The Definitive Guide to Employee Training and Development
How to Make the Process Engaging with Proven Strategies and Expert Advice You Can Use to Build a Training Program Today
Congratulations, new employees, it’s training and development time!
You can almost sense the palpable groans from around the room as an ancient DVD from the late 90s is slid with no small degree of schadenfreude into the player. We do it this way because “that’s how it’s always been done.”
Not anymore. This isn’t your ordinary “employee training and development” guide, because your employees are anything but ordinary. They’re extraordinary, capable, intelligent and motivated. And with the right training and development, they can refine these qualities to become the best possible version of themselves.
Here’s how it’s done.
The Myth of Money as the Only Motivator
Many employers mistakenly believe that the only thing that will motivate employees to do better is money. It isn’t, and research proves it. Now, this isn’t to say that you can avoid paying your employees below the industry standard, because that’s not going to cut it. You know that.
But once pay becomes competitive, what else keeps employees motivated and enticed to perform well? You might be surprised to learn that it’s employee training and development. In fact, a whopping 94% of employees who were interviewed as part of a LinkedIn Survey said that they would stay longer with a company that invested in their careers.
And it’s not just older generations who place special emphasis on training and development. According to online course platform Udemy, Millennials also say that learning and development is the most important benefit to them. In addition, a Fast Company article reports that a staggering 50% of them would take a pay cut to find work that meets their values.
What’s more, employee training and development isn’t just something that’s “nice to have”. It’s quickly becoming something that’s crucial for workplace success. Deloitte has already predicted that over half of employees will need a significant investment of training in order to accommodate their skill-set to meet trends and new demands based on market shifts.
Now that you understand the pressing need for employee training and development that’s in line with current and forecasted trends, as well as capable of single-handedly motivating them to continue improving, the next question is -- how?
Understanding What Employee Training and Development Actually Mean
Before we jump right into the nuts and bolts of how to conduct the kind of employee training that retains the right people and refines their skills to the very best of their abilities, it’s important to understand what we actually mean by “employee development”, and what “training” actually encompasses.
It’s very common to use the terms “training”and “development” to mean the same thing, but they’re actually quite a bit different. For instance, “training” involves teaching your employees how to perform a certain task.
This leads to more short-term gains and more immediate improvements. Things like training a new employee on how your billing system works, or onboarding your marketing department in the use of a new software suite would be examples of employee training.
Development, on the other hand, leads to more long-term gains and is much more involved. It’s centered around honing and acquiring skills over a longer period of time. It might include things like focusing on a culture of open communication and knowledge-sharing, or creating a mentoring program for your sales team to help improve performance of those rising stars that have the capability, but don’t yet have enough experience.
What Benefits Does Employee Training and Development Bring?
Beyond more motivated, focused and productive employees, investing in both the proper training and development of your employees has a ripple effect on the rest of your company. The more knowledgeable an individual is about their specific industry, the more confident they become, and the more skilled they grow as a result.
Beyond these benefits, you’ll also enjoy:
- Higher employee job satisfaction levels
- Greater motivation and desire to give 110%
- Improved employee retention and loyalty
- Greater sense of engagement -- a sense that the work they do has purpose, and that they matter within the company.
- Narrows skills gap - investing in the right training lessens the need to hire additional employees while helping you make the most of the talent you have.
- Outside-the-box thinking - with multiple facets of training, employees are more driven to be creative and devise innovative solutions to the problems they face
- Open sharing of knowledge - encouraging employees to share knowledge and learn from each other fosters a sense of mutual collaboration and cooperation
- Enhanced reputation - the race is on to entice and retain the most skilled and knowledgeable employees. Investing in training is highly attractive to potential hires.
And these points say nothing of the lesser-known but nonetheless intangible benefits like:
- Pride in achievement
- A sense of belonging
- Collaboration with others
- Overcoming a challenge
- Building positive relationships
What Types of Employee Training and Development Initiatives Are There?
Now that you know more about the benefits of employee training, the question then becomes, what sort of development or skills do you want to foster? There are lots of approaches and ways to disseminate information.
- Orientation - Generally a one-time event that introduces employees to the company and covers things like the company culture, mission, philosophy and administrative points.
- Onboarding - More in-depth than orientation, onboarding usually involves teaching the employee across several sessions to help them better understand and adapt to their new role.
- Soft Skills Training - This type of training helps employees improve personal attributes like emotional intelligence, leadership qualities, interpersonal communication and more.
