I find myself on the road again this week conducting another training workshop on project management.  As I was getting ready to begin the training workshop I was asked a question by a training manager.  It was:

“Which is better for the clients and training attendees, to participate in a public training event or an in-house/private training workshops?”

For those who may wonder about the difference, a public training workshop is typically a session that a training organization holds at a hotel or a training facility.  It is open to anyone interested in participating and usually advertised through a variety of media such as print, direct mail, website, and email campaigns.  An in-house/private training workshop is usually held by an organization where a trainer or a training company is invited to deliver either at the organization’s premises or at a 3rd party facility such as a hotel.  The training is usually sold to one organization and the workshop is only open to the employees of the organization.

An interesting fact is that it seems that within the last few years there has been a bit of a shift to focus more on in-house training sessions, probably fueled by the global economic crisis.  However, I for training managers, decision makers, and indeed the attendees, it might be beneficial to discuss which type of training is better for you and your organization.  Here are some key factors that need to be taken into consideration based on the positive aspects of both:

Public Training Workshop Pros:

  • Ability to interact with participants from different industries, thus the opportunity to hear about lessons learned and best practices from outside your own organization
  • Opportunity to meet people from other organizations and learn of their experiences
  • Easier to get away from day to day activities as it is more likely to be held off site and away from one’s office
  • Avoiding the potential of group think that may happen within in-house training workshop
  • Getting away from dealing with last minute emergencies and forcing the participant to “pay attention”

Inhouse/Private Training Workshop Pros:

  • Greater flexibility in working with the training organization to tailor the offerings to meet specific needs within the organization
  • Opportunity to customize exercises and case studies to be specific to organization
  • Likely cheaper if there is a large number of participants from one organization
  • May offer the potential of saving on logistics costs if it is held at the organization’s training center
  • Could be used as an opportunity to conduct some team building activity or resolve some intra-organizational conflict (but be sure to tell your trainer about them so he/she can come prepared)

Perhaps the most important element to either type of training include the need to sit down and identify the organizational requirements before making a decision.  If the organization has only a few attendees, it may not be cost effective to hold an in-house training.  Furthermore, if customization is not needed, it may be cheaper to send the attendee to a public workshop.  Similarly, if a specific need related to a skill and an issue is required, sending individuals to a public workshop may not be the best of ideas. Holding prior discussions with the trainer or training organization helps everyone set the proper expectations and allows everyone to be ready for the workshops.

Regardless of which option is chosen, the most important factor for the participant is not to be forced to attend.  I have seen a few instances where individuals were forced to participate because “the company paid for it”, thinking that since we have the space we might send “someone”.

I hope this helps in trying to distinguish two realistic options that organizations may consider in training.  There are other options such as on the job coaching or e-learning which may be addressed in future posts.