Employee training is instrumental for closing knowledge and talent gaps, improving performance, and boosting job satisfaction and morale.
But hectic employee schedules, a dispersed workforce, and diverse learning habits are just some of the roadblocks that stand in the way of a successful training program.
Understanding the foundations of employee training and implementing best practices will help you create, execute, and evaluate a successful training program.
If you’re new to employee training or simply want a refresher, I’ve put together this summary that explains the basics, offers technology-based solutions to automate some of the most common tasks, and provides tips for conducting successful training sessions.
What Is Employee Training?
Employee training is a program or process that provides and augments employee knowledge, technical skills, value creation, and efficiency required to fulfill a specific role within an organization. Typically, employee training begins after orientation and generally continues throughout the employee’s lifecycle. Practical employee training is periodic and offered at regular intervals.
You’ll typically see the term employee training and development used together. Although both concepts share common goals, there is a slight distinction between the two ideas.
Employee training focuses on learning the basic skills and knowledge required to occupy a specific role or position. On the other hand, development is more holistic, covering multiple aspects of the employee’s professional career.
Employee training is focused on the short term, usually lasting a day, a week, or a few months at most. This training seeks to address immediate challenges that employees face at the moment. Examples include courses aimed at enhancing the employee’s communication skills or classes on improving data security.
Employee development is concerned with the employee’s long-term career progression. This strategy aims to continually prepare employees for the next step in their career or their next position of responsibility. While it can also include training courses, it often focuses more on mentorship and gradual goal achievement than immediate results.
The Basics of Employee Training
Understanding the core concepts of employee training makes it much easier to put together an effective employee training program.
Below we have the basic components of employee training:
Identifying Training Objectives
It is impossible to conduct practical employee training without first having specific objectives in mind. There is an infinite number of skills and knowledge areas that you can train staff. The challenge is to identify the skill and knowledge gaps that have the most significant impact on your organization.
A meeting with stakeholders, department heads, and managers is always a good start. This personnel likely have a firm grasp of the kind of training your employees need. Your team can also help you identify at least one clear business goal that can be advanced with the support of a training program.
Good examples of training objectives include:
- Improving specific job-related skills
- Developing the proper job-related attitudes
- Minimizing errors
- Improving customer relations
- Enhancing communication capabilities
- Improving health and safety
- Integrating new technology
In short, it is necessary to be clear about precisely what the training program is meant to achieve. Also, the program should directly support a business goal, such as increasing revenue and efficiency, complying with regulation, or decreasing costs and waste.
Designing the Training Program
Designing the training program is arguably the most challenging part of the process. In an ideal world, you’d be developing a training program that caters to each individual. This approach won’t be possible for a large team, but it is possible to create an effective training program that caters to the average characteristics of the group.
For example, adult learning principles cover all the things that adult learners have in common. Adult learning principles, according to Malcolm S. Knowles, state that adults:
- Are goal-oriented
- Are self-directed
- Learn best when they are motivated to learn
- Prefer relevant and task-oriented training
- Have a lifetime of experience and knowledge to bring to the training
- Like to feel respected
These principles are the foundation of any successful employee training program.
Training materials are also crucial to the program. Keep your employees first and foremost when designing the materials. Some materials may be more accessible for trainers to use but not very effective at imparting knowledge and skills, and vice versa. Similarly, ensure that the content and assessments are directly related to the learning objectives you outlined in the earlier phase.
Employee training shouldn’t be a passive venture. Ensure that employees can interact with each other and the trainer during the program. The idea is to create a collaborative environment that fosters learning and the exchange of ideas.
Finally, break up your training and training materials into sections. Just like a book is divided into chapters, ensure that one section of the program builds on to the next, and take extra care to ensure that the program follows a chronological order.
Implementing the Training Program
Rolling out your employee training program is more exciting and a culmination of the hard work in designing the program.
One place organizations fail at employee training is communication. It may seem obvious, but informing employees about the training schedule well ahead of time helps smoothen out the training process. Employees may need to adjust their schedules or complete pre-training preparation. Timely communication is a crucial factor when rolling out the training program.
A preparation checklist will also come in handy when implementing the training program. These tasks may include purchasing supplies, working out traveling logistics, reserving rooms for training, and providing food and drink. It’s a good idea to take care of these tasks well before the training start date.