- Specialized Training - This varies from company to company but can include specialized training in the area of products or services (to demonstrate features and benefits to customers), technical training for jobs that require analytical or programming skills, or managerial training for employees who need to learn how to make quick-yet-confident decisions, resolve conflicts and more.
- Safety Training - Training that deals with required occupational health and safety requirements to comply with industry standards
Employee Training and Development Methods to Explore
Understanding the different types of training is only the first step toward developing a comprehensive employee training and development program. You’ll also need to understand the different methods in which you can conduct this type of training. Each one has its respective pros and cons and different styles of training may resonate better with different learners. In addition, different methods may require more or less investment in terms of money and time.
You may be surprised to learn that only 68% of employees actually want to learn while at work, while nearly half want to learn only when they need to. The overwhelming reason why this seems in direct opposition to the other statistics featured here is because employees often feel as if they don’t have enough time to learn.
Therefore, investing in the right methods that work with your company culture and mission is paramount to making employees feel as if this isn’t just something they need to learn for their job, but also for themselves.
It might seem a bit old-fashioned, but instructor-led training is a tried-and-true method that works. Although it might be more expensive and time-consuming than other methods, it’s still one of the best ways to break down complex topics into more understandable pieces. Employees have the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback in a setting that they recognize and feel comfortable with. This level of comfort and accessibility cannot be overstated.
Although lectures are similar to instructor-led training, they do require a considerable amount of focus from the participants. It’s one of the easiest ways to train a large quantity of people cost effectively, just make sure that the lecturer is interesting and engaging!
Online Learning (eLearning)
Online courses are a great option since they allow users to pace themselves and learn on a variety of devices that they are comfortable with - including smart phones, tablets or their home computer. Online learning has a low cost and participants can engage with the teacher and each other via methods like chat and forums.
Virtual Reality or Simulation Learning
Augmented reality and virtual reality are quickly becoming unique and engaging ways of learning because of their customizability to specific situations. Companies like Walmart, UPS and Boeing all use virtual reality as part of their employee training programs.
Cross training essentially helps employees help themselves in a way that’s mutually beneficial to both. For instance, a web designer can train a graphic designer or vice versa. A customer service agent can train a marketer on the most common questions or objections a customer may have before they order. Popular cross-training methods include the job enlargement and enrichment technique and the job rotation technique.
Coaching or Mentorship
Coaching and mentorship are similar approaches with the same end goal. Mentorship is done within the organization while coaching is handled by an external firm. This style of employee training works best when the individual needs hands-on training and feedback. With this type of training, they get individualized attention and can have all of their questions or concerns addressed by a competent professional.
Learn and earn! On the job training, also known as OJT allows employees to learn new skills while doing their normal work. For example, a software vendor may conduct on-the-job training to teach customer service and marketing teams on how to properly use their new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.
This style of training works best when there are plenty of resources from the employer to further help the employees’ development and to help them become acclimated to the new skills and requirements. Common types of approaches include stretch assignments and shadowing.
Group training is the umbrella term for a variety of activities including boot camps and workshops. They can be formed like an instructor-led course (but with a greater emphasis on collaboration and mutual sharing of knowledge) or as a group-to-group course. Greater attention is paid to open discussion and teamwork to solve problems and challenges.
A sub-activity of group training is role playing, which is very similar, except rather than emphasizing free-form discussion, a situation is created where different perspectives and points of view must be considered or applied.
Case studies show real-life applications of products, services or research in a way that demonstrates its efficiency. Employees can either read case studies or discuss them with others to draw out the main points and gain a clearer understanding of the approach.
Knowing each of these steps will help you better prepare the right kind of training program for your employees, but even if you build what you believe is the perfect system for development and training, how can you be sure that your employees will be on board with it?
Here’s how to ensure that your new development program hits the ground running.
Building a Thriving Employee Training Program: Step by Step
If you’re ready to unleash your new program upon the unsuspecting masses your engaged and interested employees, here’s what to do:
Step 1: Get Executives and Management On Board First
No great training program or development initiative ever got off the ground without the support of executives and management. These are the people that you want on the front lines of your program, since they’re the very ones that have the skills and know-how that employees will learn. They’ll also be the ones measuring the efficacy of the training.
Step 2: Demonstrate the Benefits to Employees
Employees also have to understand what they’re coming away with as a result of this training. Just knowing that they’ll be better leaders, communicators or what have you is a good motivator, but it’s also important to get them excited and motivated about participating in this program. Show them in a way that’s tangible and concrete -- such as “being a better communicator will help you resolve conflicts easier and in turn help you do better on your next performance review”.
