Outsourced learning solutions continue to build momentum as buyers realize the advantages of an external solution. Growing pains, however, are unavoidable.
The ability for organizations to attract and retain talented employees is becoming a key competitive advantage. As such, many corporations have established corporate learning organizations as a tool for the development of human capital. Furthermore, the convergence of learning and talent management is emerging rapidly as more executives increasingly view learning and talent management as essential initiatives in developing talent to move the organization toward its goals.
In today’s business environment, it is essential that business line owners have the ability to seamlessly assess employee competencies and performance, providing them with learning experiences that will increase their ongoing job capabilities. This demands that the learning organization become more consultative and performance-
oriented in nature and move beyond some of the administrative and transactional elements of delivering training. Many organizations have turned to learning outsourcing as a key mechanism in helping to shoulder the increased resources and costs associated with managing learning system technologies and performing more of the development and delivery aspects of training.
However, unlike the market we were in just a few short years ago, today we find that many organizations have grown tepid about turning over the entire learning function to external service providers. This is due to several factors.
Often, external solutions for corporate learningmanagement have been siloed and separated from the applications used for performance and talent management. As a result, these solution deployments have been fragmented and remained incomplete, leading to higher costs and missed business goals. In addition, as many can attest, recruiting process outsourcing (RPO) has been stealing the majority of the thunder in the talent management outsourcing space this year.
Buyers are not only confused by the dizzying array of choices offered by the learning community, but they are also fearful to hear about failed deals and disaster projects. At the extremes, some customers are simply throwing up their hands and giving up, taking back the learning function internally.
However, as Seth Godin alluded to in his recently published book entitled, “The Dip,” when people and organizations quit, they are often focused on the short-term benefits and not looking to the long-term solution. Clients and the learning outsourcing service provider community must work through this “dip” together to overcome many of the barriers that have been put up. After all, not many would quit a marathon at mile 25. Ambitious learning organizations are able to visualize the idea of the light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it.
Currently, almost 30 percent of the HRO contracts tracked by TPI include some component of learning, when large firms outsource workforce administration (which includes the employee service center, as well as the human resources information systems). Working with some of the leading HRO and learning service providers, TPI has made significant inroads to establish common service-bundles and service levels in the learning outsourcing market.
For example, a buyer may wish to purchase only the administration and hosting of a learning solution technology, or a full, learning outsourcing solution, which may include learning strategy and analysis, custom content development, instructor training delivery, learning technologies hosting and administration, vendor management, and performance reporting and analysis. We believe the marketplace for outsourced learning solutions is currently going through this dip—the long slog between starting and real mastery. The service provider and sourcing community are coming together to help clients work through the available choices and designing outsourced learning solutions that will work best.
So how does the story end? The irreversible force of the learning outsourcing market is undeniable. The benefits are just too great. But, the key is education. For example, expectations for learning outsourcing success appear to run a course of unjustified optimism in the early years to a more rational expectation—through experience—in later years. Organizations dipping their toes in the learning outsourcing water today will benefit from lessons learned by respondent organizations already swimming up the stream.