Custom In-House vs. Off-the-Shelf eLearning Content

Many organizations create their own training content in-house, rather than using off-the-shelf eLearning content. Our sales team hears from prospects all the time that “We create everything in-house.” We have to wonder: How do they manage that?

Just about every in-house training team I’ve met has been dedicated, resourceful, and knowledgeable. They really care about their employees. This blog isn’t a criticism of training content that is created in-house. I’ve seen the content our clients create for themselves and it’s impressive. I’ve also worked with many clients to create those custom training videos for their new product launches, sales meetings, and rebranding efforts. There are a lot of really talented trainers out there!

When I think about all of the topics employees need training or help on, it would be nearly impossible for an in-house team to create and deliver 100%! This is true for small organizations with 100 employees, never mind larger ones with 1,000 or more.


Training Content: What Else Does Your Organization Need?

Let’s do an exercise. Let’s assume your organization already has a complete list of “the basics” when it comes to training materials: Courses on Anti-Harassment Training and Workplace Safety (OSHA) for compliance. A course on HR policies and procedures for your organization. Basic skills training for the most common roles in the organization. These would seem to check the box when it comes to training needs. What else could an organization possibly need? Employees are diverse and have a wide range of strengths, development opportunities, and training needs.

Here’s a short list I came up with:

  • Business travel. Younger employees who have not traveled for business before might not be aware of the policies and procedures for business travel. Plus, they might be eager to receive travel and scheduling tips.
  • Business math and business writing. Some employees might secretly be struggling with the math or writing skills needed to do their jobs well. They could use a refresher course—but do you have the resources to create one specifically for them?
  • Communication styles. The research on communication styles is always advancing and changing. New research means that best practices for working effectively with people who have different communication styles changes, too.
  • Diversity. Some organizations still struggle with ways to manage diversity. Diversity training, for both managers and employees, could help immensely.
  • Focus. Many workplaces are quiet, but some are quite noisy, by necessity. Employees who are not used to a more noisy or busy workplace might find it hard to focus. Would you create a course on focusing in a noisy workplace? We did.
  • Leadership skills/management skills. Suppose you have some HiPos who would make great managers, or even leaders some day. There is a host of skills they could be learning: Decision-making, healthy communication, motivating others, problem-solving… Can you develop all of these in-house? If you do, do you neglect non-HiPo employees who could use a different kind of training?
  • Presentation skills. Perhaps you’ve noticed that some team members get nervous when they need to present to a larger group. Or maybe they just have difficulty getting their main point across. Do you develop a special course on presentation skills just for those few employees?
  • Returning from maternity leave. Obviously, not everyone in your organization will take maternity leave, but those who do will need to know what to expect. Providing helpful content on this topic can help show your organization’s support.

As I said, this is a short list. There are dozens of other topics that would make for useful training content for your organization. How could an in-house person or team possibly cover them all, and in a timely fashion? Yet, you can find them all in our off-the-shelf eLearning content library.

This is not a ding against internal training experts or teams! It’s simply an honest, candid recognition of the fact that bandwidth is limited. In addition to creating content your internal team must spend time planning, assessing, and managing the training program. I know me and my team spend weeks putting together our content calendar and it was frustrating to have to cut valuable topics because of our own limitations on time.

True, there are some topics that require custom content generated in-house. Company-specific topics like your mission, vision and values are the first that come to mind. Employee onboarding topics like benefits explanations, company culture, and software technologies unique to the organization make sense to be created internally.


Off-the-Shelf Training Content to the Rescue

Using off-the-shelf training content allows organizations to tap into a wider range of subjects and subject matter expertise. This content does not need to be created in-house (which can take months) and is “ready to go” at the moment of need. The right content library will be expertly made according to the latest theories of adult learning, and updated with fresh, relevant content.

Consider my favorite example: Fire extinguisher use and safety. Are the fire extinguishers in your building really unique? If not, wouldn’t standard training content in accord with best practices be the wise choice? Or, what if an employee comes to you with concerns about returning to work after maternity leave? And another employee needs help returning to work after the loss of a loved one? Your internal team may not have the time or resources to help these employees beyond a Google search but these topics are covered in our library.

The best thing about off-the-shelf content has less to do with availability, quality, and freshness, and more to do with what it frees trainers to do.

All the trainers I’ve met (and that’s a lot!) do what they do because they love training. They like finding new ways to present ideas, and they love interacting with learners. They are at their best when analyzing and interpreting the information in their domain of expertise, usually to answer a tough question or create an engaging group activity. In short, off-the-shelf content helps trainers themselves be more engaged with the training process itself. (For more on this theme, check out our Therapeutic Guide to Blended Learning, which covers what a trainer’s role could look like when freed from the details of content creation.)


In-House Training vs. Off-the-Shelf eLearning Content: Making the Decision

I want to be fair here in looking at both in-house training and training using off-the-shelf content. There are advantages and challenges that come with each. Here are some that I’ve encountered in my many years as both an instructional designer and HR manager:


ej4 Blog - Custom In House vs. Off the Shelf Training Graphic


A Blended Approach Makes Sense

I hope you see this isn’t a “This or That” conversation. It’s a “This and That” conversation. Your custom in-house created content and our off-the-shelf videos. Instructor-led classes and self-directed learning on the employee’s own schedule. In-person dialogue and eLearning. All of these combined create an exciting and effective training mix.

It’s an exciting time for trainers as their role evolves. There are many benefits for trainers with a blended-learning approach. Less repetition from teaching the same courses over and over and more time for evaluation, assessing, and thinking about the bigger picture. Impacting more employees and casting a wider net with training.


How ej4 Makes Off-the-Shelf Training Content Easier

If I’ve done my job and convinced you to give off-the-shelf training content a try, you’ll find there is a lot that goes into the purchase decision. To make buying off-the-shelf content easier, I compiled the many considerations into this article: How to Buy eLearning Content for Your LMS (And Not Regret It Later). It includes a handy checklist you can use to ask questions and score different solutions.

Naturally, I hope you will include ej4’s off-the-shelf offering in your search. We specialize in creating fresh, relevant off-the-shelf eLearning content, releasing new and updated microlearning videos every month. We also work hard to ensure that videos are engaging, designed in a way that accommodates how adults actually learn.

As an added bonus, if you purchase our off-the-shelf content, you’ll get Thinkzoom, our LMS, free! This way, it's easier to find the content you need, create training programs, and track employees’ progress.


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