There’s no magical solution for training that can resolve all workplace problems and training needs. That’s why it’s essential to have a comprehensive solution that spans both off-the-shelf and custom solutions.
Before we get too deep into things, I’ll quickly define each one.
Off-the-Shelf Learning: These relatively generic learning solutions aren’t specific to your organization. You can purchase generic learning solutions from third-party vendors or provide employees with access to platforms such as LinkedIn Learning or Udemy.
Whether it goes on your learning management system (LMS) or is part of your learning experience platform (LXP), it doesn’t matter. Any type of training used for more than your company is off-the-shelf learning. It could even be provided by the creator of a piece of software you purchased.
Custom Learning: This one is built specifically for your company and how you do things. It could be for a piece of software that you use in a particular way. Or it could be for custom-built software for which training doesn’t exist because you created it.
An internal team could create this type of training if you have a learning and development (L&D) department, or you can outsource the creation if you lack professional training resources, such as an instructional designer.
Off-the-shelf solutions are great for some training because they make it easy to gain access for relatively cheap. These vendors sell courses to millions of people, making it easy to reduce costs.
But are they truly the be-all and end-all solution for corporate success? Custom learning solutions play an essential role when it comes to ensuring optimal performance and growth within your organization.
We’ll get into some of the benefits of each and hopefully help you determine where you should invest your training budget. It’s not an all-or-none situation, though. Part of your training budget will go into off-the-shelf solutions, while another portion is ideally spent on custom training.
Whether implementing a new software system, refining sales techniques, or fostering leadership skills, you have to decide the best way to train new and current employees. A combination of custom learning solutions and off-the-shelf resources can be the winning formula for corporate success.
By integrating the convenience and cost-effectiveness of off-the-shelf platforms with the personalized touch of custom solutions, companies can strike a harmonious balance that drives continuous learning and development.
Which One Should You Choose?
That’s a great question, but no one can answer it for you. It’s also not a dichotomy. Each has benefits and drawbacks, and no comprehensive learning solution can consist of only one.
They each have their place, and as much as it doesn’t make sense to offer employees generic training on every topic, creating custom training on every topic doesn’t make sense.
Striking the right combination is the answer to all your questions. The right combination will depend on your organization, what needs to be trained, and more. Working with a knowledgeable instructional design consultant could help you answer that question and develop a good training program for your organization’s needs.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of the two ways you can offer employees learning resources for their jobs and professional development.
Off-the-shelf solutions play an essential role in corporate training. Whether a platform or course is purchased from a vendor, they provide a convenient and accessible way for employees to acquire general knowledge and skills.
Off-the-shelf solutions like Udemy and LinkedIn Learning offer a vast library of courses covering topics such as software skills and management techniques. They can be particularly useful when introducing new concepts or providing foundational knowledge across the organization.
Additionally, off-the-shelf solutions can be cost-effective compared to developing custom programs from scratch. They eliminate the need for extensive content creation and instructional design processes while delivering valuable training materials.
These are some reasons off-the-shelf learning will be essential to your company’s success.
Convenient and Accessible
By leveraging the convenience and accessibility of off-the-shelf solutions, companies can provide their employees with a wide range of resources to support their learning journey. If your employees can think of it, then it’s likely offered.
There’s no way for a company to create custom training for every topic employees want to learn about. That’s why it makes more sense to offer LinkedIn Learning or Udemy, which offers nearly every fathomable topic.
Off-the-shelf training serves as a gap filler for those general topics that are important for your organization’s success. They offer an opportunity for continuous learning and skill enhancement, allowing employees to stay up to date on any topic they and their manager deem essential to their job.
They simply log in and search for a course they want to take. It couldn’t be any more convenient and accessible.
Let’s face it, custom training isn’t cheap. It takes a lot of time to create quality custom eLearning. Those courses you can access on LinkedIn Learning aren’t cheap to create. They’re so affordable for companies to access because the audience for each course can easily reach millions per year.
So, a custom course that costs $15,000 to train 5,000 employees costs about $3 per employee. On the other hand, a platform like LinkedIn Learning probably has higher creation costs, but since the audience is so vast, it likely only costs cents per person taking it.
It can also be expensive to gain access to expertise to create the training. If it’s something your company doesn’t have an expert in, then you’d have to hire one. That’s also extremely expensive.
It makes sense for company processes and systems because you already have the experts an instructional designer works with to create good training. That’s likely not the case for a topic such as emotional intelligence.
