Over the past several years, learning and development (L&D) organizations have experienced a seismic shift that has had a significant effect on reskilling, upskilling and outsourcing.

It began with the COVID-19 pandemic and the scramble to re-engineer learning for those working from home. As virtual learning became the norm, it also became apparent that new skills and areas of digital specialization were needed to make the medium more effective and sophisticated. Then, as the world started returning to the workplace, they did so by using a hybrid model that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

As each domino dropped, it struck another. The result is today’s learners are not reachable the same way they were in 2019. Today’s learning professional requires a different mix of skills, and today’s L&D organizations require different tactics. Our world changed overnight, and it is not going back to where it was. A certain naivety about stability in the workplace — in skillsets, in safety and in routines — has been forever lost. We don’t know what the future holds. We just know we need to be prepared for anything.

In a recent LinkedIn Learning survey, 66% of L&D professionals agree they are focused on rebuilding and reshaping their organizations. Upskilling and reskilling is the priority for 59% of L&D programs — an increase of 15% from June 2020 alone. Investments in learning experience platforms (LXPs), content curation, learner journeys and modern learning have accelerated, and many companies are now viewing hybrid or virtual work as the inevitable outcome of the pandemic. As a result, outsourcing partnerships have emerged as a key strategy as L&D organizations retool their staffs and faculty for the future.

This trend occurs across the learning value stream, incorporating the outsourcing of design services, vendor management, learning administration, and most recently, delivery services, which are now prevalent in many organizations. The best outsourcing and managed learning services partners have modernized their solutions to meet the priorities of learning organizations.

Priorities for Successful Learning Operations

The first priority is foundational — the skills every employee needs to perform their job today and in the future. When everyone was working from home, we invested significantly in digital learning and began focusing on learner experience, next-level interactivity and technologies like virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). All these modalities require new and specialized skills to leverage effectively. The best outsourcing providers have invested in their people through the modern learning they promote.

As people are changing jobs more frequently, talent of the outsourcing partner must be at their best. It is the provider that invests in their people and adapts their solutions to the needs of the modern ecosystem that provide a hassle-free way to access operational and development solutions in a sustainable, consistent and affordable way.

The most successful learning operations have proven to be those that focus on meeting business needs, understanding the business’s priorities and driving successful learning solutions. They need to be experts in both learning and in the business. However, they do not need to be experts in operationalizing learning. That’s why outsourcing is an important strategy. It enables those experts to focus on strategy and improve the impact learning has on achieving business goals.

Outsourcing Is a Winning Strategy

Outsourcing can be a valuable tactic to improve the performance and execution of learning while saving costs. By relieving your staff of “grunt work,” they can better focus on the business strategy. Taking that philosophy one step further, an outsourcing partner may be leveraged to fulfill a wide range of operational roles, including:

  • Learning management system (LMS)
  • Learning administration and logistics (class scheduling and associated logistics).
  • Delivery management (course intake, standards, global and regional deployment).
  • Faculty management (trainer and moderator certification, resourcing demand planning).
  • Vendor management (third-party management).

As organizations grow their digital learning expertise, new areas of specialization are needed. Companies are increasingly outsourcing roles altogether regarding:

  • Community moderators.
  • Content curation.
  • Digital/design solutions.
  • LXP integration.

When considering how to address these areas, it’s important to ask a few questions:

  • Do you have experience and depth?
  • Will you maintain these competencies?
  • And are they what you do best?

How Outsourcers Are Changing to Meet the Increase in Demand

These partnerships are not unique to small and mid-size operations. Large organizations with strong in-house L&D capabilities are investing heavily in outsourcing for their post-COVID strategy. They recognize that the added flexibility and agility, cost efficiencies and level of expertise they get from outsourcing is a good business move. The work organizations and outsourcing partners have done together to shift models is shifting how outsourcing is done.

The need to source globally can be a challenge for organizations with flexible staffing needs. Outsourcing providers are onboarding facilitators in new ways, creating communities of these experts. The outsourcing approach includes careful screening, the assurance of matching events with the need, and the establishment of a virtual community to connect training delivery teams socially so they can learn, develop and collaborate globally.

When organizations consider the time and effort it takes to source and retain qualified trainers and other L&D professionals, alongside their ability to flex demand (up or down) through economic cycles, the value of outsourcing becomes clear. Today, this service has become a priority. Virtual training has directly impacted the resource needs for training delivery — and now requires certification on virtual platform delivery and the development of new skills in the delivery of virtual learning. As a result, more than ever, organizations see the benefits of outsourcing faculty management.