Tips to Improve the RFP Process for Employee Training Partners

Tips to Improve the RFP Process for Employee Training Partners

We frequently receive invitations to participate in the RFP process for employee training partners and eLearning services. It’s good to provide some structure around the search process so you can compare potential vendors. But many times we wish we had been involved earlier in the process to help the potential client ask the right questions so they find the best solution for their needs. After all, our goal is to provide solutions, not necessarily to sell our services.

The inspiration for this blog comes from the corporate procurement departments who write these RFPs as if they are sourcing office supplies, not a program that has the ability to reduce turnover, prevent lawsuits, prevent workplace accidents, improve sales results, improve customer service scores and improve productivity. Some of these RFPs assume that each vendor that provides a response is nothing more than a commodity; identical in their offerings and only separated by their pricing.

In many cases, the procurement team’s goal “to obtain the best value for the money spent” equates to the cheapest option. You can easily compare pricing for paperclips and staples and look for the lowest price but these products truly are commodities, and pricing may very well be the only differentiator. For non-commodities, like eLearning solutions, you still should consider the quality of the products, the level of service from the vendor, and any other value-added offers. If you are going to ignore those considerations and treat eLearning solutions as a commodity, you have to ask, “Why go through the RFP process if the price is the only factor?”

Let’s assume you did your homework, and you realize eLearning solutions carry multiple differentiating factors, and you need to build an RFP. There are many best-practice RFP templates out there you can use. Our goal here is to help you think through some of the components specifically related to employee training and eLearning services.

Situation Analysis

Before you write your RFP, take the time to evaluate your current state. We have a helpful blog post “Evaluating Your Corporate Training Strategy” and supporting eBook “7 Critical Questions for Evaluating Your Learning Strategy.” This includes understanding your learning culture, your audience, desired core competencies and learning paths, and metrics. For the sake of this blog post, we will assume you have completed that groundwork, you have determined that a change is needed, and an RFP is indeed necessary.

Define Stakeholders

Who will be asked to review the RFP and hear the presentations? Who will have a vote at the end of the RFP process? Get their needs and pain points upfront. Take the time to interview them and document their requests. These might include:

Define Your Needs

When writing an RFP for employee training partners and eLearning services, it’s important to document your requirements. It’s tough to compare suppliers and their offering in an “apples to apples” method if you don’t know which kind of apples you want.

Narrow the Field

The section above discusses the deal-breakers or must-haves for your solution. Why waste time (your’s and the vendor’s) reviewing the specifics of a vendor that can not provide a must-have feature? You won’t be choosing their solution as long as that must-have feature is missing from their solution, right?

Prior to sending out your RFP, I recommend presenting each vendor with a simpler RFI, or Request For Information. This questionnaire would merely ask each vendor to address your list of must-have features ONLY. Only those vendors that can deliver your must-haves will be invited to respond to your RFP. Word of caution: Never assume what any vendor can or cannot offer, even when you used the vendor’s website or other information to base your assumption, and especially if you base your assumption on the claims of another vendor. Use the RFI or RFP responses for your source.

Now, if there are no vendors that have all of your must-haves, you will need to remove the least important must-have from your list until at least one vendor qualifies.

Create a Score Sheet

If you’ve done your homework, this should be an easy step in the RFP process and give you a fair and reliable method to compare vendors. Define the scoring criteria for:




Bonus Elements

Rank and Weigh

Have each of your stakeholders rank each criteria according to its importance, and then apply weights to combine with your scoring. For example, if one vendor offers a social learning technology as part of their platform but you don't plan to offer that functionality to your learners, you might rank that as not important even though they receive a high score for that criteria.

Our hope is that with a little extra time upfront planning and thinking about the full experience, your RFP process will run smoother and you will find the best option for your employee training needs.

Additional Resources

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