By using off-the-shelf resources for generic training topics, companies can free up resources to develop highly customized programs that address specific organizational challenges.
Custom Learning Solutions
While off-the-shelf solutions have their merits, there are several reasons why custom learning solutions are essential for corporate success, too. While they’re not nearly as affordable, quality custom learning solutions can change behavior and make your money back many times over.
Let’s look at some ways custom learning solutions will always be necessary for your organization’s training solutions.
Relevance & Resonance
When it comes to training employees, one size doesn’t always fit all. Off-the-shelf solutions may offer a wide range of courses, but they often fail to address your workforce’s unique needs and challenges.
Custom learning solutions provide a tailored approach that resonates deeply with your employees. By customizing the learning experience to align with your organization’s goals, culture, and industry, you can create a training program that speaks directly to your workforce.
When employees use off-the-shelf training, they may have to work harder to figure out how to apply what they learn to their jobs. Sometimes, that’s a job in itself.
With custom learning employees are trained specifically for their role, job, or task they need to perform. That means it’s all directly relevant to their needs. When learning is relevant (because relevance is king in training), employees connect with it better.
Whether incorporating real-life scenario-based learning from your industry or simulating scenarios specific to your company’s operations, custom learning solutions ensure that employees are engaged and can apply their knowledge directly to their work.
Custom learning solutions allow for flexibility in content delivery. While self-paced eLearning is ideal for technical training, you get to decide on other topics.
You can choose the most effective methods for your employees, whether it’s through eLearning, interactive workshops, or on-the-job training. This level of customization ensures you get exactly what is needed for your organization both from the content as well as delivery.
Engagement and Productivity
Custom learning solutions have a significant impact on employee engagement and productivity. Employees who feel that training is specifically designed for them are more likely to be motivated to learn and apply their knowledge in the workplace.
True engagement only comes from relevance, and off-the-shelf training isn’t always relevant enough.
Then there’s the fact that almost all learning from platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy is in the same format: a video with relatively little variation in presentation, whether talking head or screen capture.
Want to learn about difficult conversations? Here’s a video with this person talking at you. Want to learn about Photoshop? Here’s a video of screen captures and my voice telling you how to do it. Good luck following along unless you have a second monitor and can’t work really fast!
There’s very little practice, and it only comes in the form of a worksheet that’s likely never going to get used. That’s not very engaging.
Custom programs allow organizations to align training objectives with business goals, which makes the training relevant and, by extension, engaging.
Custom learning solutions can directly contribute to improved performance and productivity by addressing the company’s specific skill gaps or challenges.
Addressing Organizational Specific Goals, Culture, and Industry
Every organization has its unique goals, culture, and industry-specific challenges. Off-the-shelf solutions may not adequately address these specific needs. Custom learning solutions allow organizations to tailor the training content to align with their specific goals and culture.
For example, if your organization operates in a highly regulated industry, custom learning solutions can ensure that employees are trained on compliance requirements specific to your industry.
An off-the-shelf course might be less strict about communicating with a tool, but your industry has strict legal requirements. Building something custom allows you to account for specific needs.
This customization level helps employees understand their work environment’s nuances better.
Specific Role Processes
In many organizations, job roles are unique to how the company operates. These roles require specialized knowledge and skills that cannot be adequately addressed by off-the-shelf solutions.
For example, nurses come in knowing how to do their job because nursing is what they do. But they’re not likely to know how to use your specific company’s software and how/what to document from their patient care.
All that is specific knowledge and requires specific training that isn’t covered in off-the-shelf training. Even an application such as Epic that’s used across the medical industry is used at each company differently. There’s no way to use off-the-shelf Epic training in most cases.
Custom learning solutions enable organizations to develop training programs that cater specifically to these unique job roles. By providing targeted training for these positions, companies can ensure that employees have the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their roles.
Ownership & Control
With custom learning solutions, organizations own and control the training content, allowing them to update or modify it as needed without relying on external platforms or providers.
Not only that but on platforms like LinkedIn Learning or Udemy, there is no updating the content or making a tweak just for you. It comes how it is, and you love it or leave it.
Custom programs offer the flexibility to incorporate company-specific examples or case studies that resonate with employees. A good story from an expert in your company is more valuable than any generic industry story even if it’s your specific industry.
This level of personalization enhances the relevance of the training materials and increases employee engagement. People connect with training better when they see themselves and their work in it.
