It’s not surprising that many businesses are finding it challenging to adapt to our ever-changing world; of the Fortune 500 companies of 60 years ago, only 12 percent make the list today, while some of the current business giants weren’t even in existence at the turn of the millennium. Part of that changing world includes less formal education – there are now more small business owners in the U.S. without a four-year degree than there are with a bachelor’s degree or higher. This new reality doesn’t mean that learning is less important but that the way learning is delivered has changed.

When looking for a new learning partner, many businesses focus too much on the “learning” and not enough on the “partner.” But moving beyond a transactional relationship with your provider can have a host of benefits throughout the business. Achieving the optimum culture fit in learning and development is a balance of engagement, design, content and support.


To achieve a successful outsourced learning and development program, it’s important to engage the workforce. Ensuring that continual professional development is a priority is crucial if your business is to get the most out of its learning services provider. You should measure success by return on engagement rather than investment. While you may have signed a sizeable contract with your provider, you can only develop employees who want to grow.

Creating an open, honest and two-way partnership with an L&D provider opens up a world of possibilities. Help the provider understand your culture. If it’s a match and the two businesses share values, the employees will benefit.


An L&D platform that resonates with staff is essential if you’re to encourage engagement. The training industry has made huge strides forward, and while there may have been a need for more conventional learning environments in the past, companies are now looking for straightforward, engaging and flexible learning systems to support their on-demand and blended learning experiences, described by the Financial Times as the “Netflixisation” of learning.

Digital learning is disrupting the way we all work – for the better. There is no right or wrong answer and certainly no one-model-fits-all solution. The way organizations work is unique to them, so whether you want a digital plug-in, managed training events or a full blended learning program, the ideal scenario is for you and your learning provider to take a holistic approach.


As any marketer will tell you, content is king. A king, however, would be nothing without his followers, so while learning content is of utmost importance, it’s important to deliver it correctly if you’re going to fully achieve your learning goals and make maximum impact.

In order to create the right program, which engages learners and checks all the right boxes, understanding the underlying culture of an organization is, once again, crucial. The right content for Apple will not be the same as the right content for General Electric – even if their learning goals are similar. The key is to create the right mix of existing content and custom content. When your business and its learning provider reading from the same page, your content will be exactly what you need to fulfill your objectives.


A holistic relationship goes beyond simple transactions and means supporting partners with goals that aren’t confined to the standard agreement. While the affiliation may begin exclusively in the learning space, creating a more strategic two-way partnership over time could lead to your provider’s becoming a broader business partner. Just as your business has more than one client, your clients have more than one provider. Sharing knowledge and experiences among different clients and providers, creates a community from which a wider business base can benefit.

Many relationships between organizations and learning partners can become stale once the original goals are achieved, but by continuously evolving your objectives, you can build a more strategic, long-term partnership. Sharing connections and metrics across sectors strengthens the relationship and inspires continuous and strategic business growth beyond the benefits of learning and development.

The Difference Between a Provider and a Partner

When the cultures of an organization and its L&D provider are a good fit, the distinction between provider and partner becomes evident. A true learning partner is more than a transactional provider; it offers a holistic approach while delivering products and services that achieve broader organizational goals. Not only does this approach lead to a longer-term strategic relationship, but it can also dramatically reduce costs.

A partnership means that both parties invest in the relationship and share in successes; it allows both the client and the provider to benefit as they build on a solid foundation created by the provision of an exceptional learning service. This kind of relationship can be rare between two businesses, but the results can bring incomparable rewards.