The concept is obvious, really. In order to be most effective, employee onboarding programs should directly connect and contribute to one or more of a company’s larger business objectives. Intuitively, we all understand that the more everyone’s work is oriented toward the same set of goals, the more efficient, profitable, and cohesive the organization as a whole will be.
Unfortunately, training is frequently left out of this well-aligned model, making it seem tangential and dramatically reducing its effectiveness. If this seems like a big oversight, you’re right, but if you’ve ever been a new hire (or even a current employee) forced to sit through a training program that seems confusing, canned, or disconnected from your daily work responsibilities, then you understand that this problem is a reality for most businesses.
This disconnect can happen for several reasons. First, training is used all too often as a band-aid—a quick reaction to an unexpected problem. If a business finds that profits or productivity are down or that they are subject to new compliance regulations, then training is frequently the go-to solution. Because these responses are usually quick in order to halt any losses as soon as possible, the design and aims of the training are often underdeveloped.
This leads to the second reason that training can often be disconnected and ineffective: There is a tendency (especially for basic or routine trainings related to topics like compliance) to treat knowledge as something that can be directly transferred from the head of the trainer into the head of the trainees, much like a bank deposit.
When you write someone a check and they deposit it, the money moves from your account to theirs without undergoing any changes whatsoever in nature, amount, or value. This is not how knowledge works.
Learning new ideas or new skills involves complex interplay between the person communicating the information and the individual receiving, interpreting, and fitting that new information into their pre-existing framework of understanding. For adults especially, new knowledge must have clear relevance to their work and purpose in order to really sink in and become meaningful.
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The success of training, therefore, depends on much more than just the availability of information. For training to make a difference in the minds and behaviors of trainees, there must be an attentive and open learning environment, and the information must have direct connections to the employees’ daily work as well as the big-picture organizational objectives.
Here are three simple steps to make this alignment of training and business objectives a reality for your company:
- Define all objectives. If no one knows what the goals are, nothing is going to improve. Take some time to review your organization’s overarching goals and values. Then, think about the particular need that requires further training. Identifying behaviors that need to change is an essential step in developing effective training, but take it one step further by also thinking about how the everyday work done by employees connects to the long-term, company-wide goals. Only then can you begin to create a training program that not only addresses the immediate problem, but that solves that problem by bringing focus back to the overall business identity and goals.
- Analyze your audience. Now that you understand the problem and how it affects the company as a whole, it’s time to consider who would be the best candidate to share that information with employees. If you have designated managers or supervisors at your company who are responsible for training employees in their area, take the time to explain your findings from step one with them, rather than just telling them to fix the problem. Make sure your trainers understand the connections between the specific behavioral problem and the business goals so that they can keep the training sessions aimed at those big-picture objectives. If possible, get your business executives involved in the training process as well. As the creators and guardians of the company’s objectives, they will often be the best advocates for their fulfillment. Even if only one or two of your executives can make an appearance at the training, this is a very effective way to communicate to employees the gravity and the relevance of their training.
- Make connections. All throughout the training session(s), encourage trainers to make connections between specific action items and bigger company goals. Imagine, for example, that one of your company objectives is “To build profitable long-term relationships with our clients” and that the training at hand pertains to improving customer service in your company’s call centers. As the training progresses, take advantage of the many opportunities to connect specific call center strategies with that broader goal. Once this pattern has been established, have the trainees begin to explain the connections themselves, without help from the trainer.The more your trainees personally understand the relevance of those business objectives to their everyday work, the more likely they are to own and implement the strategies presented in the training.
Training is an essential part of developing a profitable, efficient, and unified business operation. It also tends to be expensive and time consuming, so it’s worth the extra thought and effort required to do it right.
With a thoughtfully designed training program that is in line with your overall business objectives, you can empower your employees to improve their performance at work and simultaneously increase the potential of your organization as a whole to meet its long-term goals.