Turning to others for expertise, capability, bench strength and more can help companies bolster their own capabilities while saving on investment and upkeep costs. But there are often unforeseen pitfalls that can leave negative impressions of outsourcing partnerships, from selecting the wrong company to the selection process itself.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when outsourcing training that can help you determine what exactly you need from another company, to what extent and which company might best fit that need.

Establishing the Right Team

The best-led outsourcing initiatives have the right blend of team members. Certainly, the balance of procurement and operations resources is critical. But in some scenarios, early involvement of less obvious representation from legal, human resources/benefits, and tax resources may be beneficial. Your specific objectives and strategic goals must be clear to the project team (yes, the RFP is a project!). Failure to build and level-set the right team early may significantly lengthen and complicate the RFP process. It is also likely to extend and complicate the transition and implementation processes.

Timing and Sizing Up Your Need

Assessing and determining the L&D business elements that are viable candidates for outsourcing is crucial. The operating models and drivers for L&D business elements vary from company to company, so take into account your organization’s specific operating model and culture and the impacts of change.

Once you determine the outsourcing strategy that fits your organization, consider timing. Are there activities underway that may be disrupted by an outsourcing transition? It is important to evaluate what is imperative to outsource versus what may be optional. Understanding the critical components will assist in defining the size of the outsourcing engagement and timing. Here are a few other tips:

  • Key to the success of outsourcing is determining early in the process if you have the backing and commitment from key stakeholders as well as the available resources for a successful implementation.
  • Reviewing other training and technology initiatives occurring at the same time is helpful when establishing an implementation date. The RFP process often requires many resources in addition to the subject matter experts involved in the transition of services to the new vendor.
  • Underestimating the time commitment and level of effort in technology and resources may have a significant impact on the timeline and may result in unintended negative consequences. That’s why it is beneficial to have early engagement and agreement of stakeholders regarding the plan and timing.

Determining Your Objectives

Outsourcing occurs for a variety of reasons, including moving to a single-source provider; doing the work cheaper and faster; and freeing resources to focus on higher-value, strategic activities.

Define and internally agree on the overarching strategic objectives. Convey them to the bidders in the RFP. Clarity is key to allowing bidders to propose an operating model and environment based on those objectives instead their assumption. In turn, it helps ensure you receive truly viable proposals offering value.

Scope, Scope and Scope

A common shortfall of many RFPs is a failure to effectively and accurately define the scope of what is to be outsourced. This shortfall can potentially be catastrophic. Too often, the scope is defined and written by those very close to the operation, who can overlook details and elements that may seem obvious to them but that their bidders can’t know. The Q&A process may uncover many of those important details.

It is imperative that you define and describe the scope such that outside bidders are on a level playing field with each other as well any incumbent. The near-term objective of the RFP is to receive proposals that can be readily compared and that match your objectives. Including all relevant operational details, data, and metrics is necessary to avoid receiving responses with too many assumptions that do not match the reality of your situation.

Who Is the Right Vendor? Looking Beyond Price

Once you have compared all vendors’ proposed solutions and pricing, take the time to evaluate additional criteria to ensure you are selecting the best provider for your organization. Providing a cost-effective solution is one component and often the largest factor when considering which vendor to select. However, getting to know the vendor throughout the RFP process will help to determine if it is a good cultural fit for your organization.

When evaluating a vendor, you will want to understand its management style, responsiveness, flexibility and agility. Does the company have a culture of continuous improvement, an ability to identify efficiencies, and a plan for providing innovation and value during the length of the relationship? Are the team members you meet during the RFP and selection process the ones you will actually work with long term? Does the team seem easy to work with? These could be key differentiators among the vendors.

Finally, talk to the vendors’ references, and take the time to discuss the lessons they have learned during their outsourcing initiative. These conversations may be helpful in gaining additional insights that will help you manage your organization’s training outsourcing process. The true measure of a partnership is not how it works or feels when things go well but how it works and feels when things get bumpy. There will almost assuredly be bumps. How will your partner respond to challenges and changing business needs?

Ensuring the Lowered Cost Stays Low

Keeping these key considerations in mind will help outsourcing partnerships reach their full potential and the intended benefit. By evaluating and understanding what is critical, determining your objectives and selecting the best vendor, you can set a partnership in place that significantly enhances your organization’s driving power toward its business goals.