A successful workplace training program should have custom-created content. After all, you need your employees to have knowledge specific to your organization and industry. You may have to develop training modules around the tools your employees use, the products or services you sell, and your specific company policies. But that doesn’t mean you need to design your entire training program from scratch. Certain things you can — and should — be buying off the shelf.
It should be noted that you may not even need to "buy" it per se. I'm not in the business of pitching specific products, but it's worth noting here that some vendors may include content as part of the learning system. If you're in the market for a new platform, it's definitely worth asking if that's a feature.
Building training modules is time-consuming and expensive. According to a long-running study, it takes between 42 and 130 hours to create one hour of e-learning. To create engaging, effective custom modules, you need a host of experts: from subject matter experts to instructional designers to artists and developers. That costs a lot of money; Training Magazine’s latest Training Industry Report found that in 2018, it cost an average of $986 to train each learner.
The average training budget for mid-sized companies rose to $2.1 million in 2018, while the average training budget for small companies fell from $1 million to $355,731. With that in mind, you need to be mindful of how you’re spending your training budget. That’s where pre-made courses come in.
What training should be purchased off-the-shelf?
Certain training content isn’t specific to your business. Your employees may have to take customer service courses, compliance courses, or state-mandated sexual harassment training, but you don’t need to build those courses yourself.
In many cases they’re general modules that can be used by employees in a specific region or industry, and they’re already available on the market. The fact is, you can purchase them for much less than it would take to develop them in-house.
Save yourself some precious time and effort! Focus on the strategy and leave the pre-made courses to the SMEs and course design pros who crank this stuff out faster than you ever could.
Here are the top five types of learning content you should get off-the-shelf:
- Sales Training: Some skills are very similar across industries. Sales skills, for example, are as relevant to an insurance company as they are to a software provider. Sure, your company will need to onboard and continually train teams on the specifics of your products, processes, and messaging, but you don't need to recreate the wheel on classic selling skills. If your organization operates a call center or has a sales department, you can simply find and order the courses that apply to your company’s needs rather than develop them yourself.
- Customer Service Training: No matter what your organization sells, or how you sell it, good customer service skills are a must. Your employees need to know how to listen and respond to customer complaints, should have good telephone manners, and should know best practices when it comes to customer experience. Like sales skills, customer service skills are widely in demand — and you can easily add off-the-shelf modules that enhance your training program.
- Leadership and Management Training: It’s important to look beyond your employees’ daily responsibilities when you offer training. Many of your employees are looking to advance their careers, and will appreciate the option of learning leadership and management skills. Offering courses in change management, delegation and offering feedback is a good way to grow your own leadership, and those courses are also general enough that you should not have to develop them in-house.
- Compliance: Compliance means different things to different companies and industries. The healthcare industry, for example, is required to comply with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), for example, while companies that may potentially do business with residents of the European Union must comply with GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation). Companies may also be called on to provide state or federally-mandated training, depending upon their industry or location. Compliance can be tricky, because as laws are updated, the training must be updated as well. When you purchase off-the-shelf modules, the burden of updating training lies with the vendor, not you. Huge sigh of relief there!
- Soft Skills: Are your employees friendly? Do they communicate well? Do they know how to behave in meetings? If not, they need to brush up on their skills. While hard skills are the things employees need to know to do their jobs — the products you sell, for example — soft skills make your employees a pleasure to do business with, and include things like punctuality, grit, and listening skills. Because soft skills apply to almost anyone in any job, these aren’t courses you have to develop yourself.
The importance of á la carte training modules
Although the training budgets of small companies may be shrinking, Training Magazine reported that more companies of all sizes are spending more on outsourced training.
It’s no surprise; off-the-shelf learning is an efficient way to augment a training program while keeping costs low and still delivering engaging learning created by industry experts who know the content and have the instructional background to keep learners engaged.
Using pre-made courses to supplement your training in areas like soft skills and compliance allows you to focus your content creation energy (and dollars) where they really matter: on the bespoke training only you can develop.