Author: Andrea Lipton | Date: August 9, 2023

The Benefits of Global Managed Learning Services in an Economic Downturn

2023 is proving to be a challenging year for corporate learning and development (L&D) departments around the world.

According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, the four main goals for learning leaders are aligning learning programs to business goals, upskilling employees, creating a culture of learning and improving employee retention through learning opportunities. Learning leaders are being asked to help transform their businesses in these mission-critical ways while also navigating the economic uncertainty brought on by speculation about an impending global recession.

Now more than ever, learning leaders know that they cannot do it alone. When it comes to training a globally dispersed workforce, this is even more true. This is where large, global organizations can benefit from partnering with an experienced managed learning services (MLS) provider to help deliver on these goals.

What Are Managed Learning Services?

Managed learning services refers to the outsourcing of training activities and processes. Outsourced services can include content development, learning delivery, learning administration, learning technology, vendor management, measurement and analytics and even consulting and learning strategy.

Most large companies have outsourcing partners for some learning services, like content libraries and learning technology platforms, but few take advantage of the benefits of a full-service global MLS partner.

Partnering With a Full-service MLS

There are four key advantages to outsourcing some or all of your training or learning needs to a global MLS partner:

  1. Economics
  2. Efficiency
  3. Expertise
  4. Evidence

Let’s start with the first one, since it gets so much attention during tough economic times.

1. Economics

Historically, whenever there is an economic downturn and speculation about a recession, companies look for ways to reduce their costs and training departments are often some of the first budgets impacted.

While cutting employee development resources during economic downturns may be short-sighted, it is, unfortunately, a common practice driven by a company’s desire to flex their spend on learning in response to market conditions. Rather than engage in this pendulum swing of cutting training departments during downturns and then building them back up during recovery periods, companies should be taking another approach. They could be turning to MLS providers to help train and upskill their global workforce while benefiting from economies of scale.

If your company is exploring how to spend less on training while getting the same or more value out of your investment, an MLS partner could be your answer. Outsourcing your training needs to a MLS partner can be more cost-effective than hiring and maintaining an in-house training team, as you only pay for the services you need.

When you have an in-house training team, you pay for the salary and overhead attached to each staff member, which gives you access to a fixed amount of time and a specific set of expertise from each person. That means you can only design, develop and deliver the amount and type of training your existing team has capacity to provide. If your need exceeds the amount of capacity or type of capability your team has, you either have to prioritize learning initiatives and leave some undone for a time or secure headcount and incur the expense of additional team members.

With an MLS you buy the training services, not the people who provide them. If you need more services, you can simply buy more services. It is your MLS partner’s responsibility to provide the people to deliver.

If you’ve ever rolled out a new system across a global organization with an in-house training staff, you know the pain of having a fixed set of resources. Scalability is a problem. An MLS partner can scale up or down their services based on your organization’s needs, making it easier to manage training requirements during peak periods or when training needs change. During economic downturns when budgets need to tighten, you can scale down your use of your MLS provider without having to go through the pain of layoffs.

2. Efficiency

MLS providers aren’t just economical, they are efficient. Since learning is their only business, they have mastered the processes it takes to deliver at scale. But the efficiency does not end there. An MLS partner can also offer you efficiency and flexibility in terms of content development, program administration and training delivery.

Your full-service MLS partner can design and develop best-in-class learning then deliver on-site, online, hybrid or blended learning solutions depending on your organization’s requirements. They can administer registrations, manage room bookings and setups, and get training materials to both participants and trainers.

They can flexibly scale delivery by offering you access to a global pool of experienced and knowledgeable trainers who can lead high-quality training programs tailored to your organization’s specific needs. If you are upskilling your workforce and helping them build capability that is new for your organization, your MLS partner can provide trainers who already have experience with that skill instead of you having to upskill your trainers, too.

Having access to a global pool of experienced trainers also means you can often deliver with local resources, reducing or eliminating travel costs for onsite training and making people available in the needed time zone for blended programs. Local trainers bring another advantage: They speak the local dialect whether that is literally another language or the ability to use regionally appropriate vernacular and examples. Understanding the local business culture can help these trainers connect with your employees and ensure the learning sticks, which contributes to your company’s learning culture and accelerates upskilling.

MLS providers like NIIT invest in process efficiency and give you the added advantage of automated processes and efficient systems, which increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your global learning ecosystem. Combined with robust governance, this means that your global workforce gets the benefit of a consistent and efficient modern learning ecosystem no matter where they are located.

3. Expertise

Your MLS partner will also provide you with deep expertise in other areas beyond training delivery. Depending on the MLS provider, they can bring expertise in content development, emerging learning technologies, building skills and capability frameworks, measuring the impact of learning, structuring and organizing your learning function, governing your learning ecosystem, developing an overall learning strategy and more. They can bring you best practices learned from their work across many organizations and industries that will help you drive engagement and deliver the learning opportunities that will help retain your employees.

For example, NIIT has helped a leading pharmaceutical company unify 27 different learning management systems (LMSs) into one centralized LMS. We used our deep understanding of LMS technology to help this client quickly select the right platform and then leveraged our robust governance process to implement real-time dashboards and reporting through our customer experience platform (CXP.)

As the learning industry itself continues to rapidly change and evolve, your MLS partner will also be able to bring you insights on the latest trends in learning whether you are thinking of exploring immersive learning, rolling out a new global onboarding program, or even centralizing your L&D processes and systems.

By outsourcing your training needs to an MLS, you can also free up your organization’s resources and focus on what you are expert in: your company’s core business functions. Partnering with an MLS will give your L&D leaders more time to collaborate with your business on aligning learning programs to your company’s most critical goals.

4. Evidence

Last, but not least, an MLS provider will bring you evidence of impact. A key part of your outsourcing agreement with your MLS partner will be a set of performance metrics you will use to demonstrate the training outcomes they are delivering on your behalf. Those metrics may include minimum approval ratings for courses and trainers, reductions in development costs for custom content, speed to delivery of global programs, and even reduction in overall costs for licensing content libraries or learning technologies from other third-party vendors. As you vet and contract with your MLS, you will have the opportunity to agree to your shared key performance indicators, then it will be your provider’s responsibility to deliver and document success.

Overall, hiring a managed learning services partner can help your organization save costs, improve its training effectiveness, and enhance its overall productivity and performance.

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Author’s Bio: 

Andrea Lipton is a senior director of consulting and advisory services for NIIT. In her role as a senior director, Andrea works as a learning consultant, learning strategist, facilitator, coach and advisor to NIIT’s clients. She has developed learning strategies, knowledge centers, change management programs, and leadership development frameworks for some of NIIT’s biggest clients. Overall, Andrea has more than 20 years of experience working in and leading learning and development for global companies across an array of industries.​