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When to outsource tech training for employees

When to outsource tech training for employees

Knowing when to relinquish control and when not to can be an essential part of creating a skilled workforce.

Whether the goal is to attract new talent, retain highly qualified employees or develop an internal path to leadership, companies looking to create educational or coaching programs can either go it alone or, like most business processes these days, outsource part or all of the training function to a third-party.

There are benefits and drawback to both approaches, of course. Knowing the goals of your program will help you determine whether to rely on in-house expertise or go out-of-house to a contract training company.

Got talent?

While on-going professional development is certainly one goal of a training program, companies are continually searching for and bringing in new recruits in the ever-changing landscape of the IT profession. Designing training programs to attract and retain new professionals is as important as keeping employees informed of the latest competencies and trends.

Most organizations have three options when it comes to recruiting talent "hire, buy or build," said Mark Yunger, senior director of IT at Biogen, at the CIO Summit in Boston hosted by CDM Media in June. "Define what you need by doing a capability mapping, designing a competency model, an organizational model and doing gap analysis."

[Related: 6 ways to give millennials the mentorship programs they want]

In order to build the best team to meet the demands of business growth, companies have to have a talent-first mentality. "We want intellectual property back on our team, so we need engaging early stage talent and a strategic stage talent fund," said Yunger.

Recruitment, though, is only one aspect of a robust training program. On-going education about brand awareness is essential as trends and customer expectations evolve. Brand awareness is a single facet of a company's value proposition, so a training program should also focus on culture and retention. As Yunger put it, "what is your company doing to build culture and employee engagement?"

Asking these questions provides clarity for designing the best training program, one that focuses on the kind of cross-pollination that'll allow for increased retention of new talent.

In its "Guide to Greatness," Great Place to Work a global consulting firm that produces the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list noted, "greatness lies within every organization's reach. Companies seeking to learn from these highly-regarded workplaces will find value in examining their employee development practices with a strategic lens, as well as the role their company culture plays in their view of business success."

Know what you have to determine what you need

Whether those training programs are best handled in-house or outsourced is a question that many enterprises struggle with because of budgeting and other resources. The best first step, whether or not the training happens internally, is to do a needs assessment.

Often organizations have highly qualified team members, experts willing to share their experiences and knowledge. These loyal team members who are committed to the future success of the company will be instrumental assets in an in-house training program.

When an enterprise is aware of the future skills its employees will need, it can build in a variety of in-house training programs from job shadowing and rotation to personal learning networks and special projects for individual growth. These internal steps can cultivate a sense of professional development and advancement, and strengthen employee retention while also underscoring your corporate culture and brand values.

[Related: 6 things women want at work]

Relying on experienced mentors to build in-house capabilities can be a piece of the overall training program, which can also include online course or video training or training with an outside consultant.

Before forging ahead with building an internal dream team for corporate training, make sure to understand any legal requirements that the company is obligated to meet, especially in the healthcare and financial industries. It's a good idea to have human resources and legal consultation involved in the development of any plan to ensure compliance with regulations.

Knowing where the organization is and where it wants to go and the costs associated with those goals will help corporations make more informed decisions about what kind of training programs will work best for them and fit within their budgets.

A very particular set of skills...

Joe Czarnecki, vice president of product and sales support IPS Learning says, "The size and scope of the training industry is huge, and training programs come in any shape, size and style." Within this multi-billion dollar industry, enterprises can find anything and everything they need for corporate training.

There are essentially four modalities that people talk about in the training industry. Czarnecki explains, "There is open enrollment, which is anyone can sign up for a course. Onsite, which means we take our content and bring it onsite to your company. There is e-training, and finally, synchronous online training, which is blended learning, adaptive learning. Some companies provide all types. Some only provide onsite training."

A variety of training methods are available depending on an organization's needs and budget. Companies can hire contract trainers to do all training or only select portions of their programs, but it's important to consider the expertise of the trainers when deciding whether to stay in-house or to outsource.

As Czarnecki says, "most companies don't have the instructional design abilities to really focus the training." Another key piece of training is the delivery. "We support our clients in helping them schedule the training, help with student enrollment and tracking student progress, and finding an instructor and a good facilitator to bring the content to life."

Instructional design demands a lot of time, and Czarnecki realizes that sometimes companies don't have the experts available to devote the necessary man hours to, let's say, "making sure the exercise ties to the objectives and the objectives tie to the appropriate content."

Another point to consider when thinking about using internal expertise for training is the presentation itself. "Most often the highly qualified employee would rather be doing than teaching about it. [Their] classes tend to be less dynamic," says Czarnecki.

Keith Lippert, director of marketing communications at The Training Associates says that a common misunderstanding about the contract training industry is that "the director of training at a corporation might feel that a vendor would not be able to provide the right match, the right subject matter expert for them." Companies in the training industry, though, pride themselves on offering, "training experts with industry relevant experience. These trainers can speak the same language," stresses Lippert.

Lippert also notes that one of the benefits of outsourcing for training programs is, simply, "time. If you have an in-house trainer who is busy training all the time, they are going to have a lack of time to train for certifications on OSHA and other regulations. Having a contract company makes that resource available on an as-needed, timely basis."

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