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Corporate Training & Development

Finding the Right Training & Development Outsourcer

POSTED 10/15/2015
By Lee Bob Black

Are you contemplating outsourcing your training function? If you are, here are some high-level considerations:

  • Which training services and technology should you outsource and which should you keep in-house?
  • What are your outsourcing requirements?
  • How will you identify and evaluate training outsourcing consultants and companies?

The reasons for outsourcing training haven’t changed much in over a decade. Cost cutting. Focusing on core business. Mitigating risk. Accessing needed skills.

Advances in technology have provided even more reasons to prompt companies to rethink their training games. In recent years, cloud-based learning solution providers reshaped the market. Nowadays, many high-growth companies are just as likely — perhaps more likely — to use a corporate learning portal hosted by Grovo for Organizations, Udemy for Business, or Skillshare for Organizations as they are to implement their own in-house learning management system (LMS).

Outsourceable Training and Development Tasks

Broadly, outsourcers can support your company by providing virtual-lead training, online self-paced learning, and classroom-based instruction. Keep in mind though, these companies can contribute much more than just training. They can provide everything from administrative tasks to strategic planning. Here are some examples of tasks that can be outsourced.

  • Assessing skills gaps
  • Developing training strategies
  • Designing curriculums and courseware
  • Designing certification programs and assessment criteria
  • Providing applications that support and encourage learning
  • Implementing and administering LMSs
  • Managing training content
  • Event management and logistics (for classroom-based instruction)
  • Setting benchmarks to measure training effectiveness
  • Providing help desk services (single point of contact for learner requests)
  • Providing learning analytics
  • Training related to government regulations (e.g. safety or environmental regulations)
  • Training related to employment laws (e.g. equal employment opportunity laws)

Front vs. Back Office

A distinction to help you consider which tasks to outsource is to think about training in terms of the traditional “back office” and “front office” split. This divide, which usually applies to staff who support processes compared to those who deal directly with customers, can be applied to learners.

In short, back back office training functions include tasks related to supporting learners, such as regulatory filings and managing learning systems/portals. Front office training functions include face-to-face activities, such as conducting training and working with business teams to develop and deliver training. One approach is to favor outsourcing back office tasks, thus freeing up staff to carry out the more fulfilling and productive work of skilling up staff and developing internal talent.

Evaluating Training Outsourcing Companies

Top U.S. Training Outsourcing Companies

Since 2008, Training Industry, a trade magazine and training portal, has released an annual global top 20 list of the best training outsourcing companies. The following U.S. companies appeared on the 2015 list:

Company Headquarters TrainingIndustry.com Profile and Company Website
Aptara Falls Church, VA Profile, aptaracorp.com
Cognizant Technology Solutions Teaneck, NJ Profile, cognizant.com
Expertus Santa Clara, CA Profile, expertus.com
GP Strategies Columbia, MD Profile, gpstrategies.com
IBM Armonk, NY Profile, ibm.com/training
InfoPro Learning Plainsboro, NJ Profile, infoprolearning.com
Lionbridge Waltham, MA Profile, lionbridge.com
MicroTek Downers Grove, IL Profile, mclabs.com
NIIT Enterprise Learning Solutions Atlanta, GA Profile, niit.com
Pearson Boston, MA Profile, pearsoned.com/professional
Performance Development Group Malvern, PA Profile, performdev.com
Raytheon Professional Services Garland, TX Profile, raytheon.com
Skillsoft Nashua, NH Profile, skillsoft.com
The Training Associates Westboro, MA Profile, thetrainingassociates.com
Xerox Learning Services Irving, TX Profile, xerox.com/learning-services

Checklist for Training Outsourcing Companies

Though comprehensive and from a reputable source, this list is just one way to evaluate the pros and cons of a potential relationship with a training outsourcing company. Also consider investigating the following:

Costs

  • Are their costs fixed or variable?
  • When other clients have gone over budget, how did they respond?
  • Are there any hidden or additional costs?

Deliverables and deadlines

  • Are their deliverables and deadlines realistic?
  • Is each deliverable linked to a deadline?
  • What happens when a deliverable or deadline isn’t met?

Reliability and references

  • What industry affiliations do they have?
  • Are they members of professional training organizations?
  • Are they an audited/certified ISO company?
  • Does the client list on their website have more details than just links to their clients?
  • What credible client references can they provide?

Project experience and company fit

  • Have they worked on projects like yours?
  • Do they have other clients in your industry?
  • Are there videos online of their trainers that you can watch?

Risks

  • What is their problem resolution process?
  • What kind of insurance do they have?
  • Do they backup your learning material?

Is Outsourcing Right For You?  

Before Outsourcing People, Consider Insourcing   

While this article focuses on outsourcing, it’s important to evaluate other options. Before relying on consultants to manage and deliver your corporate training, consider insourcing it. In-house trainers bring many benefits to your organization.

  • Extensive business knowledge — full-time internal trainers are often more knowledgeable about the current, real-life problems your company faces
  • Keep talent internal — maintaining dedicated learning and development staff on the payroll prevents your company relying primarily on external experts
  • Control — insourcing means maintaining full command of your training function
  • Avoid the “outsider” problem — some staff might not appreciate consultants informing them how to learn new skills and be better at their jobs

Before Outsourcing Technology, Consider Keeping It In-House

There are dozens of do-it-yourself training and development platforms based on open-source software that can be installed for free. For instance, GetApp lists 11 open-source LMSs and 14 that have a freemium pricing model. Also, Capterra lists what it considers to be the best open source and free LMSs.

There are some tradeoffs with free, open-source LMSs. Some cons include less functionality, less customer support, and the need for internal IT expertise to implement and manage the system.

Free, open-source LMSs are not the only way to keep learning technology in-house. There are hundreds of corporate learning content management systems and LMSs. Some are off-the-rack and suitable for various industries. Others are customizable and made for specific industries. We recommend reading the reviews and using the filters on the following aggregators to find the right learning solution: Capterra (300+ LMSs), GetApp (50+ LMSs), and SoftwareInsider (300+ LMSs).

Resources

The author used the following resources to research and write this article.

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