The Case for Moving Learning & Development into Shared Services

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Shared Services Centres (SSC) rarely have learning as one of the core delivery processes.  In the SSON January post, I talked about the reasons why learning and development (L&D) is difficult to centralise and therefore why it is challenging to put into an SSC, including outsourcing.  The primary reasons why centralising learning processes creates difficulties for most organisations are: -

  • How learning budgets are developed – the L&D budget is spread across every department and function
  • The individual functions decide on the learning for a particular area and also have a big say on who provides the education. 
  • The training budget is one of the budget line items receive the greatest cuts when part way through the year reductions are mandated, and therefore the financial management of central activities gets challenging.
  • Significant focus on the learning content and less so on those parts of the end-to-end learning process that could be centralised or outsourced
  • And, due to all of the above, it’s hard to create a business case with the right ROI for centralisation and outsourcing.

(See the January post if you want more information on the five points summarised above.)

Even with these challenges, however, there is a significant value to be driven in putting L&D processes into a shared services environment.

To examine how L&D can provide value through shared services, we need to have the L&D processes defined.  There are several L&D taxonomies or work breakdowns; personally, I like the one done by Nelson Hall for assessing LBPO (Learning Business Process Outsourcing).  


Source: NelsonHall: Targeting Learning BPO 

Within the four categories of activities across L&D there are many opportunities for centralisation that can yield a return on investment and increased quality and customer service. 

First Technology – whether it is a full talent management solution that includes learning (for example, Cornerstone on Demand) or stands along LMS (Learning Management System) centralising the administration of the upgrades, technical and user help desk and similar areas like you would do with any HRIS can create value for the organisation. Technology is an area that many companies centralise, typically as part of the overall HRIS maintenance and support strategy.

Second, Core Administration, which is a process area that some companies already have centralised, so there are case studies and lessons learned from centralising these processes.  The administration processes tend to focus on three principal activities: -

  1. Managing the learning content library including adding and removing courses, monitoring and managing the event schedule for classroom-based learning along with coordinating the logistics for other components of classroom training such as facilities and instructors. 
  2. Facilitating and producing various reports and analytics to show course completions, results of compliance testing and other analysis as required by the different customers.
  3. Employee service desk - call, email or chat support for employees to help them manage the selection of appropriate courses, register and advise on logistics or compliance.


Third is Content Development.  While not all content development can be centralised having a team that can take input from Instructional Designers and build out learning content, in line with corporate standards, is a very cost effective way to create e-learning modules.  In addition to the build process, the centralisation of testing and SCORM wrapping (SCORM explained for those that are not familiar with the subject) can create higher quality and better value for an organisation.

The fourth area in the Nelson Hall taxonomy is Delivery.  Obviously, classroom and instructor-led training (ILT) cannot be centralised.  E-learning has many parts that can be centralised, as described above, for technology, support, administration and content build.


There are challenges to achieving centralisation of learning processes, either through an SSC or outsourcing, but the returns are worth it, both financially and through increased employee service and quality of service.  Examples of some of the possible benefits include: -


  1. Cost reduction in various areas from the centralisation of activities.  Organisations have achieved more than 30% operational savings in administration, technology and content build.
  2. Financial flexibility and this is significant for learning for reasons discussed in my last posting.  Through centralisation, with or without outsourcing, you can create a more “pay as you go” model which can be scaled up and down based on demand.
  3. Increased standardisation and quality.  By having a central team focused on parts of the process the quality will improve and be more standard across the organisation.
  4. Speed to learning - Depending on the level of content developed centrally, and the type of company – the speed to learning for employees can yield significant benefit. This is particularly the case for organisations that have multiple and rapid product releases (like telco’s with various packages, offerings and bundles).  For businesses and products like this, the speed of learning can yield increased sales and other benefits for an organisation.
  5. Reduce risk by having up to date compliance training, and the ability to ensure that all employees take the health and safety, risk and compliance training required for their role.


There is a significant benefit through the centralisation of learning processes.  These benefits are efficiency, effectiveness, employee service and cost savings.  This video from IBM’s Learning Outsourcing team does a good job of explaining the various parts of learning and how they can be outsourced to provide great benefit for a company.  Even though the video is sales-focused and for outsourcing, it does provide an excellent overview of what can be accomplished, either through a partner or within your captive shared services.

More organisations should examine their end-to-end learning processes and assess whether the challenges that exist in L&D can be overcome to achieve, what I believe could be very exciting returns.