Selecting Off-the-Shelf Materials for Your Training Program

By Elaine Biech

You may decide to purchase off-the-shelf materials instead of designing them yourself. However, you most likely still want to customize them for your ­organization. In that case, ideas throughout this chapter can help you with that task.

Will off-the-shelf meet your needs?

At first glance, purchasing materials that have already been designed and that are packaged, tested, and ready to implement may appear to be a perfect solution. Here are some possibilities for pre-packaged training:

  • Presenters and speakers from consulting firms, speakers’ bureaus, and universities.

  • Asynchronous content or videos on almost any training topic.

  • Your company’s corporate Learning Management System (LMS) and its learning vendor are ready resources.

  • Public seminars offered regularly by training and consulting firms; some are on a regular travel schedule presenting in most large cities.

  • There is an explosion of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by universities and other providers.

  • Packaged training programs include the participants’ materials, a trainer’s guide, media and visual support, computer support and programs, and even the job aids, the “cheat sheets” that participants take back to the workplace to remind them of what they learned.

  • Customized training packages designed by training and consulting firms but created to your specifications; most start with a needs assessment.

Adapting the design

Buying a training program isn’t always as easy as it sounds. To ensure that the design achieves what it needs to, you will most likely need to adapt the design to your organization:

  • Circulate the off-the-shelf program to key managers and participants. Ask for their suggestions to make it a perfect match for your organization.

  • Review the program well in advance of the training. Make notes in the margins using company examples, anecdotes, policies, and so on that bring the topic home.

  • Weave your organization’s core themes and philosophies into every part of the program. The skills and behaviors taught may be generic, but the way your organization applies them is not.

  • If a technical process or procedure is being taught, add or delete steps to be consistent with the way the process is performed in your organization.

  • If a behavioral skill is being taught, add comments that reflect your organization’s management beliefs and philosophy regarding the behavior.

  • If you’ve chosen a MOOC or other predetermined course, you can create introductory and follow-up materials so that the learners’ managers can discuss the differences with them.

So, make or buy? That’s the question. If you’ve decided to buy an off-the-shelf program, find out as much as you can about the package and the company before you buy. What exactly are you buying? What do others say about the product? What kind of support will you receive? How consistent is the content with your needs and your organization’s culture? How much will it cost?