregard a small vendor who perhaps doesn’t have a fancy website or tons of referrals. Some smaller creators (i.e., freelancers) get their clients exclusively through word of mouth without leaving a huge trail online. Either way, ask them about their past work and previous experience. You never know what hidden gems you may discover in terms of experience, creativity, and cost-effectiveness. The key is to thoroughly discuss their experience and ability to meet your specific L&D needs. Sometimes, smaller vendors can offer personalized attention, flexibility, and a fresh perspective that larger companies may not be able to provide. So, keep an open mind and explore all possibilities when selecting an outsourcing partner for your learning and development initiatives.



Conclusion

Selecting the right outsourcing partner for your L&D needs requires careful consideration and evaluation. By clearly defining your learning objectives, assessing the partner's expertise and experience, reviewing their technology and content development capabilities, considering scalability and flexibility, assessing communication and project management practices, and checking references and client feedback, you can make an informed decision.


Remember that the size of the vendor doesn't always reflect their quality or potential. Some smaller vendors can offer unique expertise and cost-effectiveness. So, be open-minded and explore all possibilities. Ultimately, finding the right outsourcing partner will help you save costs, gain specialized expertise, and scale your L&D interventions, driving the success of your organization.


How do you select the right partner for your L&D initiatives? Let us know in the comments below.

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