Evaluating the Training Program
An employee completing a training program isn’t the only measure of success. Evaluating the training program is critical for streamlining and improving the training process. The primary objective of a training program is to change employee’s behavior on the job. You’ll need to evaluate the program to determine if you’ve accomplished this critical objective.
There are a few key metrics that are often used to determine the success of a training program. These are:
Employee reaction to the training – What employees think about the training program is an excellent measure for the program’s success. Anonymous surveys can help to collect this information, as does observing employee’s behavior during the training. Were the employees engaged? Did they feel like they learned? Did they like or enjoy the training?
Acquired knowledge – Assessing the employees during training helps to determine the practical results of the training. Depending on the type of training, an assessment may include case studies, simple knowledge-based tests, hands-on exercises, or job simulations.
Post-training job behavior – You can monitor employee behavior after the training to determine the net effect of the program. Job behavior may include skills, knowledge, or attitudes covered during the training. Are employees transferring what they learned to their positions?
Quantitative business results – Finally, it is possible to evaluate the success of employee training based on your business goals. Did the training succeed in growing revenue, decreasing costs, eliminating waste, or reducing workplace incidents?
The information gathered during the evaluation helps strengthen the training program and formulate best practices for future training sessions.
3 Tools To Improve Your Employee Training Program
Now that you’ve developed your employee training program, it’s time to deliver it. There are a few tools that can help you get the most out of your training program. These tools include:
1. A Learning Management System
A Learning Management System (LMS) is a nifty e-learning tool that helps streamline every aspect of your training program. This software helps organize all your content in one location rather than learning materials spread out over different devices and hard drives.
Talent LMS is an exceptional learning management system for its robust features and capabilities. You can create training courses from scratch, automate repetitive tasks like grading tests and assignments and deliver web-based classes on-demand. You can even offer accreditation at the end of the course with its certification management tool.
Talent LMS has five pricing plans, including a free option. These plans can accommodate anywhere from 5 to 1000 users depending on the size of your business. The free plan caters to up to five users and lets you create up to ten courses. The most popular plan, the Plus Plan, costs $249 per month. This plan hosts up to 500 users, and you can create unlimited courses. Each plan also comes with a free trial, so you can test-drive the LMS before signing up for the plan.
2. A Content Creation Tool
You’ll need to author engaging content for your training program. Content creation tools let you use new and existing material to develop course content quickly and easily. You might not need a separate content creation tool if you already signed up with an LMS.
For example, Talent LMS has an intuitive content builder. This builder lets you create all kinds of training content, including compliance training, onboarding training, sales training, and customer support training. The software even comes with built-in ready courses to get you started.
3. Training Equipment Checklist
There are a few critical pieces of equipment you’ll need to deliver an effective employee training program. Desktop computers, laptops, and tablets are a staple during training. Remember to upload the training materials to the devices before the training. Another great advantage of using learning management systems is employees can access course materials virtually. You won’t need to upload content to devices manually.
You’ll also need a strong internet connection to conduct training. It’s also a good idea to test your connection before the training. In short, a comprehensive training equipment checklist ensures you don’t miss anything before the training begins. Other items you might need to add to your equipment checklist include:
- Large screen
- Whiteboard or flipchart (for paper-based training)
- Electrical outlets
- Water fountain and coffee machine
- Login credentials
5 Tricks for Conducting Successful Employee Training
Implementing a successful employee training program for the first time can seem overwhelming. There are a few tips that you can implement to boost your program’s success. What’s more, you can build from your first training to create an effective long-term employee training program.
1. Get Executive Buy-In
Executives have a lot on their plate, and an employee training program may not be a top priority at the moment. Still, you need executive support to run a successful training program. Executive-level backing assists with accountability helps to drive home the importance of the program and establishes expectations for your training. It is also much easier to secure management’s support for your program if the executive is engaged.
Executives will want to know how your training program aligns with your company goals. You’ll have an easier time selling your program if it contains specific activities that support your company’s major goals or align with the company strategy.
It’s equally vital that you have clear and articulated KPIs. SMART goals that outline how the program directly impacts the organization’s goals and strategy will help you make a strong case with executives. Some KPIs such as performance, speed, and employee productivity are easy to observe and evaluate and are a good starting point when discussing your training program with executives.