The advantage of custom learning solutions lies in their ability to get more specific. Off-the-shelf platforms cover topics at a high level but may not delve into the intricacies and nuances that are critical for employees in your organization and industry.
Custom programs can explore complex concepts, industry-specific processes, and real-life scenarios that directly relate to your organization. This level of specificity ensures that employees gain a better understanding of the subject matter and can apply their knowledge more easily in their roles.
Overcoming Organizational Challenges
Every organization and industry faces unique challenges and sometimes requires targeted solutions. Custom learning programs can be designed to address these challenges directly by providing employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to overcome them.
For example, if your organization is experiencing a decline in customer satisfaction, a custom program can focus on customer service skills specific to your industry, customer base, and what you’ve uncovered to be the issue.
By addressing challenges head-on, organizations can drive improvements in customer satisfaction and overall business performance. If there’s a problem and you can find the perfect off-the-shelf solution that fits the bill, go for it. That’s rare for identified problems, so a custom solution will likely be necessary.
What They Both Excel At
While custom learning solutions offer numerous advantages, so do off-the-shelf learning solutions. These are some of the ways you’ll see benefits no matter which option you choose. Keep in mind it’s not one or the other, you’ll likely use a combination of them both.
Each solution fulfills a specific need for your organization. Your decision will always come down to choosing the right tool for the job. No matter what, you’ll see the following benefits to your organization.
Flexibility and Variety
Off-the-shelf learning provides a wide range of courses covering diverse topics. This flexibility allows employees to explore different areas of interest or acquire new skills outside their immediate job responsibilities.
Custom learning solutions are flexible in that you get to choose the exact topic, and the variety of what can be trained is infinite. No matter your specific needs, a custom learning solution can be created for it.
Culture of Continuous Learning
There’s nothing more desirable or powerful than an organization with a strong culture of continuous learning. Such a culture is even beneficial to employees’ technical skills.
A culture of continuous learning is essential for organizations looking to stay ahead in today’s rapidly changing business landscape. No matter how you provide employees with learning opportunities, it doesn’t matter.
Providing more learning resources that are high quality is a great way to encourage a culture of continuous learning.
Organizations demonstrate their commitment to their workforce’s growth and success by continuously investing in employee development through learning opportunities. This, in turn, boosts employee morale, engagement, and loyalty.
Combine Custom and Off-The-Shelf Solutions for Corporate Success
Rather than viewing custom learning solutions and off-the-shelf resources as competing approaches, organizations will benefit from combining both. By strategically blending these approaches, companies can create a comprehensive learning ecosystem that addresses both general and specific employee learning needs.
Custom programs can serve as the foundation for training initiatives, addressing critical skills gaps and aligning with business goals. Off-the-shelf platforms can then complement these programs by providing additional resources for continuous learning and general skill enhancement.
It’s not an either, or situation. Both are needed, and a successful corporation will use both to provide employees with the learning opportunities they need and deserve.
Technology To Integrate Both Approaches
Learning experience platform (LXP) is a buzzword we hear a lot in the world of L&D. That’s because it’s a great option for combining all custom learning and off-the-shelf learning into one easy-to-use platform.
That means employees don’t have to go to LinkedIn Learning for some training and then your LMS for others. One platform can serve up everything on a topic, whether from your organization or an outside resource.
Creating that seamless integration between custom programs and off-the-shelf platforms makes it easy for your employees to find what they need.
While we can’t recommend a specific platform as that’s not our expertise and every organization’s requirements will be unique, we do have contacts who can consult with you to find the best solution. Schedule a free consultation with us, and we’ll help you find the best solution.
Custom learning solutions and off-the-shelf resources each have their strengths and advantages. By combining these approaches, organizations can create a comprehensive learning ecosystem that addresses both general training needs and specific challenges/needs.
Custom learning solutions offer the personalization and relevance necessary to engage employees and drive productivity. They allow organizations to address unique goals, culture, industry-specific challenges, and job roles effectively.
At the same time, off-the-shelf platforms provide convenience, accessibility, flexibility, and variety. Both serve as valuable resources for continuous learning and skill enhancement, which are key to a successful workplace.
By strategically blending custom learning solutions with off-the-shelf resources, organizations can foster a culture of continuous development that propels their workforce forward.
Schedule a free consultation to get help figuring out the right solution for your company’s goals. We’ll work with you to learn about your needs and help you figure out what learning solutions will help you achieve your goal.