In-House Vs. External Training: which is better?

No matter what industry your company operates within, there's going to come a point where, as an HR professional, you're going to have to organise some training. You know your budget, and you know what you want people to get out of it, but there's something nagging at the back of your mind - is it better to get it done in-house or find an external provider to do it?

Clearly there's a bit of dilemma here, so we decided to have a look at the main benefits and disadvantages of each - allowing you to weigh up the best option for you. This decision is a lot more important than many people in HR think, so it really does deserve some consideration. 

In-house training

Benefit: it's (effectively) free!

The first, very obvious benefit of in-house training is that it's cheap. Well, actually, it's more or less free - given that the person or people who'll be carrying it out are already getting paid by your company. There is an opportunity cost of course - because whilst those people are working on training other employees, they won't be productive in other ways (see downsides, below) - but in purely monetary terms, you won't see any more money go out of the door.

Benefit: it's delivered by people who really know what your company is about

Secondly, because the people carrying out this training already work for your company, you can be sure that they understand your company, too. There's very little risk that the training will centre around something that's just not relevant to your specific needs, because these people are out there every day, facing the same problems. 

Downside: it takes people away from their day-to-day tasks

One big problem with doing things in-house, as we've already mentioned, is the chance there's something more productive that these home-grown experts could be doing with their time. The trick here is to weigh this cost against the potential benefits of allowing all that internal expertise to filter down through your company.

Downside: it can serve to perpetuate established bad practice within your company

In-house training can work really well if the culture and experts at your company are absolutely great and well-informed - but what if they're not? Sometimes it is the case that a company needs to bring in external trainers exactly because things are going wrong somewhere along the line internally, and you need to get some fresh perspective on the situation. Your 'experts' might spout a load of rubbish, or your corporate culture might be throttling the life out of any moves your staff make towards progress. If either of these sounds like your place of work, then in-house training might not be the best choice to make.

External training

Benefit: you can pick the cream of the crop

One big benefit with external training is that it gives you access to whoever you want (or at least can afford) to carry out the sessions. You can choose your friends but not your relatives as they say. Whilst you might be stuck with your in-house 'experts' (your corporate family), if you're outsourcing, then you can pick anyone you like the sound of (just like your friends). You can pick from the hottest stars on the field.

Downside: it's a leap of faith

A potential worry with this type of training is that you're putting a lot of trust in the person carrying it out. If they really are a star in their field, then you shouldn't have too much to worry about - but do bear in mind that their ideas won't necessarily fit in with your established corporate culture. Whilst the best trainers will adapt their material to fit different situations, others will not - or worse - may even have a particular axe to grind. Bear in mind though, that this could easily turn out to be a positive factor if your company's practices aren't currently the best.

By Matt Atkinson