Solving the problem of delivering trainings in remote offices

Feb 11, 2016


Large companies usually have sufficient resources to maintain their own training departments they can rely on for all their training-related needs. However, sometimes high load makes it necessary to employ a third party to assist with the creation of training courses. Ideally, all the extra work is done in the headquarters, and the resulting courses are then distributed to other departments and branches. But what if every branch is situated in a different country, and every course has to be adjusted, depending on the country’s specifics?

There are a number of ways to tackle this issue:

  1. Hire a local instructional designer in every branch office.

  2. Outsource the creation of training courses to third parties in the countries the branch offices are located in.

  3. Have central office personnel consult employees in the branch offices so that they are able to make the necessary changes themselves.

  4. Employ an authoring tool that would enable personnel outside the training department make changes to the training courses without possessing the knowledge about creating them.

  5. Make no changes to the courses, and inform the employees in the branch offices about the differences orally.

1. Hire a local instructional designer in every branch office. 

This option is only likely to be cost-effective if new training courses requiring adjustment are created on a regular basis. Otherwise, instructional designers should be hired on a part-time basis, or given other tasks to recoup the costs. It is important to note that choosing this option comes with a number of caveats. First, the HR team will have to screen the potential candidates to ensure that only adequately skilled instructional designers are hired. Second, there must be instructional designers for hire in every location with a branch office. Finally, there must be enough seats on your course authoring tool license to enable every branch office to make the necessary changes. It is important to take into account that a single seat can cost upwards of $1500 - $2500, and so the software costs can grow very quickly if the number of the branch offices is high. These costs can be sometimes be reduced to some degree if you buy a license with a large number of seats on it - the software manufacturer may give you a discount.

2. Outsource the creation of training courses to third parties. 

Another option is to hire a local company to make the adjustments to the training courses as necessary. If you decide to go down this path, you need to find a local company performing this kind of service for every branch office, one that is willing to do small amounts of work at regular intervals. This may present an issue, as such companies generally prefer to be employed to develop whole courses, or even series of courses, from scratch, and so they may not be as interested in making adjustments to courses produced by someone else. This can result in the company either refusing to work for you, or charging you a higher rate than usual. Another potential roadblock is that the company may not have access to the course authoring tool used in your organization, and will therefore be unable to change the courses for you.

3. Have central office personnel consult employees in the branch offices. 

This option is probably the easiest one to implement. However, in order for the project to succeed, it is critically important to clearly understand the specifics of every branch office, and for that, constant communication is key. This has the positive side effect of strengthening the ties between the central office and the branch ones, helps the top management to better understand the needs and challenges of branch offices, and makes it easier to cover specific material required by individual branch offices for the trainings to be effective.

The main drawback of this approach is high cost. In most cases, the salary of an employee in the central office is significantly higher than that of a branch office worker. It can take a significant amount of time to understand an individual branch’s specifics and adjust the course accordingly, and the process has to be repeated for every branch. In addition, if the delivery of trainings is on a tight schedule, multiple central office employees may have to be taken off their primary duties at once. Given high enough number of branch offices, the costs associated with this method may become prohibitive.

4. Employ an authoring tool that would enable anyone make changes. 

This option places the emphasis on the software, and not personnel. You need to find an authoring tool that is, at the same time, user-friendly enough so that an average employee familiar with Microsoft Office, Gmail, and Dropbox can use it, and sufficiently feature-rich so that it can cover all the needs of your organization when it comes to creating courses.

Another important criterion to consider is the cost of the software. Make sure to note the cost per editor’s seat, and whether there are any discounts for a license with multiple seats. These days, the eLearning market can offer multiple solutions, licenses for which can be bought or leased for a reasonable price regardless of the number of planned users.

All in all, this approach will work best for those who believe in the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” maxim.

5. Inform the employees in the branch offices about the differences orally. 

The cheapest, but possibly not the most effective option. The main challenges in connection with this approach are, one, how to best deliver the information to the branch offices’ employees and, two, how to retain it in the face of employee turnover.

Let us consider a hypothetical situation: a training course teaching the implementation of the company’s product has been developed in the company’s head office in New York. Afterwards, the course is delivered, as is, with no adjustment, to the company’s branch offices. The education manager of the Cyprus branch notices that the course fails to take into account local laws, and is also missing the steps for a certain procedure that, while optional, is usually carried out during implementation of similar products on Cyprus. Since the branch office lacks the software needed for editing the course, and does not have the budget to outsource the necessary corrections, it is decided that that missing information will be delivered orally.

As a result, soon after the Cyprus branch employees take the standard training course created in New York, they are gathered in a meeting room, where the education manager briefs them additionally on the specifics of the Cyprus law and the additional procedures required during implementation.

A year and a half go by. The training course is still being used for educating the new hires all across the organization. Some of the Cyprus branch employees have since left for other opportunities, including the ex-education manager who delivered the training, and so when the time comes to instruct new employees about the implementation procedure, they are given the standard course without the additional information, specific to the Cyprus branch. This results in violations the next time the company’s product is implemented for a new customer. There’s confusion, anger, and a hefty fine the Cyprus branch has to pay.

In conclusion

As you can see, there are a number of ways to solve the issue of delivering information that is specific to certain branch offices, and all of them have their advantages and disadvantages. You can pick one that best suits the resources you have available and your organization’s structure. Nonetheless, to help you make a choice, I would like to recommend options three and four, as they are relatively simple to implement and reasonably effective. Option three (having someone from the head office make adjustments) is best suited for situations where the number of changes to be made is modest, and can be accomplished within 1-2 weeks. However, if the differences introduced by specifics of the branch offices are great, I recommend to go with option four (find a suitable authoring tool). The main advantage of this approach the flexibility it offers. You can always make changes to the course - even if, say, there are further changes to be documented a year down the line. The second advantage is cost, as, if you pick the right tool, the number of people making changes to the course will not affect the price.