The Business Case for Custom-Crafted Learning

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Custom-crafted learning, like portrait painting, requires specialized skills and tools. Just like you wouldn’t hire the guy who painted your living room to paint your family portrait, you need to find the people in your organization, or a partner for your organization, with the craftsmanship to realize the business value of custom-crafted learning. What is the business case for custom-crafted learning versus hiring external trainers to meet training needs? Here’s our perspective:

Organizations often see training as an expense—one that is often challenging to determine return on investment (ROI). As a result, it’s tempting for organizations to find the least expensive, most acceptable, off-the-shelf training services. After working with dozens of organizations in the area of learning and development the past seven years, we can offer five business reasons why you should rethink the model of relying on off-the-shelf training solutions to support business-critical goals and objectives.

  1. Paying for expertise you may already own. We see this most often in organizations—bringing in trainers when there are people within the organization with greater expertise and experience. Your internal experts may not be the right people to design or lead the training, but not utilizing their expertise is a lost opportunity to leverage their value. A custom-crafted solution captures the value of your experts and the real-world experiences they can offer.
  2. Inconsistency creates inefficiencies. This is the second most common situation we see. Take, for example, an organization never satisfied with the training consultants hired to teach managers how to coach. After six years and four different trainers, the organization ends up using many different models and terms that any discussion about coaching turns into a frustrating exercise in trying to understand one another. Progress toward the business objective halts while focus turns (once again) toward improving coaching across the organization.
  3. The cost of renting versus buying in the long term. Understandably, decisions are often driven by resources available in a fiscal year. Custom-crafted training is a greater up front expense, but once built the ongoing expense to utilize the resulting tools and materials is minimal. Hiring an external trainer can make sense in year one but can quickly become a more costly solution with ongoing stipends, materials costs, hosting fees, etc.
  4. Opportunity cost of “not quite right.” External trainers can solve issues quickly, but there is often a long-term hidden cost: the opportunity cost of under-performance due to a learning solution that is good, but not complete or specific to the needs of your situation and people.
  5. Wasted time of your top performers. Let’s say you put your 100 sales people through a daylong training seminar on negotiation skills and 20 of your highest performing reps report learning “nothing new.” The cost of their time, 160 hours, adds up quickly. When you custom-craft a learning solution, you can get feedback on the perceived value of the program before deploying it and investing the time of your most valuable human assets.
  6. Opportunity cost of not engaging high-potentials/top performers and  improving overall employee morale. The act of bringing in an external trainer can communicate the following to your team, “We need someone from the outside to fix us; there’s no one in this organization that can offer what this trainer offers.” Custom-crafting your learning solutions gives you a chance to engage your experts in identifying content and experiences, engaging your high-potentials in reviewing early drafts and showcase the contributions of fellow employees when the solution is deployed—all of which can contribute to greater engagement.

Obviously we’re proponents of custom-crafted learning solutions—in part because it’s the service we offer—but, more importantly we have a deeply held belief that organizations perform better when they maximize the value of existing expertise and accelerate the transfer of that expertise across the organization. It just makes good business sense.