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employees recording custom training content

If you’ve been searching for a solid employee training and development program lately, you may have come across offers for off-the-shelf, or canned, training content. And you may be wondering if it’s better to invest in a prepackaged course or to create a new one from scratch. After all, creating custom material seems time-consuming and could get expensive. Canned content makes it easy to quickly check the “get all employees trained” box on your to-do list. But how do you know it’ll be worth the investment?

In the right scenario, canned content is a great option for companies needing to fulfill their employee training requirements. In this article, we’ll explore the scenarios in which canned content can benefit employee training and development — and those in which it’s best to create custom training content instead.

Generally speaking, people really do care about their own professional learning and development. 93% of employees believe that well-planned training positively affects their development; another 60% of workers spearheaded their own upskilling endeavors in 2020. 

Clearly, employers can do a better job of providing their employees with more robust training resources. Ineffective training leads to disengaged employees, low performance, and higher turnover rates to boot. Your employees want engaging training content that motivates, inspires, and adds true value to their professional lives. Give it to them and they might even brag about your excellent training materials to their friends.

Here’s how to do it:

Canned Content: When To Use It

Ultimately, canned training content comes in handy when you’re facing significant time or budgetary constraints, or if you don’t have the resources to create your own. Here are some examples of those scenarios:

1. You work in a highly-regulated industry.

Certain industries face heavy scrutiny under government regulations. Bank employees, for example, must undergo ​​training under the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) compliance program. In cases like this, canned programs tailored to the industry fare pretty well. It’s risky to give only custom-made training content to employees in highly-regulated industries; you don’t want to miss including critical information that would later lead to facing regulatory consequences. Opt for canned training that’s specifically geared towards getting regulatory requirements met.

2. You need to cover a broad, general range of topics.

Bespoke training programs work wonders for employees learning niche topics. But if you’re looking to provide your employees with general, baseline knowledge, like “professional communication” or “how to use Adobe Illustrator,” canned content might just be your best bet. It’ll save you time and resources that can be spent on creating more detailed, custom training programs for specialist topics. If necessary, you can also fill in the gaps with custom content to better tailor the material to your company and employees.

3. You’re on a budget.

Canned courses tend to be less expensive than creating custom content. Creating custom content, on the other hand, requires significant monetary investment: you’ll need to outsource professionals (like designers, writers, and HR consultants) to make sure the content stays relevant and engaging.

4. You’re in a time crunch to get your employees trained.

Creating a bespoke training course is time-consuming work. When you’re in a pinch, canned training content can ensure your employees get their training bases covered.

When Not To Use Canned Content

Canned content, however useful, won’t always meet your employee training and development needs. If you feel like your employees need more than just a basic crash course, partnering with an agency to create custom training content might just be a better option.

Here’s when you should opt for custom content instead of canned:

1. You need to fill very specific knowledge gaps in your company.

As mentioned, canned content works wonderfully for educating employees on broad topics. But if you’re looking to dive deeper into specifics, you may want to opt for custom content instead. Canned content can’t educate employees on your company’s specific processes, policies, and culture, for example. It also won’t give employees insight into how they can succeed in their specific roles.

2. Your employees are already showing signs of disengagement.

Customized content is the way to go if you’re noticing low levels of employee engagement. Tailoring content exclusively to your employees’ roles will not only make the content more interesting to them; it will also show them that you’re highly invested in their success.

Employees who are provided with well-planned training and development resources are 15% more likely to say they are engaged at work. And, as we’ve mentioned before, higher levels of engagement equal a stronger company culture and better performance overall. 

Other ways to keep those engagement numbers up? Incentivize and reward your employees to complete their training. You can offer gift cards, lunches, or other small rewards to motivate your employees to engage in training.

3. Your employees demonstrate various learning preferences.

Some of your employees might be absolutely content learning from canned training material. Others, however, might perform better with training content that aligns with their learning preferences.

An employee’s learning preference (or style) will dictate how they best process and retain information. People tend to fall into one or more of four categories: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learners. A visual learner, for example, will thrive with visually stimulating material, like well-designed infographics or videos. Auditory learners prefer listening to the material, whereas reading and writing learners fare best by reading text and taking notes. Kinesthetic learners like to get as much hands-on experience and learn by doing.

Canned training content usually won’t cater to the needs of every learning style. Survey your employees and ask them how they best enjoy learning — and if possible, create content that resonates with their preferences.

4. Your employees are hungry for more training resources.

Once a canned training course is over, it’s over. Custom content, on the other hand, can always be refreshed and added to so your employees have on-demand resources available at their fingertips. 

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, companies that make an effort to offer training and development opportunities to existing employees, not just new hires, is the most effective recruiting strategy for hard-to-fill positions in organizations. Employees want to learn and grow within their organizations; they just need to be provided the resources to do so.

5. You have the time and/or budget to create custom training content

This goes without saying — if you have the resources to create bespoke training content for your employees, it’s absolutely recommended. (More on why below!)

The Case For Custom Training Content

Now that we’ve compared the benefits of canned and custom training side-by-side, let’s conduct a small analysis. You’ve probably already come to this conclusion yourself, but it’s worth noting again: leveraging custom training content is almost always the preferred method to train employees.

Personalized training goes a long way and offers benefits that canned content inherently can’t. Some of its key differentiators are:

  • It helps out employees with different learning preferences, ultimately increasing the ROI of your training program and showing your employees you’re invested in their professional success.
  • It can be tailored to their specific roles, which equips them with specialized knowledge that’s vital to their employee functions.
  • You have control over the length of the lessons. Ever seen how peoples’ eyes glaze over after hitting the three minute mark on a video? Your employees will tune out if they’re given training content that’s too long or dense. Creating custom training material means you can keep the lessons short and sweet.
  • You have control over how visually appealing the content is. You’ll want to ensure you’re providing employees with well-designed, logically-structured content to keep them engaged.

Comparison Chart

Canned training content vs custom training content

Final Words

In certain scenarios, canned training content serves as an incredibly useful resource. For general training purposes — or when you’re in a budgetary or time crunch — canned content is the way to go. But whenever possible, opting for custom training material can be the key to keeping employees engaged.

Your training content doesn’t need to be strictly one or the other, however. Employing a blend of canned and custom training content where it makes most sense is also a good option, especially if you need to cover lots of ground. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine what kind of content your employees will fare best with. Whether that means using canned, custom, or a mix of both, tailoring the content to your company’s specific context will ultimately increase your training program’s ROI.