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Four secrets of successfully outsourcing L&D


Can't build your learning strategy in-house? Follow Danny Roberts's outsourcing tips.

Although there is plenty of evidence that implementing learning and development initiatives benefits companies, the fact remains that many companies lack the infrastructure and general knowledge needed when it comes to actually producing a workable, measurable plan. If this is the case within your company, don’t despair: you don’t have to handle your learning and development activities yourself. You can seek help from specialised L&D providers who can reflect your needs as a business through implementing bespoke L&D programmes that they can manage on your behalf.

However, it can be difficult to successfully outsource something that is so entwined with the culture and fabric of the company, let alone something that so closely impacts upon the business’s future achievements. How can you achieve this without running into issues which could compromise your L&D goals?

The four Es

A No-Nonsense Guide To L&D Development preaches the importance of the four Es: effectiveness, efficiencies, economies and evaluation.

  • Effectiveness: the whole point of implementing learning and development plans is to increase the effectiveness of team members in terms of productivity and the range and level of different skills. Ask yourself if the provider is achieving this – if not, why not? What could be changed?
  • Efficiencies: if you outsource your L&D functions, then the speed and efficiency of learning throughout the company should be vastly improved – whole days can be set aside for training as often as necessary, rather than trying to fit it into spare half-hours and afternoons here and there. It gets managers and team members up to speed in a more transparent way and ahead of projected schedules.
  • Economies: there is no point in outsourcing learning and development if it ends up costing you more money than you’d otherwise be spending, but a dedicated, professional L&D provider should help bring your overheads down (it’s always cheaper to buy in specific parts of L&D rather than employing trainers in a full-time L&D department) in addition to developing your employees.
  • Evaluation: it is extremely important to be able to evaluate the performance of the L&D provider at regular intervals in order to ensure that they are still succeeding and providing value to the business. Agree the evaluation criteria (i.e. improved productivity, higher level of achievement and so on relevant to a specific department) with them before you enter into a partnership so that no disputes can arise if their performance drops off.


The best way to achieve the four Es on a regular basis is to aim for automation in your outsourced L&D services, something which is expected to rise in popularity in 2015. The best option is a learning management system (LMS), which the provider doesn’t have to offer themselves. However, they do have to know how it works and how they can get the best out of it as far as your specific needs are concerned. There are a number of different LMS options in a range of prices available for organisations of different levels to take advantage of, so they shouldn’t be off-limits to anyone.

Choose what you want to outsource

You don’t have to outsource every single aspect of your learning and development to the provider. Instead, you can cherry-pick different parts that you would prefer to keep in-house (such as the training of managers, for example) and let the provider handle the training of team members. A good provider should be able to take a flexible approach to the way you want to do things.

Case studies of previous work

Before you make any decisions about which provider you should pick, you should ask all of the prospective candidates to produce case studies of their previous work with businesses similar to yours. This will allow you to see where they have succeeded and, importantly, 'where they have struggled with complex challenges but found a way through.'

By doing this, you will have a solid idea of the kind of benefits they could bring to your organisation and be able to make a more informed choice. Ensuring that you pay attention to the four Es, cherry-pick what you want to outsource, adopt automation (if applicable) and double-check that a provider is actually capable of meeting your business needs via previous case studies are four things that you need to do to ensure the successful outsourcing of your learning and development. Your business and people can then grow efficiently while saving money and time.


Danny Roberts is head of managed service at Thales Learning & Development. With over 12 years’ experience working in and around L&D, in the training, further education and apprenticeship markets, his specialism now lies in consulting with customers to create truly bespoke outsourcing solutions that reflect genuine business needs. Danny is a regular contributor to Enhance – The Magazine for Learning and Development.

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