“Outsourcing” is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many leaders. They see it as sending a devastating death blow to their department. It was previously a way for an organization to shed itself of the burden of trying to manage another cost center that provided little to no value. Executives would task the procurement team with identifying a low-cost provider to fill in the shallow indentation left behind by the previous team. The organization would ship all of the work offshore, and the widget-punching would begin. The outsourcing provider would fight against each unique request to protect its margin, costs within the contract and quality at a bare minimum. The organization would either settle into the malaise of mediocrity or try to find ways around the outsourcing vendor.

Sounds awesome, right?

Before we explore why and how some organizations are embracing outsourcing in a more positive way, ask yourself a few questions. The answers will demonstrate how your organization handles training outsourcing.

  • If outsourcing comes knocking at your door, is your strategy to leverage it or fight against it?
  • What does your organization think about your learning department?
  • Is it a value center or a cost center?

Let those questions marinate for a minute before you answer. Really consider what the organization says when you’re not there. These questions are important to consider during this time of mergers and acquisitions, cost reduction, and continued demand for speed and efficiency. How your organization and its procurement team approach outsourcing will shed light on how they feel about the learning department. When there is a strategic or mission-critical initiative, are you a part of the conversation or a recipient of the outcome of that conversation? Pause and rethink the role and the approach of your team and your peers across the business.

The old models of outsourcing are finally being exposed for what they are: nothing more than a low-cost, low-quality, “check-the-box,” dumpster fire of a promise from large outsourcers. Those providers were not there to partner with the organization, drive change, demonstrate strategic value or move the needle on performance. They were there to cut costs and pump out content on a massive scale. Quality and effectiveness were never in the contract or the vocabulary of the old guard of outsourcing.

Why do you have to sacrifice quality, effectiveness and results for cost? You shouldn’t. When looking for an outsourcing partner, be sure to focus on the word “partner.” Having a partner or trusted advisor means that the provider is in it with you and has some skin in the game. It produces better results. It can help learning organizations prove their value in the business and change the perception of simply being a cost center.

When outsourcing, there are hundreds or even thousands of cookie-cutter providers. Partners – true trusted advisors – are rarer. Why? Three main reasons: First, finding a learning partner is a risky proposition. Every outsourcing vendor says it’ll be your partner, but does it have the track record and history to back up that promise? Has it performed well when put in the role of problem-solver, or has it instead produced “conveyor-belt” training?

Second, many outsourcing providers don’t take the time to understand your business, your needs, your successes and your struggles. This outsourcing relationship is entirely different than having a partner that’s staffed with people who have been in your shoes, have done your job, been through similar trials and tribulations, and know how to execute a strategic plan.

Finally, many outsourcing providers don’t take the long view. They are primarily concerned with making the next widget at the lowest cost. Sure, there are always fires to put out. But proving value shouldn’t be a short-term proposition. A longer, more strategic partnership will ensure that business executives always see you as a valued asset within the organization.