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Aug 27

the problem with 'off-the-shelf' training

Published by Scott Fraser

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There are many reasons that you may look to use “off-the-shelf” training solutions, but it’s hugely important to be mindful of the dangers in comparison with the perceived advantages:

The training world is full of individuals and businesses that are more than willing to provide you with their take of a training package that sounds like it might fit you or your business needs.  The perceived advantages of this training could be:

1. It’s been written by a “Subject Matter Expert”.

2. It’s going to save you time and effort as the hard work has been done by someone else.

3. It's good to go as soon as you get it so you or your trainers can get to work delivering.

But, is it going to be what you need or a case of too good to be true?  You may have invested a lot of money into this, so it’s imperative to consider if it’s actually what is needed so here are some of the major considerations:

1. It’s likely to be have been written very generically and may not fit to the subject knowledge level of your audience; this means significant time and effort for the person that has to adapt it.  It will also likely have been made in a format and style that suits the writer and not those who will be delivering.

2. If anything needs to be amended or removed, it’s always challenging for someone to do this as it’s perceived that everything included is required.

3. It’s likely to be written in a format that is PowerPoint centric and is telling people information.  Telling isn’t training and PowerPoint is an aid which should be used to complement an engaging session.

4. Because it's not been written with the real needs of your organisation or individuals within it, it’s unlikely to fulfil the real training need unless there has been communication between you in the design phase.  You are unlikely ever to find an off-the-shelf training package that will meet all of your needs!

I’ve found the same considerations above also apply to individuals within an organisation that will pull something 'off-the-shelf' that’s been made earlier, generally by someone else; it causes all sorts of issues and normally results in either the person starting it from scratch again or delivering the package which is completely ineffective.  It’s all not bad news though; there are some great opportunities to get what you need from a generic package when it involves 2-way consultation in the design phase and results in an end solution that transfers learning to the workplace.

Scott Fraser is a Master Trainer at Target Training and delivers our PTT Train the Trainer courses and our Advanced PTT Train the Trainer courses.  You can read more about him here.

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