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Managed learning taking L&D by storm

Sally Hurrell

L&D’s quest for efficiency, quality and innovation is changing the global market for managed learning, according to a study by Hemsley Fraser, which reveals that today’s organisations want a provider who can add value, not just deliver short-term cost savings. Contributor Sally Hurrell, Global Managed Learning Director – Hemsley Fraser

Hemsley Fraser conducted a qualitative research study Sally Hurrell, Global Managed Learning Director at Hemsley Fraser involving 15 organisations which use managed learning, ranging from private companies to global corporations. A report on the study, called The evolution of managed learning, highlights the principal drivers that underpin the decision to outsource L&D services; where managed learning occurs; the challenges it raises; the benefits it delivers and what makes a ‘good’ managed learning provider. It also includes advice from the participants on how to achieve successful managed learning relationships.

“Managed learning involves an external partner taking responsibility for certain L&D activities,” said. “The market used to be dominated by transactional providers who would achieve cost savings by ‘bullying’ suppliers into negotiating preferential rates. Our research shows that today’s organisations now want a more holistic learning partner who feels part of the team – someone less transactional who can maximise the available training budget and advise on how to deliver the required learning. This transition has proved difficult for certain providers and some have pulled out of the market as a result.”

Although the benefits of managed learning are mostly evident in the UK, the USA and Germany, the report highlights that interest in this approach is growing, particularly across Europe and in emerging markets. Providers are increasingly offering digital learning capability, as well as face-to-face, e-learning, blended and virtual delivery options.

Some organisations have outsourced their entire L&D offering, to create a more flexible cost base. The majority of managed learning users still provide some core L&D activities in-house. Others simply utilise learning portals from external providers to facilitate the administration of training.

“Managed learning is no longer seen as an ‘all or nothing’ proposition,” said Sally Hurrell. “L&D teams are now outsourcing just those aspects that they need help with. The market is still principally driven by an organisational desire to achieve greater efficiency. Digital learning can help with this, by reducing the need for face-to-face provision. Other key drivers are to improve the quality of training available in the organisation and to benefit from a provider’s innovation, market intelligence and expertise.”

According to the report, ‘cultural fit’ is the most important factor when choosing a managed learning provider. “Every potential provider is likely to be able to exploit technology, streamline processes and deliver to service level agreements,” said Sally Hurrell. “If you’re considering managed learning, our participants recommend that you should choose someone who has a similar ethos, values and mindset. ‘How’ they’ll work with you is just as important as ‘what’ they’ll deliver.”

The report highlights that the key benefits of managed learning are that it can: optimise the delivery of learning; improve the learner experience; make L&D an ‘enabler’ in the organisation; add flexibility; deliver meaningful data and support continuous improvement.

“Many employers are still on a journey with their managed learning,” said Sally Hurrell. “They see it as an option for delivering efficient and cost effective learning that’s in the best interests of the business. It also improves their ability to react to changes in their environment.”

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