Training content is the cornerstone of your training programme. However, it’s not always easy to keep up with your content needs. After all, we have moved beyond long, text-heavy documents to more interactive and engaging training experiences.
Luckily, there are different ways to ensure a consistent content approach, namely outsourcing and in-house content production. These different approaches help organisations with different training needs to meet their content requirements.
But what makes these approaches different from one another, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each? Our article dives further into outsourcing and in-house content creation to help you understand the different approaches better.
What Is Training Content?
Back in 1996, Bill Gates famously stated that ‘content is king’. His statement has been widely used in the marketing world, but it rings true in the world of learning and development too.
In fact, your training content can make or break your training initiatives. But what exactly do we mean by training content?
Training content is any form of content that is presented to learners to teach them specific skills, procedures and knowledge. As such, content development is the process of designing, developing and managing this content.
Content can come in different forms, including text, visuals, graphics, video, audio, interactive elements and more. Regardless of the format, your content needs to help you transfer knowledge or fill skills gaps, encourage learner engagement and add value to your overall training programme.
This makes content creation one of the most important aspects of your training programme as a whole. However, it’s not an easy process.
In fact, there are different routes you can take to create your content. You can either seek to do this in house, or outsource your content production efforts elsewhere.
Both in-house content creation and outsourcing has its benefits. However, let’s start by taking a look at the different approaches!
In-House Training Content Creation Vs Outsourcing
Content creation can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Luckily, there are different ways to meet your organisation’s training content needs.
You have the option to create your own content in-house or rely on outsourcing where you hire a third-party content provider. You can also mix the approaches and boost some of your in-house efforts with outsourced content.
You may be more familiar with one than the other. However, it’s essential to understand both. After all, you never know when your organisational needs will change and force you to rely on less-familiar approaches.
But what exactly is the difference between these in-house content creation and outsourcing? Let’s explore!
In-House Training Content
In a nutshell, in-house training content creation means that your organisation creates its content internally. As such, you use your internal resources and intellectual capital to complete the content development process.
In-house content creation is more common for larger organisations that have dedicated training content creators or learning and development teams. It can also benefit smaller companies with unique content needs.
In fact, one of the advantages of internal content production is that it gives you complete control over all aspects of the content creation process. However, in-house processes can often be slower and more tedious.
We will explore the pros and cons in more detail later on in this article.
Outsourced Training Content
Outsourcing, on the other hand, involves hiring a third-party company that’s independent of your organisation. There are two distinct options when it comes to outsourcing.
The first is to hire a third-party company to create content based on your needs and requirements. This option is highly customisable as it’s directly based on your training needs.
The second option is to purchase off-the-shelf content from the third-party content creators. While there are some customisation options available, like adding your logo or basic branding elements, these are typically limited.
This makes outsourcing a resource-efficient approach to content creation. After all, you don’t have to utilise your organisation’s internal resources to introduce and maintain a consistent content approach.
That’s why outsourcing is especially common for organisations that don’t have an in-house L&D team or lack the skills they need to develop a successful training programme.
However, working with third-party content providers can add an extra layer of complexity to the development process. After all, you will need to coordinate multiple stakeholders, with varying levels of communication.
Next, let’s look at the pros and cons of each approach!
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Pros and Cons of In-House Training Content
Opting for in-house content development means that you are trusting your teams to use their skills, experience and resources to create your training content. This approach comes with both pros and cons.
1. In-Depth Understanding of Target Audience
No one knows your organisational needs and your learners better than your own people. As such, with in-house content creation, you get the advantage of leveraging your team’s knowledge of your industry, organisation and people.
In-house content comes from your internal employees or experts who are involved in your organisation on a day-to-day basis. This means that you get to invest in your own team and create an internal content culture.
In-house training development, including content production, tends to be a more cost-effective solution in the long term. After all, it’s typically already incorporated into your organisation’s budget.
This means you are already paying the salaries of an L&D team. Providing your team has the right skillset, you won’t have to worry about creating and managing a separate budget for outsourcing content.
Similarly, today’s modern content creation tools, like Growth Engineering Authoring Tool, make the process relatively easy for your internal team to handle.
3. No Third-Party Dependencies
With in-house content development, you can eliminate the risk of depending on third-party providers or agencies as you do with outsourcing.
These risks include, for example, inflation costs, freelance workers leaving their roles or the agency having too big a workload to accommodate your needs.
As such, in-house content development grants you better control over your content teams’ growth. This internal team will be more aligned with your organisational goals and will have a personal connection with your company.
