When Entelechy opened its doors more than twenty-five years ago, we began with the premise that generic training produces generic results and that only customized training would have the immediate, as well as long-term, changes that clients were looking for in sales, customer service, and management/leadership behaviors.
Many companies, however, shy away from customization for a variety of reasons. Some equate customization with a high price tag. Others see time or effort involved with customization. And, still others are looking for a tried-and-true program and perceive a customized solution as experimental and, therefore, risky. These are legitimate concerns.
Clearly there are benefits to off-the-shelf (OTS) training including immediate availability, proven formula, and universal applicability. Likewise, there are obvious benefits to customized training including a clearer link to business goals/objectives, more immediate on-the-job application, and improved relevance. And, there are disadvantages to both that include time, effort, retention, etc. Many articles have been written about OTS versus customized, so I won’t rehash old ground here.
Instead, I’d like to draw from our 25 years of experience in customizing training to provide you with some of the reasons our clients decided to go with a customized approach:
- Organizational Culture Change. This is perhaps the single most reason cited by clients for a customized approach to training. Many clients see the way they lead (or sell or service customers) as a competitive advantage; customized training can identify and articulate that methodology/approach so it can be modeled throughout the organization.
- A Unique Environment. The second most cited reason for customized training was that “we’re unique.” While every organization can make this claim in reference to their industry, competition, organizational make-up, vision, challenges, goals, etc., there are clear distinctions in — for example — coaching trash truck drivers versus coaching software engineers. If you’re going to teach a skill, you want your written and video examples to illustrate the skill being used in the same environment to ensure easy transfer of skills to the job.
- Reluctant Learners. An often-overlooked aspect of training is the motivation of the learner. When learners are motivated, they’ll find a way to acquire the necessary skills. However, what do you do when you know that a fair number of learners attending the training may be reluctant to learn and apply the skills? Clearly, by customizing the training, you can address the reasons for reluctance head on. We’ve found that the PROCESS of customizing allows us to reach out to many of these learners so they feel that the training was created for and with them (which it was!).
- A Large Rollout. When only one or two classes are required, it usually doesn’t make sense to devote a lot of time to customize the training. However, many of our clients deploy their versions of our training to thousands of leaders. Often, we create three versions of the same program — one for the field, one for customer service, and one for the enterprise (finance, marketing, shared services, etc.) so that even the customized version of the program is further customized based on function. Customization costs are insignificant when compared to the efficiencies and effectiveness gained across such a large audience.
- Unique Components. Sometimes clients have existing content that they want woven into a more comprehensive program. “We want THIS, but we want you to include/embed THIS and THIS and….” Often the content is the organization’s leadership 360° assessment or a review of the organization’s mission and values.
- We Already Have… Sometimes the Unique Components (mentioned above), however, includes licensed content from other providers. Creating a learning journey that weaves content from a variety of sources requires customization (and working closely with the content providers and the client to protect copyrighted material).
- Reluctant Sponsors. While often attendees may be reluctant LEARNERS, sometimes the challenge comes from reluctant SPONSORS. Many sponsors want to know specifically how this training is different and better than anything else, and how it will impact performance. When customizing training, we always begin with the sponsors to determine what THEY see as important. We enlist their support in designing — and promoting — the training.
So, should you consider customized training? Clearly, if any of the above reasons apply to your initiative, customized training will likely return great benefits. And, if more than one of the above reasons apply to your situation, you may NEED customization to make the training stick. For best practices on how to make leadership training stick, please download our white paper, Leadership Training that Sticks – 23 Lessons Learned Over 23 Years.
Lastly, it’s important to clarify that customized doesn’t mean training is built from the ground up for each new engagement. We at Entelechy, for instance, have carefully crafted and honed the models that serve as the foundation of our programs. Those models come to life when we incorporate your people, your scenarios, your terminology, and your business objectives. And, when you combine proven models with impactful customization, the results are truly impressive.