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Off-the-shelf solutions for training often come with a variety of apparent perks: they are sometimes cheaper, they are already built, and they can be rolled out almost immediately. However, looking deeper into considerations around these “quick-and-dirty” solutions reveals a couple counter-intuitive variables.

Megan Torrance, the CEO of Torrance Learning, highlights a few circumstances where a custom solution is actually better on all counts. Answering some preliminary questions can be as easy as measuring licenses against volume; or considerations can be as nuanced as anticipating what association employees will have when they consume generic training rather than something intentionally designed for their specific instructional needs.

Additionally, a common oversight of some trainers is they neglect the opportunity to have frequent touch-points for the expression or demonstration of their company’s culture within training. Injecting a company’s brand attitude or values into training reinforces cultural aspects of the business, and it connects employees to the overall mission – helping to fully integrate them into the team and inspiring them to make the most of their time on the job.


Megan Torrance:            When you’re looking at making a decision between custom and an off-the-shelf software, there’s really three things you need to keep in mind. One is volume. You have to run your numbers. If you have tens of thousands of employees, it’s probably cheaper to actually build it yourself and own the license as opposed to buying one for everybody.

Second is how much time are you going to spend explaining the context around this, to make it translate into your own environment if you buy it off the shelf and they don’t use your lingo? That’s something really important to consider because it may be easily dismissed if it doesn’t seem like it comes internally and from the heart.

And that really gets to the third one. How much does this really count? Because you send a message when you buy something off the shelf that says, “Hey, this is pretty generic.” As opposed to when you’re actually talking to employees in their language and you’re saying, “We’ve actually spent this much money looking at, caring about, and considering this topic.”

And it’s really just a matter of making a blended strategy around how am I going to source our learning and get the right things to the right people when it really counts? All of the implicit understanding about culture and lingo and clothing and words and how we talk to each other is all covered. And I don’t have to translate from some generic piece that doesn’t speak my language and doesn’t really talk to me.