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Learning and Development – Outsourced!

By Nirmala Nandgopal, CEO, Knowledge Tree Consulting

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Nirmala Nandgopal, CEO, Knowledge Tree Consulting

Knowledge Tree, an organization dedicated towards offering innovative consultancy solutions in the area of Learning and Development since 2002. Nirmala Nandagopal has around seven years of experience in different areas, related to training delivery, curricula & course development, eLearning and web-based product development.

Learning and Development has evolved in the last three decades, to become a critical function in organizations. Gone are the days when the skills and competencies of employees were taken for granted and they were expected to deliver, irrespective of their qualifications or experience.

Today, an organization’s Learning and Development strategy is aligned to its business goals. The direction that the business is slated to take, whether in terms of new technology or business expansion - geographically or into diverse areas, decides the skills and competencies that the workforce needs to have.

 Organizations invest huge amounts of money to ensure that their workforce has requisite skills to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Focus has shifted from Technical and Functional skills alone, to encompass Soft and Behavioral Skills, so that employees are able to relate better at the workplace, not only with peers but also with subordinates and managers and more importantly with clients and customers. Additionally, Learning and Development has emerged as one of the foremost parameters for keeping employees motivated and engaged.

Advancement in Technology has resulted in sophisticated modes of content creation and presentation.Thus, today, Instructor led training is giving way to other modes of delivery like eLearning, Immersive learning, Gamification, Social learning etc. Training is delivered online through virtual tools, and learners use mobiles and tablets on the go, to learn new skills.

Large volumes of training require detailed processes and state-of-the-art tools to manage training operations. Training needs must be identified and analyzed, training calendars need to be published, courses need to be announced, resources like facilitators, infrastructure etc. Need to be booked and managed, programs need to be co-ordinated, monitored and tracked, data needs to be captured, recorded and analyzed, analytics and reports need to be generated, ROI needs to be calculated. The tasks are endless!

 

“An ideal Learning and Development Consultancy should be able to partner with organizations and support them in achieving their business goals through the right learning strategies”

 

It is not possible to run a full-fledged learning function using small in-house teams. Large organizations with huge budgets may be able to pull it off as they can afford large diverse teams that take care of all aspects of this complex function. However, it begs the question, do organizations focus on their core business or get into the nitty-gritties of what is purely a support function?

This is where Learning and Development Consultants come in. In the words of Peter Drucker, “Do what you can do best and Outsource the rest“. It behoves well for organizations to outsource their Learning and Development needs to the experts, while maintaining a lean in-house team, to liaise with them and ensure that needs are communicated and met.

Learning and Development consulting is an evolving field. Before the eighties, it was virtually unheard of. Employees had to learn on the job, with guidance from more experienced superiors. With the IT revolution, a few training institutes set up shop, but their focus was mainly on IT skills. In the nineties, suddenly the market was wide open and there was room, not only for larger institutes but also smaller players. However, the focus was still on IT related training. With the IT and ecommerce boom and MNCs setting up large operations in India, the need for skilled people has risen to an all-time high. Suddenly, youngsters in their twenties are finding themselves managing large teams. New technologies, diverse business requirements, new products, new markets and new innovations mean new skills to learn. The importance of learning as a function, whether in-house or outsourced has gained relevance.

Today, Learning and Development in India is a largely unorganized sector. Learning and Development companies abound, with the focus mainly on delivering training programs, whether Technical or Soft Skills, largely through freelance consultants. E-Learning companies which offer everything, from content development and instructional design to immersive learning and Gamification also exist. There are companies which focus on coaching and others that focus on Assessments. Can these companies with their specialized offerings be called Learning and Development consultancies, in the true sense of the word?

An ideal Learning and Development Consultancy should be able to partner with organizations and support them in achieving their business goals through the right learning strategies. It should be in a position to advice organizations on learning policies and processes and help them in large scale implementation, incorporating the latest in technology and methodology. It should have the expertise and the reach to take on assignments related to all aspects of the Learning discipline. Unfortunately, there are not many consultancies who can offer all of this under one roof.

Today, consultancies offering comprehensive Learning and Development solutions are limited to being part of larger Management or HR Consulting Organizations. Pure-play Learning and Development Consulting companies offering the whole spectrum of services are few and far between.

The good news is that, with this function gaining in importance, there is palpable change in the market. Consultancies run by Learning and Development experts backed by solid experience, are mushrooming slowly but surely. This trend will bring huge benefits to organizations in terms of savings in time, effort and money. They can now focus on their core business without having to take care of an additional function or having to deal with multiple vendors.

Looks like Learning and Development as an outsourced option or Managed Learning Services as it is called, has finally come of age!

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