When and How to Outsource Training

Tips and best practices to outsource training…


Do you have the resources and the qualified personnel to accomplish your training goals? You may find that after analyzing your company’s training needs you don’t have the best training materials or most qualified personnel in house. There are a variety of reasons why you might decide to purchase prepackaged training materials or bring in outside trainers:

  1. You have complex regulations to comply with, such as those governing safety or environmental issues.
  2. You have legal requirements to meet, such as those governing equal opportunity, harassment, and discrimination.
  3. You have a small staff and don’t have enough (or any) qualified trainers.
  4. You have large numbers of employees who need refresher training.
  5. You want to keep employees up-to-date on what’s happening in your industry.

With regards to regulatory compliance, several organizations and laws affect your company. Keeping track of their requirements may seem overwhelming, but there are many quality training programs on the market that you can use to keep your company in compliance. Outsourcing may be the most efficient way to meet your company’s many legal requirements.

Government Regulations

Companies often go to considerable expense and effort to comply with government regulations regarding training employees to protect their health and the environment. Legally mandated training requirements can range from simple steps for good housekeeping to complex procedures for handling and disposing of hazardous wastes. Your goal is to make sure your training program keeps your company in compliance and protects employees and the environment. Here are some of the laws and agencies, along with their approach to required training:

Employment Laws

The United States has many employment laws designed to protect employees and to guarantee a workplace that is fair and equal for all. Most of these laws spell out what employers can and cannot do with regard to employment decisions, but they do not include specific training requirements. Nevertheless, training is often encouraged on topics such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and employee rights.

The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws serve as gatekeepers to diversity in the workplace. Specifically, these laws operate to prevent employers from implementing or maintaining hiring and other employment practices that may block diversity from the workplace “door.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 generally prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from committing discrimination in employment on the basis of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), meaning a particular characteristic (religion, sex, or national origin) is absolutely necessary in order to perform the job, e.g., an actor must be male in order to play a male lead character in a movie. Title VII also prohibits employers from using selection practices that have a disproportionate and negative impact on a group of individuals because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) generally prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from discrimination in employment based on age, unless age is a BFOQ. Individuals that are age 40 and over are protected by this law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) generally prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discrimination in employment based on disability. Employers must reasonably accommodate any otherwise qualified and disabled person, unless an undue hardship can be demonstrated. Undue hardship generally means that a reasonable accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense in light of the employer’s financial resources, size, and/or location of operations, etc.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits the federal government from discriminating against qualified and disabled individuals in employment.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 generally prohibits all employers from using or implementing discriminatory pay practices on the basis of gender.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave, during any 12-month period, to care for a newly born or adopted child or a spouse, child, or parent (does not include parents-in-law) with a serious medical condition, or to attend to the employee’s own serious medical condition.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA’s primary training goal is the long-term reduction of injury and illness among workers. Short-term effectiveness of training is measured through test scores, surveys, and observing how workers demonstrate the task they have learned. Long-term effectiveness is measured by evaluating worker attitudes toward risk reduction and hazard control, changes in work practices among trained workers, and changes in reported health and injury rates.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), each year businesses in the United States provide nearly 2 billion hours of training to approximately 60 million employees at a cost of $55 billion to $60 billion. Training requirements for a variety of health and safety topics are extensive and often very specific concerning the method and duration of training.

OSHA has many training requirements for specific operations, including hazard communication, bloodborne pathogens, materials handling, powered industrial trucks (forklifts), and personal protective equipment. Depending on the topic, OSHA specifies initial training requirements as well as a required schedule for refresher training. See Appendix A: Master Training Guide for 29 CFR for more details.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

DOT requires all employees who handle or transport hazardous materials to receive three types of training: general awareness, function-specific, and safety. DOT regulations do not specify a delivery method or format for training.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA generally focuses its efforts on compliance rather than the training process used to achieve compliance. However, asbestos, lead abatement, and certain other highly toxic or cancer-causing material-handling are exceptions for which EPA has specific training requirements.

In some cases, EPA specifies general types of training (e.g., classroom or hands-on) and time frames for refresher training, but leaves the duration of training and choice of training materials up to facility managers. For example, EPA requires hazardous waste large quantity generators and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities to provide classroom instruction or on-the-job training that teaches employees how to perform their duties in a way that ensures the facility’s compliance with hazardous waste management regulations. Refresher training must be conducted annually, but the regulations do not specify the type or method of refresher training.

State Regulations

To further complicate your training requirements, states can mandate different or more stringent requirements than the federal agency in many areas. In most cases, employers are required to comply with whichever laws are more favorable to the employee.

How Much to Outsource?

Some companies choose to outsource all or most of their training needs. Other companies choose to keep training in-house and invest heavily in a training staff that creates an original curriculum. Most companies fall somewhere in between.

According to a recent ASTD “State of the Industry” report, the percentage of training dollars companies spend on external training products and services is steadily rising. Companies surveyed spent approximately one-third of their training budget on outsourcing.

