T&D Outsourcing as a Strategy

How to make the fastest-growing area of HRO work for your company.

by Matt DeLuca

Training and development outsourcing is one of the HRO areas with the greatest potential. But first, those evaluating their T&D programs must educate themselves on how to make them an A-plus strategy.

 

Of all the human capital/HR activities that lend themselves to outsourcing, the area with the greatest potential is training and development (T&D). Pre-Internet and before IT demonstrated its potential, the HR professionals T&D initiatives were restricted by location, cost, and availability. They were also restricted by the organizations ultimate resourcethe caliber of the training professional (if, that is, the organization believed strongly enough in T&Ds importance that it budgeted for one).

 

The potential of T&D as an effective function was limited even further by complications that have existed since its inception. First, candidates frequently targeted for the T&D profession were career-changing teachers from the primary and secondary education ranks. The challenge with this is that not only do children learn differently from adults, but also training is a different skill set than educating.

 

Second, employees were often made trainers, not due to their ability or potential, but rather because of their temperament, personality, or the needs of the organization. Finally to complicate matters further, training professionals too frequently prefer the excitement of classroom presentations to the aspects of T&D design. This results in many training presentations being given by professionals who are only subject matter experts in how adults learn and not experts in T&D program design (and even subject-matter experts are not always guaranteed).

 

The whole question of T&D becomes quite strategic when approached in this context. There is a lot at stake for the organization in light of the competencies it is trying to develop for its employees. But dont let a fear of tackling a highly strategic issue prevent you from doing it. Because doing nothing different from the status quo, or even nothing at all, is also a strategic decisionwith its own set of dire consequences.

 

When the T&D function is considered in its entirety, think of the full range of activities, including administration, evaluation, Website design, and maintenance. In fact, as with all outsourcing considerations, early on in the process, you should consider breaking down each function into core competencies and commoditized (and labor-intensive) activities. The core elements are those that your organization does well and that provide a competitive advantage. Commoditized activities are those that sap energy and resources but are tangential and nonconsequential when done correctly.

 

Commitment to any T&D effort should be part of an overall organizational development strategy that should really be undertaken internally. To entrust others with this process is to deny key players inside the structure the chance to determine what would really be effective. In fact, as with all strategic planning, the process is as important as the result. Others may be called in to provide advice, but the decision should rest with those responsible for providing leadership for the organization.

 

Before we discuss where to begin, you need to consider your personal attitude toward T&D. See if you agree with this statement: You have many more resources accessible to you if you agree that you want the best available training for your organization, regardless of where you find it. This is a big step for those organizations that have traditionally prided themselves on homegrown training and believed it was the best available.

 

Consider a gap-analysis approach. Ask your executive team and C-level players what they feel the organization needs from training to maximize organizational effectiveness. Get granular and obtain all the details that you can, and avoid generalizations.

 

Then ask each of the key staff members you approach what they would like to see and expect from in-house training efforts. Even ask what they think of the new employee-orientation program as well as any other training programs currently provided internally. Your goal is two-fold. First, to determine the priority level these key executives assign to the training function. Second, to assess their level of sophistication for what they feel training should and should not be expected to do.

 

Before you begin the next phase of T&D assessment, one more step to take (assuming you have received positive indications from your activities above) is to continue your research by enlisting the support of anyone organizationally who could provide you with additional input. This includes reaching out to contacts locally and elsewhere who will share with you information about what they and their organizations are doing and what resources they are using.  

Posted January 10, 2005 in Engaged Workforce

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