To alleviate this situation, many companies are turning to outsourced e-learning solutions to help improve employee performance and track results. Outsourced e-learning platforms allow training and development executives to quickly and cost-effectively choose and customize interactive training content on employee desktops and manage and analyze all forms of training (Web-based, instructor-led, etc.) from a single location. This allows training and development managers to accomplish specific training goals while tracking group or individual progress with a significantly reduced amount of hands-on administration. This time and energy can then be focused on strategic initiatives that cannot be effectively outsourced.
Over the past several years, e-learning platforms have made dramatic improvements in increasing the efficiencies of managing and administrating instructor-led training. Additionally, they have enabled companies to successfully deliver, track and manage Web-based training, providing a tremendous boost to training effectiveness and efficiency. The downside is that developing and running an in-house e-learning system requires intensive up-front IT investments, up to an 18-month development period and diversion of resources toward an effort that does not require internal resources to succeed. This level of resources is above and beyond what many companies are willing or able to commit to the training function. Therefore a movement is emerging—particularly among mid-sized companies—to begin outsourcing e-learning platforms. For many companies, an outsourced e-learning solution can effectively streamline and maximize the results of any employee training initiative without requiring a huge up-front investment.
A major (and often underappreciated) benefit of utilizing an outsourced e-learning platform is the impact it has on HR/training managers. Outsourcing allows HR executives, training managers and CLOs to focus on the more strategic issues of training an organization’s employees—and also provides access to a more sophisticated technology platform and IT support system than can be achieved with an in-house e-learning solution.
Through corporate downsizing, businesses have been forced to operate as “lean and mean” as possible to remain profitable and successful. The expectations put upon training and development managers from executive management as well as from employees are greater than ever. Employees expect to be thoroughly trained to handle all additional responsibilities created by staff reductions. From the executive management’s perspective, training and development managers are expected to ensure that all employees are working in concert with the company’s business goals, contributing to the overall profitability and, importantly in many industries, doing so within regulatory guidelines. Additionally, many organizations have recently been forced to reevaluate their business model and make fundamental changes to stay competitive.
As business strategies change, it is imperative that the entire workforce is kept up-to-date on the company’s new direction as well as department-specific initiatives, which will contribute to long-term business goals. This puts a greater burden on training and development professionals to “get out into the workforce” and increasingly act as coaches and consultants to operational managers struggling to hold everything together.
An effective e-learning solution can ensure that the expectations put upon HR executives, training managers or CLOs are not only met but also exceeded. The danger is that many in-house e-learning platforms require an enormous investment in additional hardware, software and management personnel. E-learning solutions that are robust enough to truly make a significant difference in how an organization learns are time-, resource- and cost-intensive to build and maintain. Rather than focus on business problems, the training staff now spends a significant portion of its time justifying, operating and constantly upgrading the e-learning platform.
Outsourcing the e-learning solution is an ideal way to gain all the benefits of an e-learning platform without having to incur many of the costs. Benefits include:
- A Better Solution at Lower Cost
Because good outsourced vendors are focused on e-learning solutions, they have an expertise that can be replicated by only a very few large companies. A good vendor will have the collective experience of many e-learning rollouts.
Additionally, an outsourced e-learning provider will typically start with a state-of-the-art hardware/software platform (“industrial strength”). Then, in order to stay competitive, the vendor will constantly be upgrading this platform to stay current. Again, very few companies have the resources to maintain cutting-edge e-learning hardware and software in-house.
The better vendors are also great sources of “best practice” sharing. Typically, when many outsourced e-learning vendors see a process or idea work well at one company, it is in their best interest to share this with all of their clients. In this way, every client benefits from the collective experiences of the vendor’s entire client base.
Finally, outsourced providers allow training and development managers to implement their learning initiatives in a very rapid time frame. Unlike in-house applications, an outsourced solution can allow a company to be up and running and delivering critical learning to the right people literally in a matter of weeks. The difference between an implementation time of a couple of weeks with an outsourced vendor and countless months with an in-house solution can be detrimental to any company’s bottom line.
- Improved Learning for Every Employee
The best outsourced e-learning solution vendors provide employees with access to best-in-class learning management systems. These powerful software applications, when coupled with good competency models, enable individual employees to receive prescriptive learning courses that are tailored to their individual needs. The training sessions will be customized to their position in the company and will focus on the skills, knowledge and tools they will need to further their own careers, remain well informed of company policy and benefits and, ultimately, make a greater contribution to the overall success of the business. A customized outsourced e-learning solution will ensure that all employees—regardless of position or department—will be individually trained, tested and evaluated on all subject matter that will help drive corporate objectives. Not only will the company see improved performance results more quickly, but this also allows HR and training management to take on a more strategic and dynamic role within the company.
- Enable Learning Managers/Executives to Be More Strategic
Ideally, CLOs should focus the majority of their time on the development, retention and growth of quality employees, as well as effective internal communications and the allocation of employee capital. However, this is often not the case. For companies with executives exclusively dedicated to training, CLOs are busy coordinating new employee orientation and benefits sessions, scheduling employee training sessions, reminding employees to go to training and, in some cases, delivering training. These activities can be particularly overwhelming among mid-sized companies where training and development professionals have always had to cover multiple job roles. Typically this does not leave them with sufficient time to focus on analyzing strengths and weaknesses in the workforce and the impact of the training on the organization’s goals. An outsourced e-learning platform frees up the training manager to think and act strategically by automating the scheduling, tracking and data collection functions.
- Better Learning Metrics and Quantification of Value
Many businesses already spend significant amounts of money outsourcing training functions in some way. Companies contract outside instructors to administer and deliver in-house training sessions or send employees off-site to attend costly multi-day skills training classes, industry conferences or seminars. In both cases, a significant amount of money is being spent on the training itself, not accounting for the cost of the time away from the workplace or travel expenses. There is also typically little effort made to track a true return or benefit to the company.
One of the value-added services that better e-learning vendors provide to their clients is experience and expertise in quantifying the benefits of learning. Not only do these vendors have internal financial analysis resources, they often have vast databases of examples and models that can be easily applied to your particular business. This is often demonstrated as a “road map” that links learning metrics to business metrics. For example, tying a particular region’s sales improvements to the sales training courses they have taken provides management with a clear understanding of which training initiatives are driving sales and in turn, business goals.
- Consistency and Timeliness of Learning
An outsourced e-learning solution can have a wide variety of benefits for a company by providing a greater consistency in training delivered in a personalized and interactive way to achieve a greater comprehension and retention rate at a lower cost than traditional training methods.
Employees will also feel the positive impact an outsourced e-learning solution brings to an organization by becoming more engaged in the business through an interactive training experience they can take advantage of at their own convenience. They will have a greater sense of confidence and increased employee morale if they are contributing to specific business goals that were communicated directly to them from executive management.
There is no question that the roles of training and development professionals are crucial to the success of any business. However, more often than not, the strategic role of these managers is minimized by administrative training and evaluation duties, which could be more effectively managed by an outsourced e-learning solution. The implementation of an effective outsourced e-learning solution will allow training and development managers to focus their valuable time and energy on the recruitment and retention of quality employees, the promotion of a positive and productive work environment and working with the rest of the management team to ensure employees remain focused on business objectives.
Gili Gordon founded Worknowledge with a vision to help organizations manage their knowledge and human capital by leveraging the most advanced network technologies. Gordon brings 20 years of experience in financial services, technology and strategic consulting to his role as CEO. Gordon holds an MBA from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in applied math from Tel-Aviv University.