4. Control Over the Development Process
In-house content developers give you more control over the development process. This makes it easier to modify your existing training if your business or training needs change abruptly.
Communicating your vision to a third-party content provider can get time-consuming. Similarly, sometimes the meaning or details get lost along the way. In-house development makes it easier for you to stay true to your original intentions.
On top of being able to take more control, in-house content development allows you to update content conveniently. After all, with full control of processes, it’s often quicker and easier to modify or update content units if the needs arise.
5. Safeguard Confidentiality
With an in-house content team, you don’t have to share highly confidential data with an external company. In fact, having an in-house content team means that you have more control over the confidentiality of your data than you have when you choose outsourcing.
Your internal team members are likely to be more familiar with your organisation’s policies, procedures, and security measures. This can help to ensure that your proprietary information is kept safe and secure.
In addition, you can establish clear guidelines and protocols for handling confidential data. This might include limiting access to certain individuals or using encryption or password protection for sensitive documents.
1. Time Commitment
Internal content development requires time. After all, your team needs to research, outline, write, review, publish, distribute and promote the content.
Depending on the size of your content team, in-house content creation can shift the focus of your team away from other important tasks. This is especially true for smaller organisations that can’t afford to dedicate their time to in-house development.
As a result, these teams might juggle training content creation on top of their daily roles or other L&D-related tasks. This can place limitations on the quality and impact of your content.
2. Ensuring High-Quality Content
Another major challenge lies in the resources and skills of your internal teams. After all, they might not have the skills or time necessary to develop high-quality content in engaging and effective formats.
With this in mind, most organisations build a team of specialists with tangible experience and a passion for content creation. This, of course, requires additional L&D budget and hiring and onboarding processes.
3. Leadership and Management Skills
To manage your in-house content creation team effectively, you need efficient leadership and management skills. After all, you need to support your team or content developer to achieve success.
You’ll often be creating multiple content interventions at once, so you’ll also need project management skills and a focus on hitting deadlines.
As such, with in-house content development, you need to be prepared to manage and support the development process more than with outsourced content creation.
4. Maintaining a Consistent Content Approach
If you rely on your internal team without hiring a specialist content developer, then it’s more difficult to bring all the necessary people together to create your content.
After all, you typically need a content writer, subject matter experts, someone to proof the content and someone who has design skills.
If you fail to bring these people together on a regular basis, then maintaining a consistent and high-quality content approach will become difficult.
Similarly, if you decide to build a dedicated content development team in-house, you need to ensure it’s big enough to meet your content needs regularly.
5. Higher Initial Investment
While most companies rely on in-house training development because of its seemingly low price tag, this isn’t always the case. In fact, in-house content creation may come with a high initial investment.
After all, you need to ensure you have the resources required to craft high-impact training materials. This includes your team, tools, budget, time and other factors. As such, most organisations have to invest in recruiting a content manager or content team.
Similarly, you need to ensure your team has the skills to create content that resonates. Otherwise, you risk wasting all that time and money on crafting unsuccessful training content.
Pros and Cons of Outsourced Content
Outsourcing your content means that you rely on a third-party content creator. These experts create content for you according to your specific needs. While there are many benefits to outsourcing, it also comes with some drawbacks.
1. Easy to Get Started and Maintain
The success of your training programme depends heavily on your learners having the right content available at the right time. Similarly, they need to be able to build upon their knowledge.
Collaborating with a third-party content provider means that the initial setup time is relatively short. It’s easy to get started when you have an outsourced team to support you.
This will enable you to keep up with your content needs. After all, your internal projects won’t slow you down or interfere with your content efforts.
2. Access to Experts
Successful L&D interventions require a specific set of skills. While in-house teams may know their subject, they won’t necessarily have the instructional design expertise necessary to create courses that engage, resonate and generate results.
By outsourcing your content creation you get access to qualified experts. High-quality content agencies have content production teams with extensive skills and experience in multiple fields.
In fact, they typically have a strong background in training, content creation, instructional design and authoring tools. As such, they have a good idea of how to meet your training and content needs.
3. Availability of More Options and Tools
Outsourcing your content creation process opens up a world of possibilities. For example, it may enable you to utilise new content formats or immersive tools. These approaches can often be too expensive to implement in-house.
As such, you won’t only get access to industry experts or content professionals, you’ll also be able to leverage their tools and resources. This is extremely beneficial if you want to implement more advanced technology, like augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR).
Scalability is one of the key advantages of outsourcing training content creation. When you work with an external agency, you can easily scale your content production up or down based on your changing needs or circumstances.
