For many corporate learning teams, taking on the entirety of the design and development of learning solutions tailored to the organisation is beyond their capabilities or capacity. Perhaps the team doesn’t have the full suite of skills to design and develop a really robust and global onboarding programme. Maybe the organisation wants something high-end or more complex than they have the skills to build in-house. Or perhaps it’s a capacity issue—the team just doesn’t have enough people hours available to get all the work done that needs to get done. Enter the vendor relationship.
As a digital learning professional, I’ve been on the vendor side of the corporate learning relationship for most of my career. I’ve worked at small boutique shops, freelanced as a consultant, and have had the good fortune to be with a larger agency-type organisation (Kineo) for more than a decade. I’ve seen a lot of these corporate learning/vendor relationships come and go.
We had a financial services client a number of years back who told us that every three years or so they liked to mix things up with vendors, and go find new learning development partners to work with. Why? Because they wanted fresh ideas and they didn’t want to keep seeing the same old things from the same old vendors. As a result, they had worked with a lot of vendors and spent a lot of time in the “getting to know you” phase with all of them. Then, they’d move on.
Other organisations will go to RFP (Request for Proposal) to get new vendors on their list of preferred partners every few years—often, these processes are run through procurement, with price being the most heavily weighted metric on the scorecard.
Some of the mindsets we’ve come across when organisations think they need to keep switching vendors:
Now, since I am on the vendor side of this relationship, I’ll admit my perspective may be a little biased. But I think it should be really obvious why treating a vendor as a commodity or a transactional relationship may not be the best approach for your corporate learning team. We’ve found our best partnerships are with the organisations that we continue to work with year in and year out. We’ve gotten to know each other really well and we push each other to improve our processes and standards.
These factors and challenges take time and iteration to get right. In fact, it’s a constant evolution. If you treat each project as a new horizon, you run a real risk of not getting these fundamentals right.
You may get close on that first project. However, it takes a true collaborative partnership built on mutual trust and shared understanding of your organisation’s unique needs to build this kind of solid framework. It takes people who have that shared understanding and the right eye for detail to bring the right lens to each and every project—and to the overall relationship.
Getting this to happen at scale—to bring consistency across all of the work you do—you need a vendor who is more than just a development house who will execute an order, but rather a strategic partner who brings new insights to the table. The vendor should be open to sharing their experience with other industries and companies to help you see outside of the walls of your own organisation.
That will help with designing the optimal solutions—be it a live course, a series of interactive eLearning modules, job aids and performance support, or a fully blended solution.
Once you find a great vendor, build on that relationship together. As with any strong and meaningful relationship, there may be challenges and bumps along the way, but you and your partner should have the maturity and the skills to problem-solve together to ensure the relationship thrives for everyone involved.
At Kineo, we pride ourselves on building long-term relationships with our clients. We get embedded in their organisations and become an extension of their team.
Kineo helps the world's leading businesses improve performance through learning and technology. We combine quality in learning with award-winning customer service and innovation. We're here to take on your learning and performance challenges - and deliver results.
Originally published at kineo.com.
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