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Staff Development Dilemmas: In-House vs. Outsource

— by Jordan Bradley


You’ve probably faced this dilemma before.

Training your workforce in-house is limited to your organization’s capabilities, whilst outsourcing means relinquishing control of a highly important business process.

In this article I’ll assess your options and weigh up the pros and cons of deciding whether to stay in-house or opt for outsourcing when considering a range of different staff training methods. The goal is to determine which components of a successful blended learning program are best in house or outsourced.

To keep this current I’ve used the official 2015 Learning and Development Annual Survey Report produced by CIPD in order to hand-pick the learning and development practices and methods that are:

  • Most commonly used
  • Most effective
  • Expected to grow in usage

On-the-job training/Instructor-led

Workers attending training in a seminar presentation format

In-house: Keeping this process in-house will provide your staff with arguably the most tailored learning experience possible. Your employees will benefit from learning how to undertake their specific job role in the environment that they will actually be using their new-found knowledge in, and perhaps even with the colleagues that they will interact with in their role.

However, is your work environment the best place for this intensive learning method to be used? It provides the most realistic setting for the training to take place of course, but in using this method in-house you must consider:

  • The valuable time of your senior employees if involved in training your staff
  • The operational cost of disrupting your workplace with the inconvenience of training taking place in-house
  • The compromises, complexities and distractions caused by hosting the training in-house

Outsource: Outsourcing this process may be less costly and running this operation externally in a specialised environment removes common workplace nuisances resulting in the provision of a more enjoyable, disruption-free learning experience.

But will outsourcing provide a realistic portrayal of the actual work that the employee will be undertaking? Outsourcing on-the-job/instructor-led training – usually a process integral to educating employees on the basic responsibilities of their role – may fall short on delivering training that is so attuned with these requirements.

Decision: In-house

Despite the costs involved, there is greater instant value to keeping this process in-house. By ensuring the delivery of this training is provided at quiet periods, distractions inherent to the workplace can be kept to a minimum.


In-house: Creating and maintaining an in-house eLearning program can be a valuable investment for the development of your workforce and future of your brand. You’ll have full control over every employee’s individual learning plan in your Learning Management System (LMS) with the ability to adapt and update eLearning in reaction to developments such as:

  • The introduction of new employees
  • Alterations in learning plans following performance reviews
  • Legislation changes that cause the need for a change in learning content

But there are caveats:

  • Do we have the required in-house technological expertise to successfully maintain an eLearning program?
  • How much will an investment in a company-wide eLearning program cost the business in terms of resources? Will the benefits of tailoring content to our specific needs make this a worthwhile investment?

Outsource: Whilst costly, working with a team of eLearning specialists may result in the design of a more effective learning solution for your workforce that is also aligned with current learning trends.

The question you must ponder as an employer when considering eLearning as a training method for your staff is:

  • Can we collaborate with an external eLearning producer in order to create a flexible learning program that is suitable for our workforce’s continuously evolving requirements?

Decision: Outsource (and then in-house)

Invest heavily initially in collaborating with an eLearning provider to create a bespoke LMS that your company will be able to easily maintain with little to no external software assistance so that you can have ownership of this valuable training method in-house.

UGC (User-Generated Content)

In-house: Requesting your staff to create content for the benefit of others in the workplace – in addition to their existing responsibilities – could prove problematic. Having said that, the information that UGC can provide could be of immense value in establishing a workforce that shares a comprehensive understanding of the role of each department, team and individual in the organisation. In the case of new employees, in-house developed UGC could play a pivotal role in reducing the learning curve during orientation and the probationary period.

Outsource: Insight from external UGC will remove bias and politics, making it easier to navigate. Resources from industry leaders will also aid the development of an outstanding quality UGC knowledge base. However, sourcing UGC of high relevancy in this manner will be a difficult, time-consuming and therefore expensive task.

Decision: In-house

Whilst creating UGC in-house might not result in the provision of ground-breaking learning material, it will ensure that all the necessary learning across the core business areas is in place. Retaining this process in-house also reduces risk and costs, and if used wisely in combination with other learning methods and maintained efficiently, could be a great investment for the development of your workforce on an ongoing basis.

A couple more worth considering

Gamified Learning

Decision: Outsource this one; the costs, risks and knowledge gaps involved in producing this type of learning for your staff on an in-house basis prevent any justifications of doing so.

Action Learning Sets

Decision: Outsource this growing-in-popularity (29% of the CIPD Survey Respondents expected Action Learning Sets to grow in use over the next two years) training tactic.

Reliant on regular contact, it’s not feasible to undertake this learning experience within the workplace on a regular basis. Without sounding cynical, you might also find that your staff are able to take Action Learning Sets more seriously in a purpose-designed environment away from their colleagues.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, when strategizing on which L&D processes to maintain internally and which to outsource, you must make the smartest decision for the future of your organization, taking into account factors such as:

  • The scalability of training methods, i.e. the feasibility of maintaining an effective training program as the workforce grows.
  • Why keeping a particular training method in-house is such a priority – make decisions rationally, based on data and financial forecasts, rather than any kind of emotional factors.
  • Which option will produce the best quality and most relevant training to the employees who will actually benefit from its use?
  • Which option will provide the most value in the long term?

Following the guidelines above, you should be on the right track.

Stuck in the dilemma of deciding how to invest your L&D budget?

Speak with Mindflash for an open discussion with experts who will be able to accurately advise you on your available options.

Author bio: Jordan Bradley works for High Speed Training (HST), a fully accredited specialist eLearning course provider based in the UK. He enjoys his responsibility of managing HST’s Hub – a blog which posts weekly insightful articles on a range of topics related to their array of online courses. Jordan spends the rest of his time running around the countryside, travelling on weekends to visit friends he wished lived closer, and fighting hard in the battle against laziness, amongst other things.

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