Leaving a legacy: sustainable learning and development

One of my long-held values since starting my career in learning and development was to always operate based on ‘sustainable’ solutions.

I don’t mean the ‘green’ kind of sustainable, although it is green in its own way. I mean not outsourcing things to external trainers or consultants that could be delivered internally. I also mean only undertaking an external learning intervention if it would leave the organisation better off in the longer term, long after the consultants had left and all the buzz and hype has worn off.


Why outsource at all?

Very quickly in a corporate role you realise you have requests to create training solutions in such a diverse range of areas that you and your team (if you’re lucky enough to have one), can’t be experts in all the things all the time.

The flip side of that is that as training providers, there are times when you can put together learning content on any new subject. We’ve all done it, and for any training that is delivered, there was always a first time. The challenge comes with finding a balance. When is it best to outsource and to bring in a specialist, and when can you or a member of your team swot up on a subject and put something together in-house?

The other factor to consider – is that if you are delivering (or attempting to deliver) training on all solutions, you may soon lose credibility, as people will realise you can’t be an expert on all the topics all of the time. And actually, that’s not the only factor. Even if you did have good knowledge of a range of topics, as the ‘in-house’ person – people could still see too much of you if you popped up for every training. Participants will benefit from a mix of trainers, training styles and delivery methods.

I recognized this early on. Once I had gotten over the feeling that because I had the word ‘training’ in my job title I should be expected to deliver everything, I set about contacting good quality suppliers that were ‘specialists’ in their respective areas.

Once these suppliers were in and delivering, there comes another conundrum. To continue to use the external specialists forever and a day with the associated recurring costs, or to move towards a different model.


Questions to ask

My approach to in-house versus external would vary depending on a number of factors:

  1. How specialised is the training?
  2. Is there a perception around the training that would benefit from external delivery?
  3. Is the training something that is needed on an ongoing basis?
  4. Is there any benefit (eg additional perspective, knowledge of the organisation) that would be added from internal delivery?
  5. What’s the capacity level for internal delivery/budget for external delivery?


Owning messages that are part of your core values

Over time, having to make decision for different initiatives, I realised that I had underlying principles that would inform my decision each time. These were:

  • Messages have more power when delivered internally.
  • It’s important to ‘own’ messages that are part of your core values.
  • It’s also about building capacity – developing skills and building sustainable ways to implement learning and change

The long-term benefits to these principles are obvious. Difficult messages that may be resisted when delivered by an external consultant are more likely to land better when delivered by an internal colleague. Also individuals that deliver training or key messages, get to step up and be a role model. This reinforces positive behaviours and values. When internal colleagues deliver key messages relating to organisational values, this creates more awareness and learning, more two-way feedback, and more buy-in.

The individuals that get to deliver these messages learn as they go. A good example of this was when I set up Anti-Bullying Advisors in an organisation. We recruited individuals, put them through an assessment, and then trained and supported them. Eventually they were able to deliver the training to the next group of recruits. Over time it meant that these messages were amplified and strengthened throughout the organisation. The more people that learnt, and then walked the talk, meant that gradually this moved from an initiative to ‘the way things are done round here’, eg, a significant cultural shift.


Leave a legacy

Learning and development is about developing people so they can know more, do more and be more. It’s also about developing organisations so they can do the same. It’s about creating an infrastructure so that if you step away, it remains. It’s about leaving a legacy.

This has been one of my core values in my career – what are yours?

Join our online community in our FREE Facebook group The Learning & Development Hub.

Sign up for our People Development blog, to get our blogs delivered straight into your inbox.