Extended Enterprise Learning – Expanding Training Beyond Own Employees

Another trend that we’re seeing in the training business is that all organisations are rapidly getting involved in the training business. The world where we were only responsible for our own employees is no longer there. Rather, organisations are nowadays also training their customers, partners, freelancers, resellers and sometimes even potential competitors! The term coined for these training activities going beyond the scope of employment is called extended enterprise learning.

So, let’s look at what organisations are doing in this space and also how extended enterprise learning may differ from the traditional in-house L&D.

Should you train your partners?

Absolutely, say many organisations. For instance, most technology companies have training programs for their distributors and resellers. Furthermore, all companies are usually a part of some kind of a supply chain. A lot of companies are also working on extending the enterprise learning to the upstream of their supply chain (suppliers, vendors, etc.). Often this is compliance, but it can also be sustainability, operations or other things depending on the level of cooperation. These training activities generally build towards much better collaboration, as the parties will grow mutual understanding and shared goals.

How about training your customers?

So, providing extended enterprise learning to partners definitely makes sense, but how about customers? Moving from the upstream supply chain to the downstream, is there added value in providing learning for your clients?

Well, many organisations seem to think so. Again, technology companies have been spearheading the change and have built extensive and sometimes impressive customer support programs. They’ve understood that their success comes from the success of their customers. And it’s not just customer support. These organisations often offer certificates that the customers pay for to either support their own business or showcase their expertise. There’s a whole new revenue stream for you!

Recently, we’ve seen many traditional companies entering this space. E.g. utilities companies providing learning resources on leading a sustainable life. Or clothing retailers teaching customers about their products in the context of sustainability, social responsibility and social impact.

Can extended enterprise learning help freelancers, contract workers and temporary staff?

The nature of work is shifting dramatically. Contract work and freelancing is becoming more and more common. The gained flexibility seems to be working for both corporates and the individuals. However, due to their temporary nature, these workers don’t often get access to the same learning as the directly employed folks. The reasons could be compliance, security, physical distance or lack of infrastructure. Yet, these workers would need the training like any others.

In many cases, it’s the underlying learning technology that is at fault. “We can’t let outsiders access our corporate LMS” is a phrase we hear all too often. Many companies with that kind of real limitations or in most cases, emotional barriers have found a way to circumvent the problem. They’ve built or taken on a separate platform to deliver training to their extended enterprise learning audience.

How does extended enterprise learning differ from employee training?

Naturally, training new audiences differs in many ways from that of your own employees. The topics, content and approaches may be different. But one of the most important differentiators is motivation. Whereas employees have to tolerate a lacklustre learning experience, or otherwise they might be out of a job, external stakeholders don’t. Your partners or freelancers, let alone customers, are not going to engage in your learning if it’s not perceived as high quality. They have far better ways to spend their time and more important things to do. As such, relying on the biggest false myth of the learning industry – “build it and they will come” – quickly proves to be a futile strategy. Thus, if you really want to practice extended enterprise learning, you need to do it properly.

And that is not to say you can get away with providing poor quality learning experiences to your own employees. That’s going to have its long-term problems too!

Have you tried extended enterprise learning?Would you like to develop new revenue streams by using your organisation’s know-how and expertise? We can help you develop a great learning offering, just contact us.

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