Learning with the Experts: Gary Bragar on the Value of Learning Business Process Outsourcing (Part 1)


In our third installment of Raytheon Professional Services’ Learning with the Experts series, we spoke with Gary Bragar, who is the HR outsourcing (HRO) research director at NelsonHall. Gary works with buy-side and vendor organizations in assessing HRO opportunities, ranging from learning and recruitment to payroll, benefits and multi-process HRO.

RPS Q: What was the most memorable lesson you learned in life and who taught it to you?

My most memorable lesson in life is my work ethic, which I learned from my parents at a young age. I started delivering newspapers after school at age 12, along with shoveling snow and cutting lawns to make money. My father passed away when I was young, but my mother instilled in me the importance of a college education. With this work ethic I was able to balance working a job while attending high school and college.

When it comes to my professional life, my most memorable lesson occurred in the beginning of my career at AT&T Bell Labs in 1980. Career development, including learning development, was the topic of almost every discussion I had with my supervisor. Throughout my career I was fortunate enough to attend training to learn and strengthen my skills. Today, many people are put in supervisory positions to just move people up with good work skills – even if they have zero interest in being a manager – and then the workplace suffers. The reason career development is important is because talent management is crucial for workplace retention. I managed recruiting and commissioned a retention study at AT&T, and one of top reasons people gave for leaving a company is lack of career and development opportunities. You need to have a commitment to people at your organization to engage and retain talent. The lesson learned from a personal perspective is, ‘never stop learning’ and from an organizational perspective, ‘never stop training and developing your people.’
RPS Q: If you had to pick one movement in Learning Business Process Outsourcing (LBPO) that you are most enthusiastic about, what would it be and why?

Social learning. There are several reasons  why social learning is valuable for organizations. For one, it increases speed to competency when you do not have to wait to attend a course, or for a new course to be developed. You’re constantly part of a community and within a network that helps you to gain knowledge in real time.

Another reason is improvement to talent management, as it makes for a more engaging environment and is really the way younger employees want to learn. They want to be engaged and to learn socially with other people, in person and online. I think that social learning helps drive up the engagement to tie into the old adage, “Increasing employee satisfaction will lead to improved performance and customer satisfaction.”

RPS Q: You cover the topic of leveraging technology, outsourcing experts and processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness. What advice do you have for organizations and vendors as they look to improve both in 2016 and beyond?

There’s a trend that has been taking place in the last couple of years from a learning perspective which is, ‘apply what you learn.’ If you take a long course, you might forget what you just studied, but learning in smaller bites, or in sessions with chunks of information, is proving to be more beneficial. My advice to organizations is to ensure you are investing in the development of content for microlearning and to have a mobile learning strategy so people can access important information even when away from their desk.

RPS Q: In your latest report, you discuss how learning providers are moving to on-demand mobile-enabled micro-learning. Can you explain what training leaders should take away from this analysis?

I think it’s about the need for more efficient training methods. Organizations are outsourcing to companies like RPS because they want microlearning, mobile learning and improved learning processes. They want more job-specific content on-demand that they can access either individually or as part of a social collaboration.

A blended environment is what companies are looking for, not just one best solution. This includes different learning modalities–from classroom training to virtual instructor-led training– which are inclusive of microlearning and smaller learning bites applicable to both online and social. Buyers are looking for an outsourcing provider that can offer learning in different modalities like these. It’s not just the training world that has this demand for content. It’s in all aspects of our lives. Organizations are struggling to keep up with this demand, so outsourcing becomes necessary.

RPS Q: What advice do you have for our readers considering outsourcing some or all of their learning function? What should they consider before taking the first step in the process?

Before organizations outsource, they need to benchmark their own processes first, measuring what they can, but certainly understand their overall cost along with time to competence and learning linked to improved business results, etc.

Before outsourcing, I think it’s important to ask business leaders what they need and how the learning organization can add value for them. They need to analyze how much they’re spending on learning, and the value derived from this. Most executives want to see this data, but few of them actually receive it. For learning organizations to get more investment from the business, they need to demonstrate their value and have metrics and data ready to present to the business to prove this. To summarize:  benchmark first, understand your own processes, ask leaders how they define value and then align with business goals. Then it’s time to take the step into outsourcing.


Gary Bragar is the HR Outsourcing Research Director at NelsonHall where he has global responsibility for HRO. Gary joined NelsonHall in April 2007 after gaining extensive HR management experience at AT&T. In this key role, Gary assists both buy-side and vendor organizations in assessing the opportunities and supplier capability across HRO, including for learning, recruitment, payroll, benefits, and multi-process HRO. Gary recently completed an industry-leading analysis of opportunities and vendor capability in Learning BPO.

In his last job assignment at AT&T, Gary was a member of the AT&T governance team responsible for managing the service delivery of AT&T’s major Human Resources and Payroll services BPO contract with Aon Human Capital Services. Gary helped forge the strong partnership and as such AT&T and Aon were selected as “HRO Relationship of the Year.” Gary’s prior operational experience at AT&T included: Learning, Recruiting, Benefits Administration, Compensation, HR Transformation, HRIT and Employee Programs for AT&T International. In Learning Gary performed content development and delivery of AT&T Bell Laboratories quality curriculum. Gary is also an adjunct Professor having taught part-time in the Business Department at Bloomfield College, NJ for 17 years. Gary is certified as an online instructor and delivered courses using classroom, online and blended delivery.

Gary has published numerous articles, conducted numerous webcasts and presented at many conferences in the U.S. and Europe including co-presenting with Raytheon in Amsterdam on the benefits of Learning BPO, and in California at the 2014 Spring CLO Symposium on To Outsource or Not to Outsource Learning, a discussion from a left and right brain perspective.