The Training Industry Top 20 Training Outsourcing List is now in its tenth year, suggesting that learning outsourcing is here to stay and continues to grow. Years ago, companies might have outsourced one or two projects to partners; in today’s world, businesses are outsourcing initiatives, functions, departments and even entire learning organizations. It’s critical to find the right partners. Here are five key strategies for making sure your partner is the right fit.

1. Do they specialize in corporate learning?

This may seem like a basic question, but it’s actually pretty challenging. Make sure your partner is in the business of providing capability, not headcount.

Even if your potential partner specializes in learning, do they specialize specifically in corporate learning? The corporate environment provides unique challenges that are different from other environments, such as universities, K-12 institutions or even the military. How well will this partner understand the typical challenges of a corporate learning calendar, maintaining an LMS or managing learning logistics?


2. Do they have a strategic perspective?

Choosing an outsourcing partner is a little like selecting an architect; you want someone who can envision the future but can also develop a plan that can be implemented practically and cost-effectively. A lot of partners can build an e-learning course, but how many can help you formulate a learning strategy? Design a learning organization structure that has flexibility and scalability? Build a content curation strategy that allows your learning content to change as often as your business needs to? A good learning outsourcing partner needs to be a strategist, not just a builder.

3. Do they provide management oversight?

Are you really outsourcing if you’re managing everybody? So-called “body shops” provide people to fill open roles, but is that what you’re looking for? The “staffing agency” model may work in the short term, but in the end, you’ll have the challenges of organizing, assigning and managing all those people. A strong outsourcing partner provides both project management (for smooth, predictable and well-executed initiatives) and functional management (for guaranteeing the right skills, high productivity and a team that is constantly growing). Outsourcing should make less work for you, not more.


4. Do they bring their own processes and tools?

If your answers to these questions so far have been “yes,” then you are probably dealing with an experienced learning outsourcing partner. If so, then you want the benefit of their experience. What kinds of processes do they use to guarantee success? What tools do they have that can be adapted to your environment?

One of the key benefits of working with a learning outsourcing partner is that they specialize in performance improvement and may have ready-made solutions to common challenges. An experienced partner can change the way you do business. Which brings us to the next question…

5. Are they able to adapt to your culture?

A good outsourcing partner should bring their own perspective and unique point of view. However, they should also be able to adapt to the unique needs of your culture. Once of the most common complaints from clients is “they only knew one way to get the work done, and it didn’t work with our culture.”

This is a delicate balancing act; a little disruption to the status quo helps learning organizations grow and evolve. But work must be done in the meantime, and an outsourcing partner that spends all their time battling with their client’s organization is unlikely to be very productive.

Selecting any kind of partner can be a daunting task; however, with these strategies, you can build a successful long-term relationship with the right learning outsourcing partner.