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Custom vs. Off-The-Shelf Training Content: Which Is Best For Your Organization?

When building a training program for your organization, you have two options: custom content made for your organization or off-the-shelf training content.

Custom content typically gives organizations more control over the look, flow, and objectives of their training program. At a one-time cost, custom training addresses specific challenges related to your organization, closes performance gaps, and maximizes your ROI. 

Off-the-shelf content is easily attainable for organizations looking to train their employees in more foundational topics (e.g. Microsoft Office, interpersonal skills, cybersecurity) Considered a “straight out of the box” solution, off-the-shelf training offers convenient, on-demand training activities created by industry experts.

When stuck at the crossroads between custom vs. off-the-shelf training content, which way will you turn?

While custom training gives your organization more control over your program, off-the-shelf may be the better fit for your foundational training needs. How do you decide which is the better option for your organization? 

As a trusted training program provider, our team at Roundtable Learning understands the process of deciding between custom vs. off-the-shelf training. We partner with organizations across industries to determine the best solution for their training needs. 

This article will define custom and off-the-shelf training content, break down the benefits, and explore which is the better option for your organization. 

What Is Custom Training Content?

Custom training content typically gives organizations more control over the look, flow, and objectives of their training program. With a set development time depending on the modality and scope of the project, custom content allows organizations to create an original training program at a one-time cost that can be reused over and over again. 

Custom training content is the better option for organizations looking to have more control while building their training program with their own subject-matter experts. 

What Are The Benefits Of Custom Training Content?

  1. More control over the content and context – With targeted learning objectives and a clear structure, organizational leaders can control both the content itself and the context in which it’s presented.
  2. Addresses specific challenges related to your organization – Custom training content is targeted to your organization’s specific challenges (e.g. reduce the number of workers’ compensation claims, increase efficiencies, etc.)
  3. Time-efficient way to close performance gaps – Custom training content allows organizations to pinpoint their employees’ challenges and create content specific to their needs, effectively improving employee performance. 
  4. Maximizes ROI through higher knowledge retention – To maximize an organization’s training ROI, custom content helps create targeted training that will highly engage learners. 

How Is Custom Training Content Developed? 

Custom training content is typically developed through one of two options: an internal L&D team at the organization or with an outside vendor. Organizations may choose to outsource the development of their custom training content when they don’t have the internal capacity to create a program themselves. 

For example, an organization may want to develop a virtual reality (VR) safety training program for their employees. Since the organization has specific safety processes and has never developed training with this technology before, it may be the best option to work with a vendor to create their custom VR program. 

Read More: 5 Steps To Choose The Best Augmented And Virtual Reality Training Partner

What Is Off-The-Shelf Training Content?

Off-the-shelf training content is easily attainable for organizations looking to train their employees in more foundational topics, including team building and management skills. This “straight out of the box” solution typically comes in the form of eLearning, but may also utilize multiple modalities to deliver the training. 

Off-the-shelf training content is the better option for organizations looking to quickly provide their learners with on-demand training courses created by industry experts that teach them foundational skills. 

What Are The Benefits Of Off-The-Shelf Training Content?

  1. Convenient option for foundational training – Off-the-shelf training is a convenient option for organizations looking to train their employees in foundational topics, including Microsoft Office, interpersonal skills, and cybersecurity. 
  2. Typically less costly upfront than custom content – Off-the-shelf is considered a cost-effective option that requires less out of your budget upfront. With off-the-shelf training, organizations don’t have to worry about hiring an internal L&D team or vendor to create the program or invest in course authoring tools
  3. Created by industry experts – In purchasing off-the-shelf content, organizations gain access to courses made by subject-matter experts (SMEs). For example, a vendor may specialize in off-the-shelf leadership training courses, so organizations can trust that the courses are accurate and up-to-date with the most important learning concepts. 
  4. On-demand access that’s ready to deploy once received – After off-the-shelf training has been received and integrated with an organization’s existing learning management system (LMS), learners can access their training immediately. 

How Is Off-The-Shelf Training Content Developed? 

Off-the-shelf content is typically developed by SMEs at independent training organizations. These courses can be sold individually or packaged into a larger program with multiple courses. Organizations typically purchase course licenses directly from training organizations and are responsible for renewing their licenses each year. 

For example, an organization may be looking for an off-the-shelf training course that trains their employees in Microsoft Excel. These may be eLearning modules that teach learners the fundamentals of Microsoft Excel that they can deploy to their users through their LMS. By buying a library of courses on Microsoft Excel, the organization doesn’t need to utilize internal resources and can reallocate those efforts to other projects.

Read More: 4 Strategies To Get Buy-In For Training From Senior Leadership

Do Your Learners Need Custom Or Off-The-Shelf Training Content?

This article has reviewed the definitions of custom and off-the-shelf training content, as well as the major benefits of both. We hope that after reading this article, your organization feels confident when choosing between custom or off-the-shelf training content for your training program. 

Looking to speak with an industry expert who can advise you on your corporate training program? Reach out to a member of our team today or check out more of our resources on our L&D blog

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