Relationships are top priority in managed learning

Joanne Casson highlights the dangers of putting too much emphasis on the cost-cutting benefits of managed learning when it’s the personal aspects and partner relationships that are the keys to success.


‘Achieving value’ means different things to different people. For L&D teams, the value of managed learning – outsourcing aspects of your training activity – relates to its worth and whether it meets the learning needs of the organisation. Whereas for many procurement teams, the value of managed learning is more directly related to the cost of the service and the future savings that can be made.

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These perspectives of cost and benefit are both important. In a recent research study into managed learning, we found that long-term success depends on getting the right balance between the two.

Of course you can achieve cost savings if you buy your training more efficiently and adopt a stronger negotiation approach with your training suppliers. The question is whether this will have a detrimental impact on the quality of training that’s delivered. Procurement teams will understandably want to drive down the costs where possible but L&D practitioners have to recognise that there’s a tipping point beyond which quality will be affected.

The key point here is that training is not a transactional cost. Buying training is very different to buying generic business services. For one thing, training is personal to every employee. It demands a personal commitment. When an employee has a training need, they’ll want to talk to someone who will understand their situation and help them find the right solution to meet their need. If you’ve outsourced your training activity, your managed learning partner will need to handle these discussions with empathy and expertise in order to respond appropriately.

And this gets to the crux of the matter. Our research highlighted the importance of ‘chemistry’: the personal relationships between the L&D team and the managed learning provider. If you’re going to appoint someone to source, book, administer and evaluate your training – and manage your training suppliers – then clearly the quality of the training that they can provide and the performance improvements that they can deliver are fundamental. Ultimately, however, their success will largely be determined by how effectively they can work with you. It’s therefore essential to find a provider that you want to work with closely; someone who will take the time to understand your business and your values; someone trustworthy, with credibility, who will work in your best interests.

The ‘value’ of investing in the right relationship should not be underestimated. One participant in our study warned that their procurement team had driven them to change managed learning providers for a cheaper supplier – but they then had to invest a huge amount of time with the new supplier to build a similar working relationship as they had with their previous provider. They had not factored this into their decision making process.

L&D teams owe it to themselves and to all employees in the organisation to champion the notion that the cheapest option isn’t always the best solution. Price shouldn’t be the deciding factor when it comes to managed learning because the only real way to achieve long-term success and value from this initiative is to maintain an open, honest and productive relationship with the right managed learning provider.

About the author 

Joanne Casson is a managed services expert at learning and development specialist Hemsley Fraser. She can be contacted at or +44 (0) 845 071 2801.


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