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Workplace training is a must for companies who want to keep their employees productive and motivated—especially if you have younger employees. A 2022 study by Amazon found that 75% of Gen Z and Millennial workers were either “extremely” or “somewhat” like to quit their jobs due to a lack of skills-building opportunities. Skill development, and the career advancement it brings, is a top priority for 83% of employees

Working out what kind of training program would suit both your organizational and employee needs can require some research. In this article, we run through the benefits of customized training solutions and weigh them up against off-the-shelf programs. We explain the pros and cons of each, enabling you to make an informed decision about the right training solution for your organization. 

What is a custom training program?

Put simply, a custom training program is a type of training program that is created to meet an organization’s unique requirements—and to fill specific employee skill gaps. No two programs are the same, rather, the designers take into account both employee requirements and business goals to develop a holistic program that delivers actionable results, as well as long-term skills

Custom training vs off-the-shelf training: What’s the difference?

Off-the-shelf (OTS) training is essentially a one-size-fits-all solution, providing generic workplace skills from leadership to time management. While it has its applications, for example a crash course for a specific software, the problem is that one size usually doesn’t fit all. Every organization has its own specific needs and requirements, and OTS training programs can only address one area. 

Custom training, on the other hand, is tailored to your organization’s needs and business goals. Customized courseware enables you to match your program to company-specific processes. Not only does this provide a more efficient training solution, but it also translates directly to employees’ day-to-day work, contributing to a stronger sense of fulfillment and higher course retention rates. 

Overall, OTS training has its place, and it may be right for organizations seeking a more economical option, but it is limited. Custom training involves a more targeted approach, which in turn yields more effective results. 

Why is custom training important for organizations?

Customized training programs are important for organizations because it allows them to address business needs and goals while enabling employees to upskill, and to put their newly acquired skills to use immediately. 

A custom solution addresses long-term shortcomings, with a bigger picture in mind. Quality training can boost team performance and leadership, in turn increasing team cohesion—which can have positive knock-on effects on customer satisfaction. 

Effective customized training can elevate a company as a whole, enabling it to achieve its business goals and growth plans. It can be a highly worthwhile investment, particularly with the current demand for workplace training. 

The instructional design process: How to build customized training programs

Putting together a customized training program involves following the steps set out by the instructional design process, which cover the design, development, and delivery of learning experiences. This process applies theories about how people absorb information to create a model that is as efficient as possible for teaching and learning. 

Using an instructional design framework provides a roadmap that helps ensure the learners and their organization achieve their performance goals. 

When it comes to assembling your customized program, there are five key steps included in the instructional design process. These steps follow the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) model, a popular tool used by instructional designers. 

The image depicts the five stages of the training design process: analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate.

1. Analyze your team’s needs

First, you’ll need to evaluate your organizational needs and identify areas for improvement. It may take time, but a thorough analysis is essential to developing an effective training program. 

There are various ways to identify missing skills. To develop a view of the bigger picture, you must consider the following steps—which you can remember as the five C’s: 

  • Customer feedback: examining service reviews will help you find patterns of missing skills necessary for a better customer experience. 
  • Company goals: having a clear vision of your business goals will enable you to pinpoint the employee skills needed to achieve them. 
  • Compliance: your training program must meet legal requirements, for example, occupational safety demands.
  • Current employee skills: meet with your team and liaise with HR to figure out skills your employees might be lacking. 
  • Complaints: whether from employees to HR, or from customers to the company, complaints are a useful way of identifying persistent issues. 

Once you’ve analyzed your team’s needs, you can start developing a training program which builds on these and works towards goals that reflect them. These will hold team members accountable by condensing bigger goals into manageable tasks that fit into the bigger picture. 

2. Design your training blueprint

Customized training usually involves an increased development time compared to OTS courses, but it often yields higher efficiency and results. The first stage of the program development process involves designing a training blueprint. 

This step includes deciding on a training format, depending on factors such as: 

  • Deadline 
  • Office size 
  • Program difficulty 
  • Number of trainees 
  • Number of training sessions

If you’re a small firm, you might choose to have a series of one-on-one coaching sessions for individual employees. Alternatively, you might select a series of seminars for larger groups, with opportunities for breakout sessions and interactive exercises. 

