Article published by Training Industry on March 3, 2023
In today’s workplace, employees are increasingly looking for meaning and purpose in their work. They want to work for organizations that share their values and allow them to do work that is fulfilling and makes a difference. And they want to be able to see how their role contributes to the company’s larger goals and objectives.
Learning and development (L&D) plays a significant role in the success of the purpose-driven workforce. Employees that can successfully learn, grow and feel more connected to the organization when they feel supported by their employer. For L&D professionals, this means creating learning experiences that are engaging and spark passion, curiosity and creativity. Thus, the stakes of getting virtual learning technology right are higher than they have ever been.
Harnessing the right learning technology for your remote learning initiatives can empower learners to spread knowledge and motivation across social channels, participate from anywhere in the world, and benefit from personalized learning pathways to focus very precisely on knowledge and expertise that directly impacts their role. These capabilities drive impact outward from the individual to the organization, galvanizing agility, engagement, real productivity and innovation.
But the road to working, productive virtual learning technology is not well understood. Many companies are still working to master their learning technology selection and implementation. Because of the rapid change we are experiencing today, simplicity, rather than effectiveness, has become a priority.
While there is no sure-fire way to simplify your project, vendor management can help. Let’s examine the why, the how and the what-next of vendor selection.
The Virtual Learning Technology Market Is Fragmented
As with many industries, it’s rare to find an end-to-end provider that builds the hardware, develops the software, delivers the services and provides the customer support for its learning technology, much less who also carries the stamp of a global brand name.
Just take a moment to consider the sheer number of moving pieces and parts that work together in hybrid learning.
- Video camera
- Learning management system (LMS)
- Integration code, application programming interface (API)
- Virtual meeting platform
- Security software, such as virtual private network (VPN)
- User experience (UX), user interface (UI) and creative services.
- Custom development.
- Integration and migration services.
- Technical troubleshooting
- Customer success and change management
There is a minimum of 16 parts to a virtual learning environment. Most organizations will struggle even further with trying to integrate a new platform with existing vendor relationships and hardware. This adds even more complexity to the service, as small changes exist from room to room, location to location, each making it more difficult to understand, much less service the tech stack.
There is clear value in addressing the fragmentation problem. By working with fewer vendors, L&D can reduce the amount of time and money spent on procurement and training. Fewer vendors in the room often leads to greater flexibility in terms of product integration and compatibility. These advantages increase the probability of delivering streamlined solutions that deliver better outcomes.
How To Identify the Right Vendors for Your Business
While it is not always possible to find a single vendor to handle every aspect of the virtual learning technology, you can look for ways to simplify vendor relationships — if not in number, then in communication, integration and experience.
1. Draw a line between vendor experience and your needs.
Whether they be a consultant, development group, or manufacturer, the vendor will ideally have experience integrating their solutions with the other puzzle pieces of virtual learning technology. Even better, they will have experience delivering technology that is very close to your use case, using the same vendors that you yourself can and would choose.
Ask deep questions about their client experience to get a clear understanding of how their product can be applied on the job.
2. Schedule group discussions early.
Many businesses feel they should manage vendors separately and exclusively, but isolation and silos tend to be the wrong response this day and age, especially when vendors will need to collaborate effectively on your account. Group discussions not only help everyone see the bigger picture, but they also provide invaluable insight into how their contacts will work together.
3. Consider and elevate Day-2 support.
Support is the unsung hero of solutions development; this is especially true of custom solutions development, and it is even more true in custom solutions that impact users and processes.
Support is imperative to agile development. It is the glue between users and developers, not only ensuring the solution continues to work as intended, but it also informs future features development and bug-smashing.
To be effective, the support team needs deep knowledge of the technology, and, at the very least, they need to have an efficient process for translating emerging needs to the development team.
If development and support are not in the same organization, then they should at least have a long-standing working relationship, and the provider should understand the value of having an evangelist to make sure that the technology is used and its full potential and value are realized.
4. Prioritize communication and compatibility.
For optimal partnering, work with vendors who’ve had success with companies or cases like your own, and keep the lines of communication open.
Asking the right questions and scheduling collaborative meetings will prepare you to assess the cohesion of your potential virtual learning solutions.
5. Designate a single point of contact for all your vendors.
Efficiency is key. The last thing you want is to waste time tracking down multiple vendors for support or troubleshooting, only to find that the issue lies with another vendor entirely. That’s why having a single point of contact for all your vendors can be so valuable. With one point of contact, you can quickly and easily get the support you need without having to waste time going back and forth between multiple vendors. In addition, a single point of contact can help to streamline communication and make it easier to resolve any issues that may arise.
A single point of contact can save you time, money and hassle in the long run.
Creating Engaging Learning Experiences to Fuel Purpose-Driven Work
Getting the right vendor team together can have a real impact on the ultimate success of virtual learning technology — not only on L&D outcomes, but on nearly every strategic aspect of the company as a whole.
Purpose-driven, empowered employees stay, and they make a real difference in their organizations by bringing in much-needed knowledge and agility.
To do that, keep learners at the center of the learning experience. Reducing the number of people you need to interface with not only makes communication simpler, but it also delivers more streamlined solutions, solutions that will inspire and empower learners.
Keep these points in mind and you’ll be well on your way to selecting and managing a learning technology with ease.