What about you? What is your training budget and how might it best be spent? Part of your needs analysis should include deciding how much to outsource. Once you’ve decided to purchase some of your training materials, you’ll need to choose with care.

Criteria for Choosing Prepackaged Training Materials

There are quality resources available for your compliance and legal training in many of the training methods discussed in Chapter 3. Below are recommended criteria you should use to evaluate products.

Classroom or Instructor-Led Training Materials

Many companies and organizations produce PowerPoint presentations, videos, DVDs, handouts, and other useful resources that can be purchased for delivering classroom training. How do youchoose which products are the best for your needs?

Check for these features:

  • The materials cover all the regulations pertinent to your industry.
  • They are easily customizable. They allow you to delete information that doesn’t apply to your company, for example, or add information such as your state’s regulations or your company’s specific policies and procedures. They allow you to place your company logo on materials—or do it for you before shipping.
  • Their information is up-to-date and reflects the latest revisions or new preferred methods in the industry.
  • They contain relevant illustrations to the subject and industry.
  • They provide Certificates of Completion or other training verification that helps you keep accurate records of who has completed required training.
  • They provide easily accessible technical support for computer-related products.

Computer-Based Training

Computer-based training products should have the features of classroom materials plus:

  • They should have built-in interactivity—the more the better. Exercises, case studies, “You be the Judge” scenarios, or other activities test learning by requiring trainees to use what they’ve learned to make decisions.
  • They integrate quizzes and tests throughout the learning to guide trainees through the material at their own pace. For example, if trainees don’t get all the answers correct in a quiz, they need to repeat that section of the material before they go on to the next level to ensure they learn the materials.
  • They may contain scheduling software that enables trainers to electronically schedule trainees and set them up for training.
  • They may contain tracking software that enables trainers to track trainees’ progress, test scores, and completion rates. This software should be easy-to-use and adapt to help you maintain employees’ training records.

Online or E-Learning

Web-based training is basically CBT training administered and used over the Web, so use the same criteria when choosing Web-based materials that you use for CBT. In addition:

  • Look for Web links to other Internet resources, such as industry groups or government sites, where trainees can go for further information.
  • Ensure your in-house computers meet all the system requirements to receive the full benefits of the online multimedia components. You’ll need to verify both hardware and software compatibility.
  • Ensure your company’s bandwidth is sufficient for one or multiple users to take online training.
  • Look for an underlying learning management system (LMS), which enables you (or the training administrator) to merge the training scheduling with training tracking.
  • Teleconferences and webinars, or Web meetings, also require your in-house computers to meet a minimum level of system and software requirements. Some vendors may require you to install specific software in order to access their Web broadcasts. These online conferences also require your Internet connection to be fast enough to receive the broadcast.
  • In addition, you need to consider who is giving the presentation, what organization they represent, what their qualifications are, etc. Since these are the same criteria for choosing an outside trainer, refer to the next section in which we cover this training resource.

Outside Consultants/Professional Trainers

To choose the best outside trainer: Evaluate several speakers, because there are many available for most topics. You may want to have an evaluation committee to help you research and choose speakers. Look for the following information:

  • How many times per year does each contender speak in public?
  • How many times have they spoken to audiences in your particular field?
  • Do they have a portfolio with video samples of their work?
  • Have they published articles or books on the topic?
  • Are they members of professional training and/or industry organizations?
  • What do previous clients say about them?
  • Has the speaker been asked to return?
  • Did the speaker provide a pre-session survey?
  • What information is in their proposal? Read promotional materials thoroughly since speakers often offer their best tips in their portfolios. If you’ve heard it all before, they may not be the most up-to-date speakers you can find.

Consider using a speaker locator service to assist in the search and ensure results. Unlike speakers’ bureaus, which represent a stable of speakers, speaker locator services work for their clients. The locator service identifies clients’ needs and searches for a speaker who most closely matches those needs. The service works similarly to a real estate agent, wherein the buyer is presented with options until an ideal match is found. The service is free to employers; speakers pay a commission to be in the locator’s database.

Off-Site Conferences/Seminars

Sending employees to conferences and seminars can be an excellent way for them to learn cuttingedge information as well as to find out what similarly placed employees in other organizations are thinking and doing. The obvious drawbacks are the cost and time away from work. But, in many cases, especially when there are only a few employees involved and there is a lack of in-house expertise in this area, the benefits of conferences and seminars may well be worth the costs.

When choosing which conferences to attend, consider:

  • Who is putting on or sponsoring the event
  • How applicable the subject matter is to your company
  • The qualifications of the presenter(s) or panel
  • Any professional affiliations the conference or seminar may have
  • Whether it’s a new conference or an annual or industry event
  • Number of attendees expected to attend (will it provide a good chance for networking?)
  • Location and cost of event, e.g. if it’s a multiday event, you may be able to attend (or have trainee(s) attend) only the day with sessions most relevant to your company.