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Would You Like Some Spam With That? Considering Custom Training over Canned Programs

When seeking training solutions, corporations who partner with training companies often find they are receiving canned content. A higher education provider can properly assess specific needs and address them specifically, rather than generally. Photo by Janet Galore.

You open up your work email one morning and see “Mandatory Training” in the subject line, what do you think? As a corporate training program manager, let me fill in the blank: “Ugh, what a waste of time.” Or, “What?! I don’t need training, I’ve been here for 15 years.” Or maybe, “Awesome! We’re finally getting the training we need.” Okay, that last one was wishful thinking.

The reality of continued education training is that it helps us stay up to date with new technologies, new demands, and keeps us globally competitive. Even the most seasoned vets benefit from innovative ideas and processes. However, when you decide as a company to invest in training, how do you know which avenue to choose?

There are really only a few options when it comes to training: internal programs developed by salaried employees, branded big name consulting firms, local consultants, or colleges and universities. When dealing with a tight budget and wanting the biggest ROI, many companies seek popular brands first because as a culture, we assume a familiar brand, simply by its celebrity status, will garner the best results for our teams. Yet, often times, these trusted products force your square peg of a company into the round hole of canned training.

This is not to say that you won’t benefit from a big name trainer, simply that you may be able to find even better results from a customized, cost-effective program developed by your local community college or other educational institutes.

Here are the big three questions you should seek to answer when pursuing training:

1.     What are my objectives? Or, in other words, what is the issue we’re trying to improve?

For example: We need training on specific software.

2.     What do the outcomes look like for us?

For example: The use of this software will increase our productivity and therefore our revenue.

3.     How do we assess if the training will be effective?

For example: Big Training Company XYZ offers an industry recognized name on their certificate, but Local College ABC tailors their program to your specific workforce with pre- and post-assessments.

The problem comes in when, many times, you might believe the training need can be solved by one practice, when the root of the problem may be completely different. Foregoing a needs assessment for a branded training often misses the mark.

I have participated in some of these non-customized trainings purchased by employers and found that, while the information was useful, the practice and processes failed because the consultants did not investigate or address our specific needs. Now, in my day-to-day work, we find that many companies approach us with one training need in mind, but through a needs assessment we discover the root of the problem is very different.

If we use the example from the list above, the end goal for the imagined company is to increase productivity through a specific software program. However, the real issue might be a disconnect in communication between the vision of upper management and the practices of middle management. Had this company invested in a large IT training firm, they would surely learn how to use the software, but perhaps never ultimately increase their productivity due to misaligned procedures or poor communication.

Another company may realize that communication is at the root of the problem, but choose to do an internal training facilitated by their own staff. Again, while this may appear to be a good idea, and they certainly understand their own culture, if there are deep problems, an internal source may not be able to create any impact. Internal employees may be viewed as part of the problem and not the solution, hindering progress.

So if you find yourself in a position to offer training to your employees, try partnering with a local education provider who can properly assess your specific needs and address them with quality instructors at a reasonable cost. Teaming with someone who applies your culture’s mission and vision to drive training will always trump the power of a brand name.

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