Customized vs. Off-the-Shelf Training

According to the ATD 2016 State of the Industry report, sponsored by Bellevue University and the Training Associates, organizations spent an average of $1,252 per employee on training and development initiatives in 2015. Plus, the 2016 Training Industry Report stated that the total budget for U.S. training expenditures, including payroll and spending on external products and services, was $70.65 billion. Clearly, businesses see the value in providing training and professional development.

However, once you've identified a skills gap in one or more of your departments and plan to initiate training across your organization, how do you ensure that your learning experience will meet the goals of your business? How can you help ensure a return on your investment? Actually, before you answer those questions, it's a good idea to make sure you understand the difference between customized training and off-the-shelf training.

Custom training and non-customized (aka off-the-shelf training) can each fulfill a business need or goal, but how do you know which is the best fit for your given situation? Let's discuss customized vs. off-the-shelf training and look at when each is most appropriate.

What is Off-the-Shelf Training?

Simply put, off-the-shelf training is an official course outline that is delivered to the learner as was originally prescribed to be taught by a particular vendor or training provider. For example, let's look at a fairly popular Microsoft course: SharePoint 2016: Site User. This is a one-day class made up of five distinct lessons with corresponding topics. The course overview, objectives, and target audience is clearly identified. This course is delivered to the student(s) as is

When is Off-the-Shelf Training Appropriate?

Off-the-shelf training is often most appropriate for individual training, especially for those looking to prepare for a certification, as the course outlines prepares the student for the associated exam. A good example would be the CompTIA Network+ course, which as is identified in the Who Should Attend section: "This course is intended to prepare the student for the N10-006 exam." Off-the-shelf training is also appropriate for prospective students who have reviewed the associated course outline carefully and have determined that what is being covered in the class meets all of their needs and expectations. 

What are the Disadvantages of Off-the-Shelf Training?

Non-customized training has its uses, but very often businesses that are looking to provide training across an entire team have some objections with it. Rarely does "one size fit all," and off-the-shelf training doesn't always address the unique needs of the organization and its employees.

Frequent Complaints About Off-the-Shelf Training:

  • Course content is not tailored to the needs of my business 
  • Irrelevant or superfluous topics are covered, which equates to wasted time
  • Poor retention since content is not specific to our natural work environment

What is Custom Training?

Custom training is just as it sounds: Customized. When a business is looking to train their employees on a particular class, they have the option to review the course objectives with the training provider before the content is delivered. Custom training provides an opportunity to remove, alter, or add any content to a particular course outline, as the business deems necessary. Custom training is also delivered in a way to mimic the organization's actual work environment, and the content can even be branded with company logos and corporate color schemes. 

When is Custom Training Appropriate?

Customized training is most appropriate for training large groups or entire departments. It is especially useful when a business is rolling out new or upgraded versions of software and would like to get their employees trained on the latest features and advancements. Again, custom training will only deliver course material that your business needs.

Common Reason Why Businesses Prefer Customized Training:

  • Ties objectives to real-world scenarios, helping employees apply the knowledge more readily
  • A customized learning solution embodies the elements of a company's brand
  • The learning objectives are aligned with the goals of the business, which makes the training more efficient 
  • A custom course can also incorporate your company’s culture and procedures
  • Custom training can cover the ins and outs of an organization and its workflow

Closing Thoughts

Off-the-shelf training is quick and easy to get and effectively teaches all of the content that is included in the outline. Still, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all, as non-customized training is not always useful for the specific needs of your business and employees. Customized training, on the other hand, is all about efficiency and results. With custom courses, your team will learn only what is absolutely vital to your organization, which can save you time and money and give your team arguably the most productive and applicable learning experience possible.

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NH Learning SolutionsDebra Novara

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