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ATD Blog

How to Partner With Vendors to Create Effective Instructor-Led Leadership Training

Friday, June 23, 2023

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

This African proverb holds true for learning and development. Although creating training programs internally can efficiently accomplish your organization’s learning needs, collaborating with a partner to address your unique challenges can elevate the participant experience.

As your organization’s L&D or HR leader, you possess an intricate understanding of your audience’s needs. Meanwhile, vendors usually have more expertise in matching learning methodologies to a wide range of similar audiences at other organizations, within and outside of your industry—in addition to curriculum development, designing the experience, choosing expert facilitators, and more.

Alex Whiteleather, managing director of Abilitie Europe, has over ten years of experience in learning and development solutions. With a track record of collaborating with pre-eminent global companies such as Dell, General Electric, and Stellantis, Whiteleather emphasizes a co-creation approach to training programs.

“You might have a great vision for your L&D program and think you know how to accomplish it, but when you bring in collaborative partners and open up the doors for co-creation, your perspective on what’s possible immediately changes,” Whiteleather said. “For example, Abilitie partnered with a Fortune 50 insurance company to integrate our Management Challenge into their five-day new manager program to create an impactful capstone experience. A strong 96 percent of participants felt that collaboration directly prepared them for their new roles.”

Three Ways to Effectively Collaborate With Training Providers

1. In-Depth Collaboration:
This approach involves developing a bespoke training solution tailored to the organization’s specific challenges. Typically, it also entails co-creating learning outcomes and adopting a collaborative approach with the training provider. Leveraging multiple vendors to address different goals is also common for in-depth collaborations.

For example, Abilitie worked with a Fortune 500 cellular company to develop a three-phase leadership program that taught business leadership skills over the course of four months and increased applied learning by 93 percent. Together, the client and learning provider created a long-term program that incorporated the client’s learning objectives and integrated Abilitie’s solutions.

2. Integrated Collaboration: This approach is suitable for larger L&D teams with the resources and capacity to contribute insight about their organization’s unique challenges and seek out a vendor to integrate into an existing program.

In this case, an organization consults with the vendor to determine the most effective methods for achieving its goals and then collaborates on the instructor-led delivery by leveraging the vendor’s technology or learning methodologies—like a capstone. This approach allows the organization to add its own touch while benefiting from the vendor’s particular area of expertise.


3. Open Enrollment Partnership: This approach suits organizations of all sizes but is especially advantageous for small- to medium-sized companies. Rather than organizations creating a program that fits their audience’s unique needs internally, companies partner with a vendor to provide training opportunities more quickly, at a lower cost, and with lower risk than attempting to build a new program from the ground up.

For example, a medium-sized technology company utilizes Abilitie’s 12-week MBA as a training opportunity for new managers. Because the organization doesn’t have a dedicated L&D team to create customized programming internally, they can send their employees and small groups through open enrollment training with Abilitie at any time. Those participants, along with learners from other companies, benefit from top-notch training.

How can you determine the right approach to collaborating with your L&D provider?

Whiteleather encourages organizations to approach vendor conversations by discussing the challenges and functional knowledge gaps specific to their teams—surveys, employee retention goals, and internal promotion metrics are all great resources to bring to the table.

It’s also important to consider your key internal stakeholders and collaborate with the vendor to bring a strategic proposal that gains stakeholders’ trust and unlocks funds for the training opportunity.

Three Advantages of Partnering With a Training Provider

1. Access to tools drives deep engagement.
Nathan Kracklauer, Chief Research Officer at Abilitie, has helped clients like Nokia and Holcim create experiential learning opportunities for their participants. He believes one of the most compelling reasons to use vendors for learning and development is the range and depth of experience that program facilitators bring to the table.


Kracklauer also notes that vendors offer another valuable asset: unique learning modalities. “Whether you are acquiring playing cards or purchasing licenses for a business simulation, these tools have the ability to enhance the overall learner experience by increasing engagement, retention, and buy-in from participants in ways an organization alone might not be able to accomplish.”

2. The transfer of institutional knowledge creates an extension of the L&D team that is committed to your success.
When co-creating learning programs with vendors, it’s important to expose them to your organizational culture. They will need to learn from you what they can’t read in your public annual reports: things like how competitive or collaborative your organization is, what its learning culture is, how much your audience values learning opportunities, or what role professional development opportunities play in career advancement.

“When I partner with my clients, my goal is to understand the business itself at a deep level. Training companies don't initially know all the ins and outs of an organization’s challenges without the collaboration of the client,” Whiteleather said. “But we aspire to become an extension of your team.”

3. Partnering with an L&D vendor shows participants you’re committed to their growth and development.
Over 35 percent of employees leave their jobs due to lack of training—meeting this need is crucial to talent retention in 2023. Studies also show that co-created learning experiences create buy-in among users. Bringing in a paid expert can address both challenges and shows participants your dedication to their learning and development while creating trust in the learning experience.

As a result, participants are more willing to open up about their real challenges, and then practice their newfound skills and insights to address them.

Five Questions to Ask L&D Providers

When considering collaboration with L&D providers, it is crucial to ask the right questions to ensure a successful partnership. Here are five sample questions:

  • What experience do you have integrating your solution(s) with other clients?
  • Tell me about a time you adapted your learning modality to better meet the needs of a target audience.
  • Will you furnish program facilitators, and if so, what facilitation, industry, and functional experience do they bring to the table?
  • Where are the areas you expect to adapt your solution to our audience’s unique needs?
  • What factors and considerations drive your decision-making process when designing learning experiences?

“Beyond our technology and our solutions, the expertise we bring in as a training provider is we know how to get the learner to uncross their arms and lean into what is being taught. Our primary objective is to engage the learner and help them achieve positive outcomes, and that’s ultimately a huge benefit to our clients,” Whiteleather said.

About the Author

Katelyn Powell is senior manager of brand and content for Abilitie. A Houston, Texas, native with seven years of communications experience in the education/learning industry, she is passionate about equal access to quality education and the oxford comma.

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