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 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||mclabs.com|
|NIIT Enterprise Learning Solutions||Atlanta, GA||niit.com|
|Pearson||Boston, MA||Profile, pearsoned.com/professional|
|Performance Development Group||Malvern, PA||Profile, performdev.com|
|Raytheon Professional Services||Garland, TX||raytheon.com|
|Skillsoft||Nashua, NH||Profile, skillsoft.com|
|The Training Associates||Westboro, MA||thetrainingassociates.com|
|Xerox Learning Services||Irving, TX||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:
- 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?
- 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 arw hundreds of learning management systems. 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).
The author used the following resources to research and write this article.
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- Elearning Industry, Aditya Pullagurla, “Outsourcing eLearning: How to check and evaluate eLearning companies,”archive
- Entrepreneur, Jason Kulpa, “Forget Outsourcing, Startups Should Hire the Best In-House Employees,” archive
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- Expertus, “Services,” archive
- GetApp, learning management systems that are open source, archive
- GetApp, learning management systems with a freemium pricing model, archive
- GP Strategies, “Learning Management Systems Help Desk Services,” archive
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- GP Strategies, “Learning and Training Outsourcing,” archive
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- Staff Source, “Professional Employment HR Services,” archive
- Training Industry, Doug Harward, “10 Reasons Companies are Outsourcing Training in Today’s Market,” archive
- Training Industry, “2015 Top 20 Training Outsourcing Companies,” archive
- Training Industry, “2015 Training Outsourcing Watch List,” archive
- Training Industry, Doug Harward, “The Market for Training Outsourcing is Changing,” archive
- Trimeritus eLearning Solutions, Don McIntosh, “Vendors of Learning Management and E-learning Products,”archive
- University of Geneva, EduTech Wiki, “Learning Management System,” archive