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Originally published in TechBullion, May 18, 2018

To keep pace with competitors and a constantly evolving business landscape, every company today is being asked to run faster, better and more efficiently. Those that do at least have a chance at survival. Those that don’t likely won’t be as lucky. It’s enough to keep any company leader awake at night.

Some of these pressures can be alleviated by taking business functions in-house, but one function more and more executives are choosing to supplement with outsourced support is their learning and development function. To remain competitive and ensure employees are operating at industry-best capabilities, more than 42 percent of corporate training budgets are now being used on outsourcing vendors—a number that’s expected to rise even more in the coming years.What was once a taboo, avoid-at-all-costs concept, outsourcing, especially for L&D services, has become a demanded and effective business strategy.

And as this demand for outsourced L&D continues to grow, so do the options businesses have at their disposal—which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Today, business leaders are now inundated with an overwhelming amount of Learning and Development vendor options—last year there were over 700 L&D vendors alone—all promising results. And when the vendor you choose is in charge of developing, managing and training your workforce to improve their existing skillsets, enhance their capabilities and boost job performances – you can’t simply close your eyes and pick.

Development PartnerWith the goal to not just survive, but thrive, businesses need an experienced L&D partner that can understand and meet the unique needs of your workforce. Here are four questions for businesses to consider when selecting a Learning & Development vendor to partner with.

Does the L&D partner understand my industry?

Every successful relationship starts with a base understanding of each other – and your relationship with your learning and development partner is no exception. For an L&D partner to provide you with an effective curriculum, they must demonstrate experience in delivering successful learning interventions.

Your workforce will uncover the most value from a learning and development partner that understands and has the experience with all the nuances of designing and delivering to new audiences. When conducting your vendor vetting process, request relevant client testimonials or case studies and an overview of their facilitator vetting process. Do they have experience in designing and delivering training? How long have they been doing so in your industry, and what are some of their success stories?

Does the L&D partner provide a unique learning strategy for my company?

Just because a learning and development vendor demonstrates sufficient experience, does not automatically qualify them as the best fit for your company. Although having it will provide a strong foundational starting point, a value-producing L&D partner should be able to understand both your short and long-term goals for your specific business.

After a few discussions with a potential partner, you should feel confident they understand where your company is now and where you want to be with your learning and training programs. Learning is not a single event! To help you get from A to B, your L&D partner should provide a unique learning strategy that demonstrates a completely immersive journey of how learning objectives will be achieved. Veteran vendors will introduce a strategy that considers various learning paths your business might have, such as base level onboarding processes for new employees and continued learning modules for existing employees and their continued learning.

Does the L&D partner customize content and offer multi-channel learning options for my employees?

One of the biggest differentiators that separates the good L&D partners from the great is the vendor’s ability to understand the end-user – in this case, your employees. A strong L&D partnership will prioritize getting to know your employees’ personas, different learning styles, and barriers to success. This imperative understanding of your workforce humanizes the learning strategy in place so achieving your organizational goals becomes more realistic. Off the shelf materials won’t cut it. Choose a L&D partner that provides customized learning options to meet the needs and demands of your employees. And remember: customization doesn’t stop at content-type, either. Your L&D partner should provide multi-channel delivery methods for your learning .

When comparing L&D partners, keep in mind the phrase “Just Enough. Just for Me. Just in Time.” You want learning solutions that come in digestible, easily completed pieces that are relevant and helpful for the end-user and can be readily accessible during their busy schedules.  By providing flexibility and customization to your employees, continued learning becomes seamless instead of intrusive.

Does the L&D partner track and measure our progress?

At the end of the day, having a robust learning strategy and implementation process will only be meaningful if results are achieved. Great training is good. Great results are better.

Sustainable L&D partners inherently understand this and will insist on measuring progress over time.  From increased employee engagement and productivity levels, to reduction in rollout and competency time, there are many learning and development measurements that can help qualify the value of your L&D efforts. Choose a vendor that is proactive in mapping these metrics to your articulated goals so progress can be evaluated and experienced along your business’ learning journey. This continued progress tracking will inform you and your L&D partner of how you can maintain momentum and overcome any roadblocks you face.

Navigating the cluttered learning and development vendor landscape can be overwhelming. But choosing the right partner in the right way can truly help any business empower its workforce and drive business objectives.

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