Knowledgepool white paper identifies solution to address talent shortages

Learning & development teams are increasingly turning to managed learning service providers as they try to address talent shortages without losing control or increasing headcount, according to a new white paper from KnowledgePool.

Called Addressing the Talent Shortage (The Rise of the Managed Learning Service), the paper defines managed learning, analyses the business drivers for this approach, highlights the skills and business relationships required and uses case studies from financial services, IT and central government organisations to illustrate the benefits of managed learning. It also provides a checklist for selecting a managed learning service provider.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, talent shortages are the number one issue for chief executives. The paper explains how a typical managed learning service can help address this issue through more efficient training administration and supplier management, often with additional consultancy and design, development and delivery services. “Training departments handle a huge administrative workload, which consists of highly repetitive, labour-intensive, yet very necessary tasks,” said Kevin Lovell. “A managed learning service delivers considerable efficiencies at this level and can also support more strategic activities such as needs analysis, the evaluation of training, the benchmarking of multiple training suppliers and the provision of comprehensive management intelligence.” KnowledgePool estimates that the UK market for outsourced learning & development is growing at 10 per cent per annum, as organisations seek new ways to increase efficiency, improve their control over the purchase of training services, introduce consistent processes, improve management information, gain access to external industry knowledge and reallocate their HR resources to more strategic activities.

The paper notes a trend towards ‘progressive outsourcing’, where organisations gradually increase the scope of the learning activities that they outsource. An increasing number of organisations are reaching the third and final stage, where significant benefits can accrue from the enterprise-wide consolidation of learning provision through a full managed learning service. According to the paper, a new breed of flexible, specialist learning suppliers has evolved that can take responsibility for all of an organisation’s learning needs and processes, provide people and systems to manage training activity and source learning courses and resources from a multitude of training providers, in contracts usually lasting three to five years. These firms can reduce costs by passing on discounts on training purchases gained through economies of scale, using technology to automate the repetitive, labour-intensive administration processes and running shared service operations.

“Broadly, there are two categories of managed learning providers,” said Kevin Lovell. “The established training delivery companies with a large portfolio of training courses, and now a new breed of vendor-independent service providers who offer training from a wide range of approved external suppliers. Training delivery companies offer a solution dominated by their own products, whereas vendor-independent providers avoid that conflict of interest – their only incentive is to find the best solution for the clients’ needs, from the best source. Organisations are increasingly seeking the vendor-independent approach because it incentivises the provider to act in their best interests, in any subject matter area.” For organisations considering appointing a managed learning service provider, the paper recommends visiting customer sites and asking the following questions: Does the provider understand your business and the learning required to support it? Do they have proven experience in delivering managed learning services? Are they vendor-independent with unbiased access to a broad range of possible suppliers? Do they provide value-added services such as evaluation and supplier management? Can they provide accurate management information? Are they up-to-date with best practice and the latest thinking in training? Do they have the ability to take the service forward in the future? The paper admits that some L&D heads have concerns about relinquishing aspects of learning to an external provider – they fear that this may lead to job cuts, a loss of control or a change in culture.

“There are understandable concerns about outsourcing but our experience shows that it can and does work,” said Kevin Lovell. “A good provider should be able to work in partnership with a client to understand the business need and agree realistic expectations. This gives clients confidence. All the evidence shows that an increasing number of organisations are embracing this model because they see it as the best option for meeting their learning & development needs.”

Click here to get your free copy of Addressing the Talent Shortage (The Rise of the Managed Learning Service). For more information, please call KnowledgePool on 0870 320 9000 or e-mail

“Managed learning offers clients a low risk strategy for increasing capacity – or for accommodating fluctuating workloads – without the responsibilities of recruiting and managing staff or administering associated systems,” said Kevin Lovell, Learning Strategy Director at KnowledgePool. “It has already been proven with other business support activities such as utility management, IT, recruitment and payroll. Managed learning is a significant step beyond the traditional outsourcing of training development and delivery but it is smaller in scope than a full HR business process outsource.”

Kevin Lovell, Learning Strategy Director at KnowledgePool