Over the last two years as recession witnessed its worst ever and then painfully retreated, training budgets hit rock bottom too. Employee retrenchments touched all time highs as companies struggled to tide over the impact of the slowdown. The need and definition of skills was also redefined. Lean companies meant that employees’ retention criteria changed. This was also the time of the strange paradox - as training budgets across industries were slashed, the need for training was paramount as well. As focus shifted from growth to survival, employees with diverse skills and capabilities were in demand.
According to a survey by Thales Training & Consultancy, that included responses from 200 employers:
Companies that staggered out of recession are prioritizing their training plans going forward. This indicates a growing realization that effective training is key for survival in adversity. Training has traditionally been devised to fulfil business needs such as expansion plans, new initiatives, market trends and customer demands. Over the years, training has evolved into a strategic initiative, where training calendars are now governed by future plans to get more business, attract bigger clients, stay ahead of market trends, predict market needs and offer real-time solutions. Time lags are frowned upon and go-to-market initiatives inherently are led by training programmes. Training schedule and effectiveness are the all important differences in being front runners and being contemporaries.
Maximizing training output
As demands from employers alter, so does the training structure. Globalization, scalability and sustainability have made it essential for training programmes to be designed so that they can cater to the constantly changing business needs. Companies take pride in their ability to provide state-of-the-art training and often use this as a differentiator when selling to their buyers. The myriad needs of the corporate world make it necessary that the training be accepted in its new avatar. Training outsourcing is not a new concept, yet post recession acceptance is higher as the value proposition that it offers is more widely discussed and understood now. Training outsourcing meets all the requirements and many more. Let us examine the reasons, and determine if this trend is here to stay.
Contributing to company growth
Training has moved from class rooms to field, and now to computers and hand-held devices. The phenomenal speed of evolution makes it essential that training be put in charge of experts. These experts and consultants not only need to be aware of the best practices, but also be equally proficient in the subject matter. Training outsourcing providers offer this and more.
- Since training is the core function for these training outsourcing companies, awareness about latest trends in delivery, technology and techniques is a pre-requisite. They are constantly researching and upgrading to improve content and quality of their programmes.
- Training outsourcing companies that offer services are also involved in training need analysis, and planning out the entire training schedule. As they work with operational heads, objectives are set out in the beginning and complete responsibility of training, measuring and monitoring is managed by them. Most outsourcing providers prefer long-term contracts so that they can work continuously and provide training as and when needed.
- It is usually not possible for companies to maintain an in-house robust training team, considering the diverse nature of training programmes that are needed. Outsourcing the entire training requirements ensures that employees get all the required modules on time. It also frees resources that are needed to handle the operational aspects.
- Technology today plays a major role in the delivery of training. Specialized companies usually offer an optimum mix of LMS and customized programmes so that training objectives are met.
- Companies that can use LMS to deliver training witness a large cut in costs.
- One of the major services that outsourcing companies offer is constant monitoring of the learning modules so that they are capable of meeting the strategic and long-term goals of the company.
- Training quality is strictly monitored and value-addition is a given. A trainee cannot be considered as having completed the programme unless he meets the pre-determined criteria.
- Outsourcing the training function offers the all-important scalability. Any number of employees can be trained with the aid of technology real-time, and training companies with the use of e-learning have mastered this technique.
- Providers expand their global capabilities through strategic alliances thus catering to the important need of understanding cultural nuances, which enhance training programmes.
Treading carefully is crucial
It is important that companies exercise extreme caution when they are outsourcing their training function. Since training is tied to strategic goals of a company, if it is not monitored and managed properly, repercussions are huge. Instances of outsourcing having gone wrong galore, therefore careful selection of a partner, a complete understanding of goals and objectives, and constant reviews to ensure that training schedules are aligned to the company goals are a must. This is more important, as there is some loss in control when it comes to delivery of training. Initial costs in getting a training outsourcing company onboard are usually high.
Similarly, determining the competency of a partner is the key to success. If the outsourcing company does not understand the industry, objectives and needs well, it will not be able to deliver. A company that promises to deliver everything at a low cost is sure to compromise on quality. Similarly, short-term agreements may not work well as training requires lead time to be effective and show results.
Future of training is in outsourcing
No company would want to forego the advantages of outsourcing training and getting the best to save on costs. Outsourcing companies themselves offer cost benefit analysis, and long term benefits are hard to ignore.
Numerous companies worldwide have outsourced training and many others are experimenting. As lean companies seem to be the new trend, outsourcing of almost all functions that need experts, and do not fall in the category of core functions, are being outsourced. It is not just the need to train constantly and effectively that is driving outsourcing. The demand has graduated to constant innovation and extensive use of technology in training.
The effort that goes into these can only be delivered by experts and this is where today’s training outsourcing companies step in. They offer not just services, but value-addition that promises to transform the employee skills and thus the company capabilities, improving the chances of success in the cut-throat world of competition.