Wayne Stoutner
VP Field Service Operations, PT Holdings Service Group

The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Education in your Field Services Business

As a member of the CFESA Education Committee I spend a lot of time thinking about, discussing education, and learning opportunities. For this month’s Field Notes, I would like to share some of what I have learned.

There is always a debate as to whether it is better to invest internally to educate your teams or if the expertise is better left to people outside of the organization. What fits your needs better? Should you do all your educating in-house? Why not outsource it? These are challenging business decisions for most business leaders and especially hard in volatile financial times and in such a tight labor market. For most CFESA members, the prevailing response to these questions seems to be a combination of both. Size of business does not seem to impact the path or the decision. Even the larger companies within CFESA outsource some or much of their education. Every organization weighs the pros, cons, and makes the best decision that fits their needs so I thought I would share some of what I have learned and how we have seen it throughout my career.

In-House Education Program Pros
• Technicians and others do not have to travel to attend educational seminars. In-house programs save a day of travel to get to class and a day to get back making it much easier and more cost-effective in some cases.
• In-house educational structures is much more customizable to fit your companies and your employees’ specific needs and can be specific to the target audience and to the item being trained on.
• Bringing education in-house can serve as a bonding experience and can foster team building within your organization from student to student as well as teacher to student. The bonds formed during in-house learning can serve your company well for years to come.
• The schedule can be much more suited to the needs of your organization and tailored to your specific needs.

In-House Education Program Cons
• In-house programs can be VERY EXPENSIVE. Developing your own programs and hiring and developing an instructor can cost even more. What happens when your instructor leaves or retires? What if the instruction is all scheduled, and your instructor calls in sick?
• The cost of developing and producing your own educational materials and equipment can be overwhelming.
• Keeping up with the latest techniques and trends can be exceedingly difficult if you are conducting in-house educational programs. Your programs can become ineffective or even obsolete if you do not keep up with all of the latest information and technology that is available.
• Another downside to in-house courses is that it specific to your company and is not transferable with the employee. Employees like programs that gives them some type of certification or outside recognition. In-house educational programs do not provide that added benefit for employees.
• Admittedly, most companies do not have professional educators in their organizations. This can lead to large investments in education without the anticipated payoff.

Outsourced Education Program Pros
• While the cost for each educational course may seem expensive, eventually outsourced programs can be much more cost effective than in-house programs.
• No need to build out an educational facility. No need to hire and train an instructor. No need to develop and produce any educational materials or a curriculum.
• When outsourcing your educational programs, you get a much better chance of getting a fresh perspective along with the latest and greatest tools and technologies available.
• You not only learn from the instructor but will also learn from other students coming from different companies and diverse backgrounds.
• Outsourcing your learning needs gives you the opportunity to focus on your core competencies. If you are a CFESA service agent, you are very competent in servicing commercial kitchen equipment. Being competent in service does not always translate into being competent to teach it. Outsourcing your course instruction allows you to focus on what you do best.

Outsourced Education Program Cons
• Never-ending variable cost. Every employee you send to outside education costs your company directly for each event. It can be difficult to budget for this education because each individual trainee and each individual class
has a very direct cost associated with it. Your education budget can go out the window should unaccounted needs arise throughout the year. • Outsourced education must be designed to fit each and every student regardless of their experience and knowledge. You might send very qualified people to the classes, but the instructor has to teach the less experienced and less knowledgeable students as well. This sometimes fosters a less-than-ideal situation as the instructor has to try to fill the knowledge gap between all students.
• Outsourced learning can be non-specific and might not always fit your exact needs. If your needs are to learn a specific piece of equipment but the class is only focusing on that type of equipment there will be some pertinent and valuable information missing. Some training is better than no training but ideally, your team gets the exact education that they need.

In the end, each company must decide what is best for them. I do know that CFESA HQ and the members of the Education Committee are committed to fulfilling the CFESA mission statement. The Mission of CFESA is to anticipate trends and provide resources, and education to support excellence in service. Education is CFESA’s core competency. It serves us all to factor in the pros and cons. After doing so, reach out to your CFESA HQ or any of us on the Education Committee to see if we can help.