Across all the industry reports about corporate learning and development, one fact always comes through loud and clear: training professionals are overworked and under-resourced. In our annual state of the industry reports, we consistently find that the average internal corporate training team consisted of 1-3 people while serving hundreds to thousands of learners.
When you are a small team with a big mission, you need to make smart choices about which projects to take on and how to manage your available resources to execute on them. For many L&D leaders, that means knowing when to build your in-house team and when to partner with a training vendor.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into how to know when to hire a training vendor, the different types of vendors available to help your team, and tips for choosing the right vendor for your learning and development department.
How to Know When to Hire a Training Vendor
Training vendors are helpful when your L&D team is so constrained that you cannot fulfill your projects with in-house resources alone. For example, you may need to bring in a vendor if you are:
- Unable to meet training requests from business unit leaders
- Struggling to demonstrate the organizational impact of your learning courses
- Saying “no” because of a lack of time, money, or skills
When faced with these constraints, you may first want to try an in-house solution, such as requesting a larger annual budget, hiring more learning and development professionals, or investing in train-the-trainer upskilling.
That said, hiring a training vendor is also a great route to expand your capacity and abilities. Consider plugging in learning and development vendors when you have a short-term need, when you are looking for extra expertise, or when you don’t want to invest in in-house technology or skills.
Define What Kind of Help You Need
Before shopping for training vendors, meet with your business leaders and stakeholders to clarify exactly what kind of help you need. For example, you may want to license an established sales training course for your kickoff event while offering your employees access to a library of courses for leadership training. It is important to establish your needs before evaluating vendors.
Here are a few of the most common types of training vendors:
Licensed Training Courses
For leadership, sales, and safety training, it is common to find training vendors who offer licensed courses. In this model, you pay to license the training content (including the course itself, manuals, worksheets, videos, and other supplemental materials) as well as hire certified trainers to deliver the course to your learner population. You may also be able to pay for an in-house trainer to get certified on the course, if you prefer to have someone on your team facilitate the training.
In other cases, you may prefer to hire a vendor to design custom training specific to your organization and needs. For example, in our webinar on designing elearning, Diane Elkins discusses a custom course she designed for the Red Cross. The Red Cross provided the course requirements and proprietary content, while Diane and her team used their expertise to design an effective elearning module. Learn more about evaluating custom learning vendors in this resource from The Center for Leadership Studies.
In the past decade, on-demand course libraries have become more common. Between Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and options available on most learning management systems, there are dozens of existing courses on common soft skill topics such as leadership, wellness, emotional intelligence and empathy. You can also rely on libraries such as this for more hard skill training on things like how to use the Microsoft Suite, coding, or digital marketing skills.
If you are blessed with robust in-house instructional designers, then you might be better suited finding vendors who can provide design tools. For example, eLearning Brothers offers a library of elearning module assets, from cut-out people to stock audio and video. You might also invest in a subscription to a stock image site like Shutterstock or a drag-and-drop design service like Canva. Or you might want more help with the instructional design and turn to an authoring tool like Soapbox, which offers plug-and-play lesson plans.
Finally, you might need help in the operations and administration of your corporate learning and development. Many corporations invest in learning management systems to deploy elearning or microlearning, track attendance, and measure virtual training impacts. On top of that, consider a logistics partner for physical operations such as organizing training classrooms and distributing printed training materials. Training operations is one area ripe for outsourcing administrative tasks so your team can focus on designing and facilitating world-class learning and development.
Tips for Finding Training Vendors
Once you have identified the type of help you need, it is time to research and recruit the best training vendor for your organization. Keep in mind that many vendors offer turnkey services depending on your business goals, organization size, and learning needs. Even in the case of printing manuals, Mimeo tailors our platform and products based on what you are trying to accomplish. As you research vendors, be honest with what you are looking for to make sure you understand the options available to you.
The learning and development market is full of training vendors and suppliers, so we have a few tips for finding the right fit for you.
Ask for Recommendations from Peers
Reach out to your network to find out which companies your peers trust for similar challenges. This is a great way to get honest assessments about what vendors provide and how they conduct business. That said, keep in mind that your peers may be at very different types of organizations than you, be blessed with different budgets, or be trying to solve different problems than you are.
Use Vendor Guides
The training industry is full of rich resources to help you find custom learning providers, training design resources, learning management systems, and training operations solutions. For example, both Training Industry and ATD offer vendor guides that you can browse (like an old-fashioned phonebook) to create a shortlist of potential partners.
Research Vendors on TrustPilot or G2 Crowd
Go further by researching your potential training vendors on review sites like TrustPilot or G2 Crowd. These services are like Yelp, except they show reviews of business to business organizations from verified customers. That way, if your peers haven’t encountered similar challenges, you can hear from people in similar positions about how a vendor conducts business.
Schedule Intro Calls
Once you’ve created a shortlist of potential training vendors, it is time to start reaching out! Schedule calls with each vendor to go over your challenges, business goals, desired outcomes, timelines, and budget. Remember that partners will likely tailor their services based on your needs, so be up front about your goals in order to get an overview of the solutions they offer that will meet your needs.
For many training leaders, vendors are a secret weapon that enables premium learning experiences to corporate populations. If you’re looking for help distributing your physical training materials to multiple learners or locations, Mimeo can save you time, money, and headaches. Schedule a call to find out more (or hear from customers like Spring Venture Group yourself).