How to Build an Employee Training Program That’s Right for Your Business

Diverse group of confident professionals posing together with a smiling man in the forefront in an office.

Not all training programs are the same. Some may be delivered online, some in person. Some programs may teach hard skills, some may build leadership skills, and some may train for compliance. Others may use groups and workshops, or may be done individually. Still others may be internally created, or may bring in an outside consultant. 

But while they may look different in delivery, topic, and intention, the goal is the same: educating your employees and cultivating their skills, both for their future growth and your company’s future growth. With a myriad of benefits for your employees and your workplace, businesses today — from large corporations to start-ups — can’t afford to not have training programs available to their workers.

The Benefits of Employee Training Programs

Employee training programs and opportunities for professional development provide massive benefits for the workplace, starting with increased employee engagement. By learning new skills or developing the ones they already have, training programs help employees feel more confident about their work. This results in higher morale and satisfaction among workers, and an upwards of 38% increase in productivity.

Training programs can also help mitigate employee turnover. Training not only increases engagement but also provides employees with opportunities to grow their skills for internal advancement, which in turn provides better consistency and easier transitions for a company. Having a robust training program can also become a value-add for your company and a draw for top talent, and can increase earnings per share by up to 147%.

Training programs also offer employees the ability to stay up to date on their skills, or cultivate new management styles which can benefit your company in terms of innovation and forward-thinking. Training in diversity and inclusion, bystander intervention, or conflict resolution can also change your current workplace culture. Employee training, especially programs focused on collaboration and team-building, can strengthen relationships and communication as well.

Reaping these benefits, however, requires that you build an effective and engaging employee training program that produces real results. Building this kind of programs takes effort, resources, buy-in, and more. One of the worst stances a business can take is not cultivating a culture that values education and development, or only sees training as something that checks a box on compliance. 

If you’re ready to build a training program that can better the lives of your employees, here’s how to do it.

What Training Do You Need?

First, what kind of training programs do you need?

Start at the company level: What kind of training would every employee in the company benefit from? Obviously you want to make sure that some kind of onboarding training is implemented with each new hire. While much of the job-specific training will be left up to the team, there should be a standardized onboarding training that informs new-hires about your company’s mission, culture, and works in HR information like benefits and resources. Other company-wide training may address diversity and inclusion in the workplace, sexual harassment prevention, or any safety or network security training all employees may need to complete.

What kind of employee training would be needed at the team level? Managers may identify soft skills they want to cultivate in their individual team, like communication, conflict resolution, collaboration, relationship and trust-building, or customer service. There may also be hard skills like Excel, SQL, or HTML that are needed only for certain teams or departments. Training at the team level allows for managers to strengthen the skills needed for their projects, and can fill in knowledge gaps that may hinder productivity.

Finally, what training should be offered for individual employees? This may include soft and hard skills an employee wants to learn, or that a manager thinks an employee should learn to better serve their team. This also includes offering opportunities for individual career development. Maybe there’s a particular set of skills that an employee wants to train to better position themselves for new opportunities and advancement in the future, but that don’t directly apply to their current team. Be sure to offer opportunities for knowledge expansion and growth in a variety of areas.

Once you identify what employee training you want to have, everything else will fall into place in terms of structure, audience, content, and more. Then it’s simply a matter of putting together a plan of execution to build your training program.

Set Your Goals

First, create a set of goals for your training. This should include what you want your employees to accomplish and how. An easy way to do this is by establishing SMART goals for your trainings, or goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Saying “I want employees to complete safety training,” is too vague and unactionable. But saying “Over the course of the next month, I want 90% of our employees to complete a one-day on-site safety training that includes the most recent compliance standards,” is a more specific and actionable goal with results that are easier to track.

Know Your Audience

Next, who is this training for? Will it be a certain department? Will it be for entry-level employees? Middle managers? Senior leadership? Will it be for those who are beginners, or who already have experience? Will it be for an older workforce, or younger? Will the training involve employees from different countries or cultures? Pinpointing your audience will help tailor your training program so it can be more engaging and effective.

Define Your Content

Thinking through who your audience is, their needs, and your workplace culture will help you with defining the content of your training program. You already know what topics you want to include in your training based on assessing your needs, so now’s the time to determine what will actually be taught. Is the information up to date? Do the scenarios in the training resemble your workplace? Is the training at the right difficulty level? Is it training the right skills? Thinking through the content before launch will help better target your training, and mitigate changes in the future.

Delivery Methods

What form will your training take? Trainings may take place in-person at the office, or may be taken online at the employee’s own pace. There may be group training, or individual training. It could be on-the-job training in a learn-as-you-go format, or the employee may go offsite for an afternoon. You also want to consider your audience and workplace when determining the type of training delivery. For example, a highly relational sales team may benefit the most from in-person group training, and not respond well to individual, online tutorials. Employees used to working independently on a tech team may be uncomfortable with collaborative training, yet have higher engagement and better results through individual online training. 

In-House or Outsource?

Another consideration around delivery is whether you’ll be creating your training in-house, or whether you’ll outsource to a third party. While creating resources in-house will allow you to better customize your training to your workforce and culture, you may not have the resources or the expertise. Using outsourced resources — whether on-site company training conducted by a third-party or on-demand courses in a learning management system — can bring high value at affordable costs. Just be sure to evaluate any out-of-the-box training to make sure it fits with your needs, goals, and culture.

What Are the Costs?

As you begin to build your training plan, evaluate what the costs will be. Will you allow employees to take the training during their workday? Will that disrupt productivity? Will you compensate if they need to travel off-site, or complete training outside of their workday? How much will an outside vendor cost? Employee training programs aren’t free, but will certainly yield you a high return on investment for better-trained, more productive employees.

How Will You Track Results?

There’s no point in having an employee training program without a way to track its effectiveness. Determine what key performance indicators, or KPIs, you want to measure to determine your training’s success. Will you track employee engagement? Productivity? Turnover rate? Will it be tracked through surveys? Focus groups? One-on-one meetings? Implement a plan of how to track results before you roll out your training program. 

Communicate and Cultivate Buy-In

Finally, you need buy-in from your employees, which means communicating the value of the employee training program and the opportunities it can provide. Don’t roll it out without fanfare! Try to get employees excited to partake in training because of the opportunities it brings. Communicating with your workforce about the value of training, why the company is implementing training, and how it will benefit everyone needs to come from the top. Make sure a good communication plan is in place before roll-out as well.

Launching and Next Steps

Now is the time to launch your employee training program. But don’t have it be a one-and-done event. As your employees engage with their training, measure the impact and results through surveys, feedback, measuring KPIs, and one-on-one conversations. Use what you’re learning to update or change your approach, especially if the training isn’t resonating with your employees, or fails to effectively educate. Developing, managing, and implementing your training program make take some work to get right, but will be greatly worth it for all the benefits it provides to your employees and company as a whole.

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