Employee training. Those 2 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.
Most American businesses are trying to fill this need for their employees, spending billions each year in development and training. According to the Harvard Business Review, this investment is notable but falls short.
“Companies in the US spend over $160 billion on training and development, according to the Association for Talent Development,” says the article. “This includes investment in courses, facilities, systems, and tools. But precious little time or money is spent on preparing and enabling the mind of the learner. The fact is, if the learner doesn’t have the ‘in-the-moment’ mental capacity to pay attention, these investments aren’t paying off.”
Just as it makes no sense to spend a fortune on quality products only to ship them with a careless delivery service that would drop the boxes and bash the items, you should make sure your desired training impact is reachable. This effort starts with ensuring your employees are primed and ready to learn.
Here are 4 tips for making your employee training more effective:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
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.