How to Create an Effective Employee Training Program

Bridgette Austin by Bridgette Austin on July 17, 2014
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Studies have shown that companies tend to lend more weight and attention to training only new employees and entry-level workers. Though training for less-experienced employees is important, research reveals that work training programs at all job levels have a direct impact on employees’ long-term performance and their monetary benefit to an organization.

Even after an employee’s orientation and onboarding, it’s important to promote the various opportunities for professional development available both inside and outside your organization. Putting together and actively promoting employee training also shows your commitment to hiring and retaining employees with marketable skills. It also affirms support for existing employees that want to expand their professional expertise throughout their careers. With those benefits and requirements in mind, here’s how to create an effective training program for your employees.

Assess Your Company’s Needs

Before you develop a training program, determine if your staff’s skills and interests align with your business objectives. Do your managers need ongoing help with delegating tasks and overseeing team assignments? Maybe your business development team requires a step-by-step guide on how to enter, track and report sales leads in your customer database. There are countless scenarios and possibilities that could influence the development of employee training, which is why you must first evaluate:

  • Your company’s overall goals, mission, strengths and weaknesses. These include business plans, employee manuals, orientation guides and HR policies.
  • Your employees’ roles and responsibilities. Look at employee job descriptions as a base for required training.
  • Your employees’ performance and behavior on the job. Annual, semi-annual and even quarterly performance reviews can shed light on where there are skill gaps and room for refresher training.
  • Your own observations of employee interactions and informal discussions. What’s the “water cooler” talk around the office? Have employees, supervisors and managers offered candid information about where they feel confident or ill-equipped in their jobs?
  • Your company’s regulatory requirements. Stay on top of OSHA federal standards, Department of Labor laws, your respective state and other government’s regulations that oversee labor laws and protect employee rights.

Questionnaires, personal interviews, skills test and even live demonstrations can help you determine which tasks are performed adequately and which areas need new or specialized training. Once you get an idea of the length and complexity of the training program, develop a training schedule and recruit subject-matter experts (or even outside consultants) who can give lectures and provide guidance on the curriculum.

Know Your Audience

Before you finalize your checklist of training topics and objectives, get to know your audience better by surveying important information, including their interests, educational levels and relative levels of expertise. By gathering information on everything from the average age of participants to whether trainees possess previous experience with the training tasks, you can further tailor your education program towards participants’ needs. For example, while a training session on email etiquette might be appropriate for entry-level workers just out of college, the same session may be redundant for mid- to upper-level managers with five or more years of work experience.

Furthermore, because people learn in different ways, pinpoint the types of learners who will participate in the training. For instance, some employees learn best visually via written instructions, illustrations, handouts or videos. Other employees are more tactile and learn better while viewing live demonstrations or by walking through procedures in practice scenarios. Still, some employees may be fine with simple oral instructions, either through an audio conference, presentation or discussion group.

This information will be essential as you decide on the appropriate method for each group of trainees in each subject matter. It will also enable you to craft training materials that provide maximum benefit and support for participants.

Customize Curriculum for Adult Learning

According to Stephen Lieb, author of “Principles of Adult Learning,” an effective trainer must understand how adults learn best. Therefore, keep in mind the following concepts as you’re assembling training materials and building the course structure for different training modules.

  • Facilitate, don’t dictate. Get trainees involved in the curriculum by actively soliciting feedback and demonstrating how the course, seminar or workshop will help them attain their goals. How is this training practical and useful to your employees’ day-to-day job?
  • Connect employee learning to real-world scenarios, as well as events that they can relate to or tie back to their own life experiences and knowledge. Draw on this experience as they relate to the training concepts and topics.
  • Link training directly to employees’ work and responsibilities to show potential value and return on investment. Clearly state the objectives of the program prior to the training session so that employees realize how it will help them improve their performance.

Track Progress, and Recognize High Achievers

Be sure to establish metrics that monitor employees’ progress through the program, and track individuals who’ve successfully completed courses. Distribute evaluation forms following training sessions so that you can gather feedback on topics employees found most helpful, where employees think the program can be improved, and topics they would like to see covered or expanded upon in the future.

In addition to tracking progress and employee input, remember to recognize and reward trainees for their continued hard work. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) encourages companies to give accolades to staff for a job well-done. This could be something as simple as a “Thank You” card, a certificate of completion or announcement on social media or at a meeting in front of their peers.

Giving credit where credit is due helps to create an environment that encourages future achievements. It also serves as another source of employee motivation for continued professional development, an important factor in the success and overall effectiveness of employee training. For more ideas and tools on how to create a reward system, visit the ASTD website.

Bridgette Austin

Based out of New York City, Bridgette is a technology writer in the higher education sector. Throughout her career, she has written a variety of business publications for organizations ranging from Big Four accounting firms and environmental consultancies, to software and college textbook companies.

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