How organisations choose external L&D partners

Organisations are presented with innumerable options in the vast L&D marketplace of today

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All major companies with a robust HR function, have a core L&D team that takes care of the capability-development needs of the organisation. Sometimes, however, the internal resources are just not enough. With emerging disruptions and unprecedented changes, businesses are regularly going through changes, which give birth to new problems, and this is where external partners play a role in upskilling and upgrading the capabilities and talent levels.

“Competencies available internally are limited and not apt for an organisation to fulfil certain L&D goals. One requires the help of a subject-matter expert in such cases, to fulfil objectives. For senior leadership development, in particular, subject matter experts are required to bring credibility and seriousness,” says Anil Mohanty, head of people, Medikabazaar.

Now the question is how do organisations choose between one L&D partner and another. Even here there is a problem of plenty – some are individual led companies and some have large corporate set up and each one has its own plus and minuses.

Here is what we could gather after speaking to several HR and learning heads across companies.

“Competencies available internally are limited and not apt for an organisation to fulfil certain L&D goals. One requires the help of a subject-matter expert in such cases, to fulfil objectives. For senior leadership development, in particular, subject matter experts are required to bring credibility and seriousness.”

Anil Mohanty, head of people, Medikabazaar

Experience in learning programmes

By outsourcing their L&D function to a third party, organisations try to address their specific needs and problems. Therefore, it is natural for them to want to find out whether the potential vendor has adequate experience addressing similar needs or whether the vendor has resolved similar L&D problems for other organisations in the past.

Organisations would also want to know whether the vendor has worked with similar clients, and whether the vendor possesses thorough knowledge of their industry. They would prefer a vendor that understands the culture of the company in depth.

Quality of work

Quality learning definitely matters to all organisations, for they wish to provide the best learning experience to their employees. To achieve that, they would want the vendor to possess apt resources, content, quality mentors, faculty and subject-matter experts to provide the kind of learning, which directly meets the organisational learning requirements.
Cost

When an organisation is satisfied with the product orientation and services of the vendor, the next important step is to see if it can afford that vendor. It will have to evaluate its budget before signing up the vendor or assess whether the presented product or services are worth the spend.

“Depending on the need and size of reskilling activity, the period is finalised and the cost also varies depending on the number of employees who are getting reskilled.”

A senior L&D leader from the telecom sector

EVALUATION PROCESS

The evaluation process, whether it is of a learning management system (LMS) or a learning product, is more or less the same. Slight modifications may be required as now it is all about integrating or implementing the product in the organisation. Some points that need to be considered are as follows:

Analysing the need

The L&D leaders first understand the goals and priorities of the organisation by taking a feedback from the management. Then, by talking to the users and training groups they also get an idea of the operational needs and finally they try to comprehend the technical needs by engaging in a dialogue with the IT department and gauging their technical constrains.

“If a sales team goes through a training programme, the impact will be measured after a few months, based on the total revenue generated. When a client-servicing team or customer-care team goes through a learning programme, customer satisfaction reports or reduction in customer complaints are measured.”

Divaker Pulkuri, head of learning, Café Coffee Day

Meeting the requirements

The requirements are generally divided into three different buckets. The first is, functional — which addresses how one wants the product to be from a learning management perspective. The second is, technical, which focuses on how it will fit into the IT infrastructure of the organisation, and the third is cost, which should meet the budget constraints, considerations and expectations.

Vetting

Next, companies get down to making a list of all the vital features or requirements they wish to see in the product and start shortlisting products, which fulfil the criteria. This is done to evaluate which product fits the best, taking into account the functional and technical requirements of the company. As there are so many products in the marketplace, everyone may not support multiple languages or every product may not comply with accessibility and security regulations.

Other factors and final selection

Companies may also talk to other clients to take referrals and feedback about the product to find out what they feel will improve their experience with the product. Organisations may also request a demo or a trial period to evaluate the UI and UX of the product.

Finally, after considering all the aforementioned factors, an organisation will zero in on the final product, which will meet all their requirements.

Generally, these are annual deals but it depends on the need of the organisation. Some may only require the help of the external vendor for a specific project.

“Depending on the need and size of reskilling activity, the period is finalised and the cost also varies depending on the number of employees who are getting reskilled,” shares a senior L&D leader from the telecom sector.

Most companies look to partner with multiple vendors to fulfil their L&D needs, as one vendor alone may not have the capacity to address all the L&D issues of the organisation.

“One vendor cannot fulfil each and every need of the organisations. Therefore, organisations collaborate with multiple companies specialising in specific domains or sector, for varying needs,” says Divaker Pulkuri, head of learning, Café Coffee Day.

This also creates competition between the vendors, which allows for negotiation and offers an opportunity to demand the best prices.

Service ratings of the L&D providers: After the learning intervention or the training initiative is concluded, the L&D providers are evaluated on the following parameters:

Reactions of the participants

The best people to give feedback regarding whether actual learning took place or not, are the participants in the programme. They are in a position to rate the training or learning session through scores and rating scales.

Behavioural change

The organisation analyses the performance of the individual on the job and the changes he/she is experiencing before and after the training session.

ROI

After a couple of months when the training ends, the business impact is analysed where ROI is measured in terms of monetary terms or tangible returns.

“If a sales team goes through a training programme, the impact will be measured after a few months, based on the total revenue generated. When a client-servicing team or customer-care team goes through a learning programme, customer satisfaction reports or reduction in customer complaints are measured,” explains Pulkuri.

As learning is a continuous process in all firms, organisations will look for the best learning partner considering all the above factors.

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