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A Training Manager’s Tale

How Savvy L&D Managers Get More Done

The day started out like any other. Trina Trainer walked into her office, laptop bag on her shoulder, balancing her Venti Caramel Macchiato while texting on her smart phone. Five minutes later, the Vice President of Sales rushed into her office, having just returned from an Educational Technology conference. “I know what I want for our New Hire Sales Training,” he breathlessly exclaimed. “It needs more video examples and gamification. Gamification is really hot right now.”

Trina bit her lip. She knew she didn’t have any team members with experience in either gamification or video production. “And did I mention that we just hired 20 more reps who start at the end of the month?” he added. With the current hiring freeze, she wondered how she would get the VP’s training needs met along with the all of the other high priority projects she and her understaffed department had to complete. And didn’t her most senior instructional designer just go out on maternity leave? If only there was another way…

The scenario in many companies is the same. Learning & Development managers are faced with mounting workloads, dwindling staff and shrinking budgets. However, some savvy managers are turning to project-based consultants as a way to supplement their internal staff and complete critical projects. Here are some of the reasons why:

Flexibility.

According to an American Management Asso­ciation survey, 95 percent of corporate managers say project-based consultants give them the flexibility to keep fully staffed during busy periods. Companies that embrace workforce flexibility fare better economically – in a study published in the journal Decision Science, researchers found that earnings, gross margins and stock returns improved after the increased use of consultants.

Cost reduction.

A study by Contingent Workforce Strategies found contingent workers save companies a significant amount of money—typically 17 percent of their total expense base. Consultants reduce the fixed and overhead costs associated with FTEs in the form of payroll taxes, benefits, recruiting and training.

Access to specialized skills.

Even in today’s tight job market, there is a shortage of workers with critical skill sets. A 2012 ManpowerGroup survey revealed half of U.S. employers have reported difficulty finding appropriately skilled candidates to fill open positions. And according to a 2012 McKinsey study, by 2020 the world may have a global shortfall of as many as 40 million skilled workers. In order to address this growing gap between labor supply and demand, organizations are adopting the use of contingent workers as a critical strategy to meet their needs.

Infuse knowledge and ideas into their team.

In a Bersin by Deloitte study, L&D managers reported they had received value from their contractors as a source of innovation. Because the contractors are professionals who have worked on many projects in various organizations, their perspectives broaden with each new assignment and their fresh insight can generate new ideas.

Agility.

Talent needs can change on a dime and new technology or new competitors can expose talent gaps in any organization. Employing a contingent talent strategy enables a company to access the right talent to meet specific skill or competitive challenges quickly, without incurring longer-term costs or disrupting the organization.

For example, Clarity Consultants recently worked with a pharmaceutical company to help streamline its product launch process and improve its time to market. Clarity provided two instructional designers with graphics expertise to create training explaining the new processes. The consultants created an overview chart of the streamlined process, a detailed, instructor-led training program and a manager’s toolkit. The program was also designed to be easily converted to a Web-based training format for new employees who joined the company.

This is just one instance of L&D managers turning to firms like Clarity to add more resources to a project. In summary, there are options for Trina Trainer and other L&D managers. Instead of saying no to projects, managers can call on L&D consulting firms to bring in skilled L&D professionals to get the job done. A survey of L&D managers found 78 percent were satisfied with their decision to use contingent workers as well as their choice of L&D consulting firm. The flexibility to add resources during peak periods was the number one reason for hiring contingent professionals, with the access to specialized skills and the infusion of innovation as the second and third most cited reasons.