Small Business Hiring Guide

21. How to Start a Successful Employee Training and Development Program

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Running A Business

How to Start a Successful Employee Training and Development Program

Jun 29, 2023 • 10 min read
Small business owner training their employees
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      Employee training. Those two words alone can conjure up all kinds of bad memories for most people—endless hours spent in a conference room listening to a boring, poorly planned presentation. Plus, there always seems to be a guy on your team who asks endless questions, raising his hand over and over again, dragging the training on for an additional 20 minutes.

      But employee training doesn’t have to be an awful experience. It can be productive, and believe it or not, enjoyable. For one thing, your employees want to be trained. Research shows that 93% of workers want to stay with companies that invest in their development. So, when done right, your training can boost business results and improve retention.

      What is employee training?

      Employee training is a program or initiative that provides employees with the education and specific knowledge or skills they need to improve performance in their current position. It typically begins on a worker’s first day, during onboarding and continues throughout the entire time they’re in their role. 

      While training employees takes time and money, it’s essential in today’s increasingly competitive era. By investing in it, you can retain a productive, engaged workforce that boosts your profits and allows you to meet (or even exceed) your business goals.

      Why is employee training important?

      There are a number of reasons employee training is worthwhile, no matter your industry. As long as it’s properly planned and implemented, employee training can lead to these benefits:

      • Access to top talent – Many high-caliber professionals look for employers that make learning a priority. If you don’t have a solid employee training program in place, they may turn to your competitors instead. 
      • Increased retention – Research shows that employees are more likely to stay with a company for a long period of time if they were given learning and development opportunities. Employee training can help you focus on improving your current workforce, rather than constantly searching for new talent. 
      • Higher productivity – Trained employees are often empowered to perform their jobs in a more effective and efficient manner. They may also be more engaged and, in turn, more productive.
      • Fewer accidents – Depending on the nature of your business, employee training can equip employees with knowledge and skills to stay safe while performing their duties. Fewer accidents mean greater productivity, higher morale, and a positive reputation. 
      • Better use of resources – Well-trained employees usually require less supervision and can allow you to make the most of your resources. They can also give you the time to focus on strategic endeavors.

      Types of employee training.

      Your industry, business model, and goals will determine the type of employee training that makes the most sense. Some of the most common types of training include: 

      • Onboarding training – When most people think of employee training, onboarding training comes to mind first. It supports new employees and sets them up for success within your organization. 
      • Leadership training – Leadership training helps employees become managers and supervisors. It’s a type of soft skill training that focuses on communication skills, strategy, project management, and leadership.
      • Compliance training – Compliance training involves anything your employees need to know to perform their jobs safely and legally. It often covers the guidelines set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
      • Technical training – Technical training allows employees to properly use technology while on the job. If a position requires a certain type of software or device, technical training is vital.
      • Product training – Product training is usually given to sales and customer service representatives. It teaches your employees about the various features and benefits of your products and/or services.
      • Sales training – Sales training is a lot like product training but focuses on selling points rather than specific details about a product or service. With sales training, your employees can market your offerings, showcase unique features, and work through difficult customer questions. 
      • Diversity training – Diversity training shows employees how to work well with people from different backgrounds. It’s often performed during onboarding and can help prevent workplace discrimination and harassment.

      Tips to effectively train your employees.

      Creating an employee training program is easier said than done. However, these tips can help you provide an effective training experience that maximizes your employees’ potential and allows your business to thrive. 

      1. Define goals and objectives. 

      Before you move forward with an employee training program, make sure you’re clear on its purpose. No matter what type of training you choose, it should support your organizational goals and improve your retention rate. It’s a good idea to meet with managers and other key players to help define the goals and objectives of your employee training. Let’s say you’d like to increase sales. In this situation, product training and/or sales training makes the most sense. If your goal is to prevent on-the-job accidents, compliance training is likely your best bet.

      2. Choose the right training methods.

      Ideally, you’d use a few different training methods to keep your employees engaged. Some of the most popular training methods include:

      • Instructor-led training – This is a traditional employee training technique with an instructor who trains employees in a classroom setting. It’s a good option if you’re educating your workforce on a highly complex topic.
      • E-learning – E-learning allows your employees to access training online from anywhere at any time. It enables them to learn at their own pace and improves their engagement. 
      • Hands-on training – Also known as on-the-job training, hands-on training gives your workers the chance to actively participate in the tasks or initiatives you’re teaching them. With hands-on training, you can ensure they perform their jobs correctly from the start.
      • Blended training – Blended training involves a combination of online and traditional learning. It can reduce the amount of time your employees spend in a classroom setting and allow them to reap the benefits of both experiences. 

      3. Minimize all distractions.

      Your employees probably have a hundred things on their minds at any given moment. Give them some time to breathe. If you know training is coming up, be mindful of that when making assignments. Help your people come into the training with energy, not stumbling in from a chaotic morning. By keeping the out-of-meeting distractions to a minimum, you’ll put them in position to succeed. If you fail in doing this, just know that research shows it takes people up to 30 minutes to regain focus after becoming distracted.

      4. Make sure the environment is right.

      In addition to cleaning up your employees’ schedules before training, clean up the room itself. The space should be as open and bright as possible. If you provide any food, make sure it’s nutritious and will provide energy. So load up on things like cashews and almonds, but pass on the cookies and punch. You may also want to have your people park their cell phones in a designated area, so there won’t be random alerts going off during the training.

      5. Provide opportunities to reflect.

      You may have a lot of information to cover in your training, but always provide enough time for reflection. You may even want to include extended mindfulness time, such as 30 minutes for a walk outside the building to soak in a little sun. A helpful approach is like the way a meal is served in a fine restaurant. Between each course, you’re given time to savor the food, chat with others at your table, and anticipate the next serving. If each course were simply stacked in front of you, one after another, you’d never be able to enjoy the food or digest it properly.

      6. Put everything in context.

      Your employees care about their jobs. They may not care about a new training model devised by a couple of professors at a mid-size college they’ve never heard of. So be sure to tie everything to the role and performance of your employees. Show the real-world impact of what you’re sharing, so they’ll know they have skin in the game. More importantly, connect the training to their goals and where they want to go. Most of us hate gimmicks and love tools. Prove to your people that training is a resource.

      7. Measure results

      It’s up to you to determine if your employee training program is effective. To do so, ask your employees for their feedback before and after. Also, compare data before and after training to hone in on whether you met your goals and objectives. For example, if your primary goal was to increase sales through product and sales training, take a look at your sales data before training and find out whether your sales team was able to close more deals and sell more after training.

      If your employee training program was successful, continue it. Otherwise, figure out what changes you need to make to improve it.

      Once your training is complete, don’t just pat yourself on the back and walk away. You’ll need to provide a follow-up strategy. Perhaps the content will be incorporated into your next round of one-on-one meetings. Or you could pull highlights from the training and include them in your weekly emails to employees.

      The point is, the way you react after the training will go a long way in showing your employees how much you value it—and how much you value them. By putting effort into making your training sustainable, you’ll improve the impact and set your team up both for more success and the next training on the schedule.

      About the author
      Anna Baluch

      Anna Baluch is a freelance personal finance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. You can find her work on sites like The Balance, Freedom Debt Relief, LendingTree and RateGenius. Anna has an MBA in marketing from Roosevelt University.

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