Although a lot of companies would undoubtedly prefer to keep all of their operations in-house, this sometimes isn’t realistic. Whether you are suffering from budget or other resource restrictions, lack of personnel or a general lack of time to do a high-quality job, many other organisations are available to handle things on your behalf.

However, this always requires a certain amount of faith and trust placed in the company you choose to outsource your operations to. Although they will obviously be knowledgeable and experienced in your sector, you can never really make a full assessment of their suitability for your company until they have started working for you.

This means that you have to take as much care as possible when it comes to whittling down the list of potential outsourcing candidates, especially with regard to learning and development, which is one of the trickiest aspects of business to get right even when you’re dealing with it yourself. Because it’s difficult to quantify, it’s difficult to ascertain whether it is having a positive effect and it will be even harder to do so if you’re not doing it yourself.

You don’t have to outsource everything

One of the most common misconceptions about outsourcing L&D is that you have to outsource all or nothing, but this isn’t the case. There’s nothing wrong with cherry-picking the training that you want to carry on doing yourself (such as the training of managers and senior staff, for example) and allowing the outsourced company to handle the rest (such as the training of more junior employees). This allows you to be flexible and still retain some control over your own operations – a good training provider will recognise this as a basic customer need and work with you to match your requirements.

Automation is crucial

Automation is a massive timesaver for L&D teams, even if it’s only used to handle the most basic organisational and administrative tasks. The best source of automation is a learning management system which can be implemented in collaboration with a training provider. They don’t necessarily have to have developed the system, but they do need to know how it works so you can get the best out of it as far as your specific organisational needs are concerned.

Case studies can be revealing

When choosing your L&D outsourcing partner, examine case studies from the various candidates’ past work so you can more easily ascertain if they’re the right fit for you in terms of the way they work and conduct themselves. They should be able to demonstrate where they’ve succeeded and, more importantly, where they’ve overcome difficulties and challenges to provide discernible benefits to a client in the past.

Know what the KPIs are going to be

There’s no point in enlisting a training provider when you don’t know how you’re going to evaluate their effectiveness. It’s important that you discuss evaluation criteria with your chosen training partner so you can come up with a suitable set of KPIs that you both feel are fair to all involved, taking your aims and goals into consideration.

Utilise small projects to pilot an outsourcing partnership

When considering whether to outsource your L&D to a provider, you may be tempted to trial that company to assess their suitability. When doing so, it’s often better to initially ask your potential partner to work on a small project. This enables you to evaluate whether they are the right fit in terms of approach, content and delivery, while allowing you to retain more control during this tentative period. It will also make it much easier to monitor the outcomes of one small project, compared to evaluating the success of the whole L&D vision. Even the smallest possible project will give you a much better feeling for the partner company, empowering you to make a much more informed decision about whether this is the right option for your business.

By Danny Roberts

About the author

Danny Roberts is Head of Managed Service at Thales Learning & Development. With over 12 years’ experience working in and around L&D, in the training, further education and apprenticeship markets, his specialism now lies in consulting with customers to create truly bespoke outsourcing solutions that reflect genuine business needs.