Why hire a learning and development company?
You don’t need to.
That’s kind of important to point out. Companies perform training functions internally all the time. They develop and deliver employee training, they create and deploy training for their customers, they write and distribute training for their channel partners. They may have a training department or they may leverage internal resources. And it can be effective.
And yet… even very successful companies sometimes depend on other entities for expertise.
Reason 1: Nurture your genius
Micro-brewing craft beer and want to bring it to stores? Hire a mobile canning company to expand from kegs and growlers. And then focus on water chemistry and the brewing process, where your genius lies, instead of purchasing, running, and maintaining a canning process. Farming earthworms to produce plant-benefitting vermicompost? Partner with a distribution company. The distributor will take some of your profit, but it will enable to you to expand your product reach. You can focus on creating high-quality compost, rather than shipping.
Why do companies outsource aspects of their business? To enable them to focus on what they do best, becoming insanely great in the process.
Learning and development is a function, just like distribution, canning, email, website design, or any other function. And just like those other functions, there can be a strong inclination (sometimes justified) to do it in house. Who knows your training needs better than you? In the same vein, who knows your website needs better than you? Your distribution needs better? Your email needs better?
However, while those functions certainly support your specialty and are critical to its success, they are still peripheral to your primary area of expertise. You probably already outsource many other functions so that you can focus where you need to.
Reason 2: Incorporate a specialist’s strengths
Many, if not most, companies outsource their email to a specialist, giving up tight control for a higher level of security than they can provide internally. In the same way, you may wish to outsource your learning efforts to a specialist, reaping the benefits from their strengths.
There is a depth and expertise to learning and development that takes years and experience to master. There is literature that needs to be followed, research that needs to be studied and applied. When training is so essentially important—to allow people to use your widgets, to empower salesmen to sell your sprockets, to ensure that your employees are certified and compliant with rules and standards—why rely on internal, generalist staff to create it? Why not hire experts?
What a learning and development company provides
Training is a glorious field. And a miserable one. It’s informed by reflexively held beliefs that seem to make sense (learning styles, generational learning). And it’s structured by serious research that illuminates how people learn, based on experimental and experiential studies (spaced repetition, practice testing). It, like any field, is full of conflict, consensus, best practices, unreflective assumptions. (See this somewhat convoluted discussion on whether video is better for training.)
A company that focuses on producing a product or developing a service may not keep abreast of developments in the training field. There may be a tendency for people to work from what they know. And if they don’t know training, their knowledge can come from courses that they’ve taken, assumptions that they’ve made, things that that’ve seen.
Quite often, this can lead to boring training, bereft of techniques that are effective and engaging. Webinars become narrated slideshows; elearning becomes walls of narrated text followed by a poorly worded multiple choice test. And who doesn’t love an eight-hour day of PowerPoint slides being read to you in person?
The job of a learning and development company is to know training. It’s amazing what training can accomplish, and the techniques that can be used to accomplish it. Want to create an engaging webinar? Use chat to allow attendees to speak with each other. Want to create training that people remember and apply? Give adult learners the opportunity to experiment with and build on their years of experience and knowledge. Want to change behavior? Use the scores of techniques that have been found, in study after study, to actually work. (If you’d like to dive into more on these strategies, we’ve curated some learning and development resources for you.)
No learning and development company could ever hope to master the level of expertise that you have in your company. When you hire a learning and development company, however, they deploy best practices to develop training to convey your vision effectively.
A novice mindset
Learning and development companies don’t have subject matter knowledge. Your subject matter experts know the material.
What may be surprising is that expertise can present problems when training people new to the subject. An expert progressively builds knowledge and experience on previous knowledge and experience. Without care, an expert can forget what it was like to be a novice, to not know what they know now.
Once you’ve spent so much time doing home repair, how easy is it to put yourself into the mindset of someone who’s never encountered a leaking faucet, a broken ice maker, a loss of internet connection?
A learning and development company is aware of the risks, of the need to balance knowledge that the audience is assumed to know with what it actually knows. An instructional designer can ground that knowledge, asking question after question, drilling down to an audience’s true-to-life level of knowledge, giving the class a better place to start. And a better place to succeed.
Does this mean that an instructional designer replaces an expert? Hardly. It’s nearly impossible for an instructional designer to create and deliver training without the help of experts in the field. In fact, many clients underestimate just how much dedication is required from their people. (Here’s an in-depth look at the client’s role in developing training.)
Of course, that level of commitment exists regardless of whether or not you hire a learning and development company. A learning and development company saves time, not by supplanting your subject matter experts with their own, but by using their expertise to design training manuals, program online environments, create testing mechanisms, and, yes, create good-looking and effective PowerPoint presentations so that you don’t have to.
By bringing an awareness of the need for a novice mindset, a learning and development company is able to carefully structure the learning experience so that those who are new to the field can quickly and expertly be brought up to speed.
Can you develop training internally? Of course you can!
Is building a training department the best use of time and effort? Perhaps, perhaps not. (This more in-depth discussion on building a training department will guide you through some questions to ask.)
Or perhaps it is, but there are certain areas in which you need augmentation. Maybe you need an instructional designer to help shape courses, technical writers to help developing effective and consistent training manuals (ah, FrameMaker…), developers to help build online courses. A learning and development company can also serve as a force multiplier, as it were.
Partnering with a learning and development company, relying on its expertise in the field of training, can very well free up your resources to focus on your strengths. Instead of mastering all fields, master the most important, and stand on the shoulders of specialists to reach the rest.
Would hiring a learning and development company augment your company’s efforts? Feel free to contact us — We’d be happy to walk through your situation with you.