While putting together your blueprint, you must set specific goals for each training as well as achievable yet challenging targets. These involve using quantifiable measurements for what you’d like employees to achieve post training, for example an increased production quota. A blueprint also involves establishing a clear training schedule, using a logical progression for multi-part training to ensure sessions are the right distance apart. 

Once you’ve decided on these details, you have your framework to structure your content. This is the next step. 

3. Develop the custom training program

Developing your program involves applying your learning objectives and deciding on the materials that will be created and designed. You must also decide on the technology you’ll be using, for example a Learning Management System (LMS), video, or social media. 

Creating content for a customized training program requires both creativity and practicality. Every step must answer specific questions including: 

  • What is this program trying to accomplish?
  • How will this step contribute towards the final goal? 

When curating your training program, it may be possible to utilize existing content, which involves creating an inventory of your organization’s current knowledge ‘assets’. While identifying existing materials and tools that can be repackaged and incorporated into the new program, you may find it helpful to work with an instructional designer

This is someone who can bring external knowledge and technical skills to your company-specific requirements. They will also facilitate communication with subject matter experts to create concise course training materials, coordinate the content-building team, and reinforce the program with new content. 

When it comes to choosing an instructional designer, you’ll want to scan through a sample of their instructor guides, which contains the trainer’s notes on how to teach a course. Look out for the following principles: 

  • Goal alignment 
  • Measurable results
  • Usability 
  • Accessibility
  • Effective communication 

Now you’ve laid out your training objectives and roadmap, the next step is to begin implementing your program. 

4. Implement the training solution

Once the training material has been prepared, the implementation stage involves considering the final details necessary to bring your program to life and ensure optimal delivery

Training program implementation can be carried out internally, although training can be much easier (and more successful) with the support of a qualified, experienced training instructor. Working with an external consultant can be the final step in ensuring your training platform is user-friendly, with a smooth learning flow, and each detail is taken into account. 

Finding an experienced instructor can also help you determine how to integrate your training program into your overall capacity development efforts. For example, whether your business requires a custom-made platform, or an integrated platform tailored to your existing interface. This is a significant step in the pre-launch process: where you assemble the necessary building blocks to finalize the program’s design and delivery. 

5. Evaluate the training program and learning impact

Evaluating your training program is just as important as the training itself. Without the trainees’ feedback, it’s difficult to understand how helpful the training program was, and how you might improve on it in the future. 

There are various ways to collect feedback, and you’ll likely want to carry out at least two, in order to get an accurate view of how the program was received. Some of these include: 

  • Anonymous surveys
  • One-on-one discussions 
  • Participant case studies
  • Focus groups 
  • Learning assessments, e.g. quizzes, exams, graded simulations

One popular model for training evaluation is the Kirkpatrick Model, for evaluating training during the 1950s. The model assesses both formal and informal training methods by looking into four key aspects of training success: reaction, learning, behavior, and results:

  1. The reaction of the trainee and their thoughts about the training experience
  2. The trainee’s resulting learning and increase in knowledge from the training experience
  3. The trainee’s behavioral change and improvement after applying the skills on the job
  4. The results or effects that the student’s performance has on the business.

As you can see from step three, a key goal of customized training programs is to change trainee behavior, rather than to simply tick boxes—as an OTS program might do. Custom training aims to provide long-term solutions, addressing points that matter most to businesses. Effective feedback gives a useful picture of how well your program is delivering on these objectives. The cost of training employees can be a significant investment: you want to ensure you’re receiving a good ROI. 

Get customized training programs from an experienced corporate training provider

The bottom line is that customized training programs can be a hugely worthwhile investment into your business, if done right. From the content development stage to implementation to feedback, each stage is essential to creating a program that will bring you a good return on investment. 

Working with an experienced corporate training provider can bring immeasurable value to the program. External expertise combined with internal knowledge, can help create a program that is both as effective as possible, and specifically tailored to your organizational needs.

Ready to start developing your custom training program? Get in touch with CLS

Karen Feeley
Karen Feeley

CLS Founder and Experienced Instructional Designer

Karen Feeley is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in workplace learning and development. She is a published author, trainer, instructional designer, editor, and project manager with a proven track record of success in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

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