Managers face a dilemma when they want to train employees.
Do you spend time and money on a customized training program, or do you skimp on customization to find an off-the-shelf program that fits your budget?
A customized program involves hiring an external consultant or dedicating an internal team to creating a course that focuses on your team’s unique needs. This training can be highly effective, but it can also cost an arm and a leg.
An off-the-shelf program could be a training video, public workshop, or a training class that’s sold in a kit (PowerPoint, workbooks, etc.). This option is much cheaper, but it’s also generic.
It seems like a tough choice.
You want to help employees boost essential skills. The training needs to be geared to your team’s unique challenges. And, the total cost has to fit a limited budget.
This post will show you five ways to have your cake and eat it too.
You can enjoy the benefits of an inexpensive off-the-shelf program that’s also customized to your team’s specific needs.
I’m going to use customer service training as an example, but these concepts will work for many other topics too.
#1 Pick and Choose Modules
Many off-the-shelf training programs are broken down into smaller learning modules. You can customize your training by only selecting the modules your team really needs.
For example, my Customer Service Fundamentals training video on lynda.com has a run time of 1 hour and 57 minutes. However, each of the 35 individual movies are just 3 - 5 minutes long.
If you wanted your team to work on listening skills, you might have them watch the Active Listening and Overcoming Listening Barriers modules. At a total run time of 8 minutes and 51 seconds, you’ve just saved a lot of time by not taking the full course.
#2 Focus on the Big Picture
Let’s say you want to give your employees training on working with upset customers. Not just any upset customers. Your upset customers.
You can easily create a customized training program by incorporating an off-the-shelf training program into a bigger overall strategy.
Here’s a sample approach:
- Prevention. Engage your employees in finding solutions to common problems.
- Training. Have employees take an off-the-shelf module on Diffusing Angry Customers. (You can view mine here.)
- Recovery. Institute a service recovery program to follow-up with customers who have complaints and try to win back their business.
This holistic approach is bigger than just training. It focuses on achieving real results by embedding the off-the-shelf training into a hands-on action plan.
#3 Prepare the Team
You can customize an off-the-shelf training program by giving your employees something specific to look for.
I ask my clients to make sure all employees can answer these three questions before coming to one of my training classes:
- What is the class about? (They’d better read the course description!)
- How will it help me do my job?
- What are some situations where I can apply the skills I expect to learn?
Having your employees answer these questions allows them to customize their own learning. Throughout the training class, they’ll be thinking about specific ways to apply the content.
#4 Conduct Post Training Follow-up
Adding in a follow-up activity is an easy way to customize an off-the-shelf training program.
Let’s say you want to help your employees develop their rapport-building skills. You scan an off-the-shelf program and find a few modules that will help.
You can tailor those modules to your unique environment by holding a follow-up meeting with your employees. For example, they may have learned the Five Question Technique for developing really good ice breaker questions.
You can have a follow-up meeting to discuss the questions that each employee came up with. You can even hold a second follow-up meeting a few weeks later to compare notes on how the new rapport-building questions are working.
#5 Do the Application Exercises
Many off-the-shelf training programs include specific exercises and activities that are designed to help employees apply what they learn.
Many employees attend these programs, but skip the application exercises. Perhaps they’re too busy after the training. Maybe they’re just hoping to gain new skills via osmosis.
You can remedy this by insisting your employees complete the application exercises.
For example, there’s a module on Managing Expectations in my customer service training video that has suggestions for helping customers to avoid unpleasant surprises. You could have your employees take this module and then try to implement some of the suggestions with their own customers.
People sometimes get hung up on the idea of customized training. My suggestion is to put your focus in a more productive place: customized outcomes.
You don’t need a big budget or a lot of time to leverage off-the-shelf training tools to improve customer service results.