Sometimes Off-the-Shelf Just Doesn't Cut It

In the learning industry, the vast majority of content companies create programs that are standardized. They give their learning products fancy names like "Negotiating with the Eagles" or the "Superhero Leadership Tips”. They develop the program, create standardized material, hire the facilitator that will be able to present the program to 10, 100, 1000 groups in a variety of companies.

There is nothing wrong with programs like this. We  create them also. However, sometimes off-the-shelf products just don’t quite solve the issue that your company is struggling to correct. It’s times like this that you need to consider a custom solution. Below are some specific times when your company may wish to consider a customized learning solution. 

You have specific learning needs that are not being met by standard training choices. This is the most obvious situation that companies often find themselves. Standardized learning programs emphasize those elements that all companies share: proper hiring procedures, developing management skills or communication strategies, etc. However,  perhaps you are a business with a very particular niche, such as dealing with international custom issues. Or, you are a company which has very exacting protocols on dealing with customers. You will probably find that a customized solution that targets your company and it’s business practices is a more effective use of your learning and employee development dollars. 

Your company has culture issues that don’t make for cookie-cutter solutions. To paraphrase Anna Karenina for the business world "Happy companies are all alike; every unhappy company is unhappy in its own way”. Oftentimes, the idiosyncrasies of a company culture bely easy answers. Unique company cultures, such as those in very creative industries or very technical industries, may have different sensibilities and employee practices. 

Your company may need a blended solution. Many standard programs usually come in a single format, most commonly ILT workshops or self-directed e-learning programs (which is common with most compliance videos). However, you may find that a learning program would work better using a blended solution that includes multiple formats, such as webinars, learning bursts, ebooks, informal learning scenarios, even podcasts. Likewise, you may need a program that is offered over a period of time in multiple steps instead of a half-day workshop of several hour video tutorial. 

Finally, you want to maximize your Learning ROI. This may seem obvious, but off-the-shelf programs are often in limited by design. They are meant to work for the greatest number of groups as possible. Perhaps you need a program that can be expanded and further developed. More comprehensive learning programs nearly always benefit from a foundational infrastructure like a learning management system that can house multiple learning resources. A single training topic to become one program within a much larger and comprehensive education portal for your employees. Finally, customized solutions offer far more opportunity to track and analyze the true effectiveness of a learning program. 

Not every employee development need merits the time and cost associated with building a personalize learning program. There are many situations where a pre-developed learning program can the best use of resources. However, a custom learning solution will often be more effective at confronting your company’s personal challenges and unique training needs and better long-term investment for your employees' development. Make sure you consider your company’s unique capabilities and challenges prior to choosing a general learning option.