Off the shelf training can be convenient, successful and very cost effective when used in the right context. Courses or modules are simply selected from what is available. Employers will know exactly what they are getting, and can be certain that the training has been perfected over many previous offerings. There will be limitations on the types of courses and topics covered, and trainees may need to adapt what they learn to their own company and working practices, but the course will typically be aimed at a wide audience in order to make it more broadly applicable.
Off the shelf courses can also have another advantage that won't be experienced with customised training. When courses are being given outside the workplace, or through some online providers, attendees may be able to network with trainees from other companies, which can help build relationships that could be useful in the future.
Customised training can be tailored for a particular purpose, group of trainees or company. The more customisation is required, the greater the input of time and involvement that will be required from the employer. Five percent of employers who did not provide training told the Employers Skills Survey that the reason was a lack of training in the subject areas they required, while 1% could not find the right training in their area.
Tailor made training would be one way of solving these problems, but it will be more expensive, and unless significant changes need to be made to adapt courses to a particularly unique company, an off the shelf alternative may cover all of the necessary material at a lower cost.
Off the shelf and customised training options serve very different purposes. Customised training can be a good choice for larger companies that have the resources to invest in putting together the unique programs that they need, but sometimes an off the shelf course is the right solution. It can be more time and cost effective to choose a course that is ready made, a fact that is reflected in the shift towards off the shelf training seen in the UK since 2009 as a response to the economic crisis, according to a Bersin study. Although the total investment in training is increasing in the UK, according to the Employer Skills Survey, companies are looking for more cost effective ways of using their money, and offering cheaper solutions to a greater number of employees.
Low cost off the shelf solutions are often the only choice for smaller companies, and may be the most practical choice when only a small number of employees need training. Off the shelf options are also a good choice when training is needed in a topic that can be covered sufficiently through such a course and which trainees will easily be able to apply to their own workplace, such as first aid or training towards a nationally recognised qualification. Thus so called 'hard skills' are often best served by nationally recognised off the shelf solutions.
The cost of customising training and lack of availability of suitable off the shelf course may explain why small businesses tend to cover training in such areas as first aid and health and safety but not in some of the vital soft skills areas which promote better management and leadership.