Finding an elearning vendor is about more than just identifying an agency that can provide a good mix of services, pricing, and delivery. Training is important for the long-term success of your organization and the team that supports your efforts will become an important, trusted partner.
Especially as more organizations seek to outsource more of their training and eLearning operations to knowledgeable vendors, it’s critical that you take care to get a feel for the working style of a vendor, their capabilities, and their ability to perform for you with a sense of ownership.
The search involves a number of important considerations that, when addressed methodically and with an eye toward current and future needs, will enable you to deliver on an important eLearning vision for your organization.
You likely already have a good sense for what to look for in a vendor. Among other things, you should see evidence of a robust portfolio of clients, the organization should have a track record of delivering creative and unique solutions, and the people involved need to demonstrate the ability to listen and understand your concepts.
But while you’re turning over each proverbial stone to find the vendor best for you, you might be missing other key factors that will help you be much more precise in finding a vendor who aligns with your needs and vision. It’s important to have a game plan for your search so that you and your team can focus on how to best get your needs served, and so you don’t get distracted with offerings that may be beyond the scope of what you’re seeking.
Among the things you need to be on the look out for are interactions with vendors and how they approach the opportunity of working with you (and remember, working with you should always be seen by a vendor as an opportunity, not a challenge). Be aware of the following factors as you engage with potential vendors.
Use these as a way to predict what an actual working experience would be like with a vendor. That includes how they treat you and your team, how they scope your projects, and how they can bring something to the table beyond just meeting your scope of requirements:
1. Do They Ask the Right Questions?
A good learning vendor will do more listening than talking during the investigation process, but they should also be astute about the questions they ask. They should be seeking to learn about past training initiatives, what content you already have on hand, what internal support you have, and they need to dig deep to understand your learning goals.
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But they should also show interest in what you want your learners to feel. To understand that, they need to ask questions that help them understand what your current workplace culture is like. The vendors should try to understand what you want your learners to take away once they’ve completed a course.
A surprising number of elearning vendors aren’t asking these questions. Those are the ones that likely want to bring a one-size-fits-all approach to the task. They typically prefer that you fit yoru needs into their menu of offerings rather than adapting to what you want.
Remember, you’re actually not looking for a vendor; you’re looking for a learning partner to take your content, training, and goals and create something truly impactful. Look for a partner that is proactive in identifying and delivering creation solutions and not just dressing up the same old eLearning programs for every client.
2. Are They Following the Right Process?
When a learning company wants to shoehorn your problem into one of their pre-existing solutions, it’s painfully obvious that you’re not getting the individual treatment. Avoid that by taking a closer look at their overall process. How do you go from your first meetings to a finished product you love?
Often, you’ll find that vendors offer a specific amount of time to hear your ideas. Their response is usually to try to map your ideas into an easy-to-follow roadmap of deliverables. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being organized, and all vendors should be. But a great elearning vendor will come up with new solutions, creative concepts, or they might even ask for more time to explore ideas with you.
At ELM, we use a process called blueprinting to create individual solutions for clients. By sitting down and communicating about general ideas and then using those to map out learning and create a completely customized experience, we get better results. Your digital learning partner should be as concerned (if not more concerned) with the journey as they are the destination.
3. Do They Offer the Right Services?
It’s pretty rare that one learning vendor offers all the services that you need. They might be able to design what you want, but what about branding and messaging? We know that the best digital learning plays into your company’s culture and utilizes specific branding that enhances recall. Your learning should feel like a part of your business, not some add-on supplement.
And that’s the key – beyond what they can currently offer, what are they willing to do to make you successful? Will they apply their knowledge and resources to provide you with something that’s never been created before? Do they bring excitement to the process of exploring your needs?
ELM orchestrates internal experts in all areas of elearning – curriculum development, learning methodology, design, technology, visual storytelling, video, among other capabilities – to offer an end-to-end partner experience. Increasingly, our clients work with us to manage their entire organization learning experience. It’s not just about providing specific courses, but achieving big picture goals for the organization.
By working with communications in the learning and development arena, we’re not just creating digital learning, we’re creating digital learning for the right learner. Later, branded images and experiences become learning triggers because they’re targeted to the right people.
Not all learning vendors are created equally, which is why we prefer to consider ourselves learning partners. Instead of a standalone service, ELM offers a way to reorganize and overhaul your learning efforts to get the best results.
By asking about these factors the next time you’re looking for a partner, you’ll find a learning company that helps your organization make elearning a priority, an experience, and a joy.
ELM demonstrated this with a global food products manufacturer that sought better compliance from its employees about food law training. After discussions with the client team, it became clear that the issue wasn’t just a matter of training content. Rather, it was much more about developing relationships with employees by using elearning to get buy-in and better compliance. Read more in our case study, Changing Hearts & Minds With Food Law.
Hiring an eLearning Vendor: The Process
Now that we’ve talked about what to consider in your search, let’s take a look at the process of hiring an eLearning vendor to work with.
1. List Your eLearning Requirements
Make a list of your project requirements before you begin the hiring process. Research your organization’s L&D requirements and write down all your project needs and expectations. Be sure to list project specifications, including things like audio-visual elements, graphic requirements, media production, instructional design, and so on.
Doing this will enable you to effectively communicate your project needs with the prospective vendor, allowing them to be in a better position to decide whether they can fulfill those requirements or not. This will save time and resources.
2. Ask for Work Samples
Once you have selected some of the prospective eLearning vendors, ask for their work samples and thoroughly analyze them. If possible, request the prospective vendors provide you with samples similar to your project.
In this way, you will be able to understand the quality of content they create. This will also enable you to review their performance, skill sets, and course development capabilities. Put a checkmark next to each requirement and give preference to the vendor whose work samples, quality, and skills are the best fit.
3. Describe the Project Goals
Once you have reviewed the work samples, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of the vendor you want to hire. If you still have multiple potential eLearning vendors, schedule a meeting/interview and talk to them about your project goals.
Explain the scope of the project and what you want to achieve with it. Do you want to reach a wider audience or do you want to enhance the training of your employees? Is the project meant for onboarding purposes or will it be a part of your main L&D curriculum? Then, ask questions related to your goals. This will allow you to better understand each vendor’s work ethic, values, and experience with projects similar to yours.
4. Discuss Project Development Timelines and Payment Terms
Finally, talk about the estimated timelines for the development of all the eLearning course elements. Ask the vendor to provide you with project development timelines from beginning to end and a cost breakdown for each element. See if it matches your estimated time of project delivery and your budget.
If it doesn’t, ask for timeline adjustments and/or special accommodations. Always ensure you understand where the vendor is coming from with their estimates. It could be that there is an extra step in the process that you left out in your planning phase! When both sides agree on the timeline, discuss the payment terms and get the required documents signed.
The quality of the eLearning your company provides reflects your brand. Choosing the right eLearning vendor for your projects is key to eLearning that fully engages your learners and immerses them in your unique style and culture. Take the extra time to ask the right questions and have the right conversations when choosing your eLearning vendor. For more information about everything related to eLearning, stay connected to ELM learning!