Step 3: Be Clear About Goals and Milestones
Once you have your program ideas fleshed out a bit deeper, it’s time to be clear about how you’re going to be measuring the impact of this training. How exactly will you measure the success of the program? How is this training going to impact your business overall and how will you know when you’ve hit the mark?
Step 4: Understand the Skill Gaps
You can’t teach your employees something new to them unless you know what they know. One of the best ways to do this is by way of a competency framework. There are lots of templates available to help simplify this process, and it’s easy to create your own:
Once you know what your employees know, and where they can improve, it’s time to break down learning objectives into the following categories:
- Motivation - In short, the “why” behind the training and how you’re going to communicate it to them.
- Skill mastery - The skills that are going to have the biggest impact on improving your business’ performance and bottom line.
- Critical thinking - The knowledge and skills that help hone in the focus of your development or training and ensure that employees can avoid distractions.
Step 5: Embrace the Power of Layered Learning
Because different people learn in very different ways, there’s no “one size fits all approach” that’s going to work for everybody. Fortunately, there is a method in terms of learning development that has been proven highly effective time and time again. It’s called layered learning. In short, employees learn better when they learn how they want and when they want.
Notice how shared knowledge is one of the most effective methods of training employees at scale?
Step 6: Evaluate the Effectiveness and Refine
Here’s where you can use one of many evaluation frameworks, such as the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model to discern the impact of the training program. But it’s not enough to just evaluate the effectiveness of the training. You also have to be able to provide ongoing support and make sure that employees are actively using the new skills they’ve learned.
Don’t hesitate to offer refresher courses or training sessions that help hammer home the points from the training or development program
The Best Training and Development Tools to Have at Your Disposal
Knowing the benefits, methods and steps to take to create a training program puts everything at your fingertips -- except the tools that help make the process easier! Fortunately, there are a wide range of training tools that can help.
As mentioned above, a knowledge base takes advantage of shared knowledge, which in turn is one of the best ways to take advantage of the layered learning method. Using a knowledge base allows a collaborative and cooperative atmosphere where any department can contribute articles, charts, media and other details that other employees can search for and find quickly and easily.
Learning Management System
A Learning Management System (LMS) is like a content management system for learning materials. You can store and organize a variety of learning materials, including training videos, documents and more. To help encourage employee participation, many LMS platforms are somewhat gamified, with badges and leaderboards. One of the most popular options for LMS systems is SAP Litmos.
Learning Experience Portal
A Learning Experience Portal (LXP) is like an upgraded version of the LMS. It uses more common communication tools like streaming video and social media. Their main selling point is the ability to have a more immersive environment to learn from. Degreed is one such service that offers this kind of technology to employers looking for a step up from the LMS.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools, as their name implies, help with the organization of documents, media and other files. There are a wide range of tools, some of which you may already use in your organization, including BaseCamp, Asana, and Trello
Video Training Tools
If you’re looking for a way to deliver one-on-one training to your employees, you may not need something as sophisticated as an LXP or LMS. With that being said, there are plenty of live video training tools that allow for video collaboration and training as well as live chat so that participants can ask questions. Common options include Join.me, Zoom and GoToMeeting.
One of the best ways to distill complex or cumbersome information into smaller “bite sized”chunks is through microlearning. Microlearning lets you take heavy, intensive lessons and turn each one into a smaller nugget of knowledge that can be passed on piece by peace. A common microlearning platform that was developed for this very purpose is TalentCards[a].
In-App Training Tools
We’ve all faced that situation where we’ve started a software program or app and discovered that everything has suddenly changed. Whether it’s a new interface, a navigational overhaul or a complete restructuring, companies and their employees can be blindsided by major changes.
This is where in-app training tools can help. If you have a system or app that has been overhauled and you want to guide your users on how to feel comfortable with the changes and use them effectively, Whatfix is a great option to create this kind of training system.
Where Should I Start?
Building an employee training and development program is no simple task and as this article has shown you, there’s a lot to consider. However, with the right mindset, road map and tools on hand, you can get started right away. The best way to do this is to start with the simplest and the most critical part of such a training foundation: knowledge sharing.
Fortunately, at knowledge-management-tools.net we have reviews and recommendations of the best knowledge base tools available, so you can get started today on building such a knowledge sharing system in a way that’s intuitive, simple and easy for employees and executives alike to use and support.
Emil Hajric, 2020