This is particularly valuable for organisations that experience fluctuations in their training demands or have specific project-based needs.
For example, if you are launching a new product or service, you may need to create a significant amount of training content in a short period of time.
Moreover, outsourced training content creation typically operates on a project-to-project basis.
This means that you can minimise long-term commitments and evaluate your content needs on an ongoing basis. This can be particularly beneficial for small or growing businesses that need to be mindful of their budget and resources.
5. Speed of Production
Outsourced content creation typically has a faster development process and turnaround time compared to in-house content production. This is especially relevant if you are a smaller organisation.
After all, your content partner is free to focus solely on the task at hand. Conversely, smaller internal teams have various tasks to juggle, fewer resources available, and more difficulties bringing relevant subject matter experts (SMEs) together.
1. Research and Onboarding
One of the downsides of outsourced content creation is the difficulty of finding an organisation that has in-depth knowledge of the topics your audience needs to learn.
As such, you either need to spend time searching for the right company, or you need to onboard the outsourced team thoroughly.
This involves bringing the third-party team up to speed regarding your specific industry, products, clients and learners. While onboarding is necessary regardless, it’s much quicker if you can find a company that has experience with your chosen training topics.
2. Confidentiality Concerns
As explored in the previous section, one of the benefits of in-house content creation is that you can keep your data confidential. As such, it only makes sense that it’s one of the downsides of outsourcing.
By working with an external company, you may need to share highly sensitive information about your organisation, such as internal processes, proprietary data, or trade secrets.
This can create a risk of data breaches, leaks, or theft, which could have severe consequences for your business.
3. Third-Party Dependency
One of the most significant drawbacks of outsourced training content creation is the third-party dependency that comes with it. When you hire an agency to create your content, you essentially become dependent on their performance.
This can create obstacles when it comes to publishing content in a timely manner. After all, any delays or issues on the agency’s end can directly impact your ability to deliver training to your employees.
In addition, employee turnover within the third-party organisation can create fluctuations in the quality and consistency of your training content. As a customer, you have no control over these changes.
4. Possible Misunderstandings
Onboarding plays a huge role in ensuring your third-party content producer has sufficient knowledge of your products, services, company or learners. Even still, certain aspects may be perceived differently.
As a result, there is a risk that your content won’t convey enough in-house knowledge. If it lacks technical know-how, necessary details or niche information about your company, your content may leave questions unanswered.
Effective communication is essential for any successful collaboration. Outsourcing training content creation is no exception.
When working with an external agency, you need to maintain efficient communication to ensure the content meets your expectations and is delivered on time. However, third-party companies often juggle multiple clients and projects simultaneously.
This can make it challenging to maintain consistent communication and ensure that your project receives the attention it deserves. There may also be delays in responding to queries or feedback, which can slow down the content creation process and impact its quality.
Another challenge is physical distance and differences in time zones. If you and the external agency are in different parts of the world, scheduling meetings or calls may be difficult due to time zone differences.
This can make it challenging to have real-time conversations and may lead to longer turnaround times for feedback or revisions.
So, Which is Better?
We have looked at the benefits of both in-house content creation and outsourcing, and it’s safe to say that there is no one answer to this question.
You would imagine that organisations would be able to choose either in-house or outsourced content production purely based on this list of pros and cons. And, of course, some do!
But there are some additional considerations that can help you to decide which option suits your organisation better. Try answering the following questions:
- Do you have an internal L&D team?
- If yes, how big is your team?
- Do they have instructional design knowledge and other skills to support in-house content development?
- If not, do you have the budget to hire a dedicated content creation team?
- Does your team lack any key skills that prevent you from providing high-quality content?
- What is the size of your project? For example, is this a one-off intervention or will you need content ongoing?
- How quickly do you need the project executed?
- What kind of content do you want to create? For example, is it about your company, a more niche topic or something generic?
The answers to these questions will help you to determine whether you are better off outsourcing your training content creation or if you should develop your content in-house.
Remember, it may be a mix of both approaches that turns out to be the best fit for you and your organisation.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to deciding between in-house or outsourced training content creation. Both in-house and outsourcing have their own benefits and drawbacks for you to consider.
Organisations with an internal L&D team that boasts instructional design knowledge and other necessary skills and who also have the budget to hire a dedicated content creation team may be better off creating content in-house.
However, if the team lacks the necessary skills or is not large enough to handle the project’s size, outsourcing may be the best option. As such, ultimately, it comes down to your unique training needs, resources and goals.
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