2. Focus on Bridging Performance Gaps
You’ll need to do a thorough performance-gap analysis before developing your training program. “Compliance Training” sounds good on paper, but it is a broad subject to tackle. You’ll need to identify specific employee behavior that will help close the gap between the current level of employee performance and the desired level of performance.
Your employees can offer valuable insight into crucial performance gaps. Speak to them about their desired level of performance and compare it to the current levels of performance. This exercise can highlight specific behaviors that you need to focus on to improve performance. Similarly, speak to managers about their desired level of employee performance vis-à-vis the current performance.
It isn’t always clear which performance gaps to prioritize. You can use the organization’s goals to prioritize performance gaps. For example, you can measure the performance gaps you discovered against key indicators like customer satisfaction ratings and company profits. This exercise should help you quickly list key behaviors to target with your training program.
3. Consider Involving the Operations Department
For most organizations, training and development are the purviews of the HR department. However, this can lead to a disconnect between the training program and the business. The simple reason is that HR isn’t typically involved in day-to-day business activities.
It may be worth handing over some of the reins to Operations. This department has direct experience with the work process. Operations is well poised to identify specific knowledge and skill gaps in the workforce. The Operations department also coordinates work within the organization. The department, therefore, has a front-row seat when monitoring and evaluating employee training in the work context.
Finally, Operations has a more significant stake in successful employee training. These professionals are responsible for production planning and quality control. They have a direct interest in having employees with the proper knowledge and skills for the job. Additionally, Operations is in charge of planning and allocating budget within the organization. The department is likely to pay closer attention to the quality and the relevance of employee training than HR.
It’s a good idea to have a mixed team of HR and Operations personnel to complement each other. Also, consider assigning a strong overall program manager to plan and execute the training initiatives.
4. Incorporate Mentorship and Apprenticeship into the Training Program
An apprenticeship can complement classroom or virtual training with specific on-the-job instruction. Apprenticeship is typical in many skilled trades, including electrical work, plumbing, and carpentry. But, you can harness the effectiveness of these programs for the corporate environment.
Consider delegating mentorship roles to senior managers and other experienced employees. These valuable team members can offer exceptional job and career-related expertise to other employees. Mentorship is an inexpensive way to provide employees with instant feedback via face-to-face interactions. You can also harness the power of technology to develop long-distance mentoring relationships if you have a dispersed workforce.
GE is a perfect example of a company that prioritizes employee mentorships. The company has a two-year Commercial Leadership Program (CLP) that pairs participants with the organization’s leaders. The program also offers exclusive training courses, summits, and networking events. Other large organizations with notable mentorship programs include Caterpillar, 3M, FedEx, Merrill Lynch, and Bank of America.
5. Consider Job Rotation as Part of Employee Training
Job rotation involves reassigning employees to several different jobs over time. Boredom and apathy can gradually creep into your workforce. Job rotation is an excellent way to shake things up and break up the monotony of employee’s day-to-day activities.
Job rotation is also an excellent way to equip employees with new skills beyond their current positions, discover hidden talents and acumen, and offer a backup plan if an employee leaves suddenly.
Walmart is an excellent example of implementing job rotation. Management trainees rotate through various departments, including credit, merchandising, and customer service, during their first year or two on the job. Where possible, consider rotating your employees through various departments during their lifecycle.
It helps if you have individual career maps for your employees. You can refer to the career map to decide the most effective job rotation strategy for each employee. Employees are more likely to participate in the program if they feel it directly impacts their career prospects within your organization.
What To Do Next
The job isn’t finished after employees complete their training. The next crucial step is to create an environment where employees can practice what they learned. This increases the chances that the knowledge and skills will stick.
Arrange meetings between managers and employees on how best to put their new skills to the test. The managers can also help to create an action plan for workers to implement their newly found expertise.
Finally, be sure to track the training’s KPIs regularly to judge the program’s effectiveness. For example, if the training is designed to improve customer satisfaction, compare before and after training metrics to determine the program’s impact. This strategy also helps keep employees accountable for applying the program’s knowledge and skills to their positions.
You can simplify this with performance management software. It is a tool that tracks employee performance after training. Be sure to check out our Best Performance Management Software post to learn more.