4 Secrets of Quality Employee Training
A training program can take many different forms, but that means there are as many roads to failure as there is to success. Some programs are so boring and crammed with information that we lose interest or doze off. Others are engaging and interesting and we feel like we have accomplished something at the training session, only to realize ten minutes afterwards that we do not remember anything.
Whatever the route to failure, bad training programs are so ubiquitous that the Harvard Business Review noted in 2016 that “Only one in four senior managers report that training was critical to business outcomes.” Nevertheless, corporations continue to pour more resources into training, convinced that more money and fancier programs will properly educate workers.
That is the wrong way to look at training. Creating a quality employee training program requires intelligence and planning more than raw resources. Here are four important tips which will actually make training useful, interesting, and make it more likely that your workers take something important away from training.
- Is Training the Answer?
The Harvard Business Review in their aforementioned assessment of corporate training noted that company leaders frequently have a bad habit of assuming that training will “fix” whatever is wrong in the business, observing that “A failure to execute on strategy and change organizational behavior is rooted not in individuals’ deficiencies but, rather, in the policies and practices created by top management.” It is easier for HR professionals to tell their boss that the problem is with the employees and not with the bosses.
Consequently, the first step towards quality employee training is to figure out if your employees actually need to be trained. Promote an open culture where employees know exactly what their responsibilities are and are not afraid to speak out about when they are confused or concerned about company matters. Training is important, but promoting an open culture and strong communication inside a company matters even more.
- The Importance of Learning
Training is learning, and you are not going to learn anything by sitting in a classroom for an hour or two per month or year. You learn by asking questions thanks to an inquisitive spirit and applying what you have learned outside the classroom. And any teacher can tell you that if a student does not want to learn, then there is nothing they can do.
That means that every business needs to make it so their workers want to learn and promote a learning culture. There are tons of excellent guides from organizations such as the Association for Talent Development on how to create that culture. But the key is that any culture starts at the top. Management has to show that they are committed to learning, communicate with others on how to learn, and encourage an atmosphere where people will ask questions.
If your company has a learning culture where workers are willing to try new things, your business may not even need training as they will seek to learn and improve on their own. If your company has no such culture, all the training in the world will accomplish nothing.
- Feedback matters
Training is not done for the benefit of management or the company, but for the employees who are actually watching slides and listening to lecturers. But if you do not know what they think about your training programs, you cannot know how to improve. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management rightly points out that “feedback is a critical component of a successful performance management program and should be used in conjunction with setting performance goals.” This is just as true for a manager evaluating a training program as it is for a worker knowing how to improve.
Every training program should provide an easy way for the trainees to give feedback. This can take the form of providing contact information, but the best thing is to have employees fill out a questionnaire or form after the session asking for their thoughts when the training is still fresh in their minds. Any questionnaire should be anonymous so that employees feel free to give their honest opinions.
- Have fun
Training does not have to be dull PowerPoint slides and lecturers droning on. There are ways to make it more interesting and ensure that people pay attention. In a recent training session I witnessed, a small business manager was speaking with a group of veteran employees. Instead of telling them things which they knew already, he split the group up into teams and hosted a quiz, along with some trick questions to throw them off. The result was friendly competition and team bonding which was more effective than a simple lecture.
There are more elaborate examples, as shown by the “gamification” craze which has affected the training market, but businesses should still keep simple and focus on informing employees first and foremost. But training should have an element so that employees are engaged and willing to listen.