How to Train Employees: Best Strategies and Practices

The business world is ever-changing, whether due to market conditions, technology, or employee recruitment and retention. With such competitive environments, how can leaders build a workforce with strong and productive employees? 

The answer may reside in the efficacy of employee training.

What is Employee Training?

Employee training is a program or method that guides employees to learn specific skills or increase knowledge to enhance performance. This learning and development process can look different for every company, team, and individual.

Why is Employee Training Important?  

Employee training develops employees’ skill sets, which allows for improved performance and increased engagement in their position. Not only that, but it also creates a unified focus and common language among the entire staff through onboarding and continuing education. 

Employee training also: 

  • Allows employees to be better equipped to adapt to new trends
  • Raises employee confidence
  • Nurtures internal talent
  • Supports employee retention
  • And allows for succession planning

The goals of employee training should be to fulfill requirements that enhance individual roles within the organization, contribute to skill development, and instill leadership qualities among all employees.

Employee Training Strategies

It’s important to consider the specific objectives of training and development for an organization or team before choosing how the employee training will be carried out. One way to do this is by creating a training strategy.

The first step to creating this strategy is to identify training needs. Consider the following questions:

  • Are training programs or procedures already in place?
  • Have trends changed in the field?
  • Do employees need skill-specific training, soft skills training, or both?
  • What skills and knowledge are needed to achieve organizational goals?

The second step is to examine staff performance. During this step, it’s important to consider where employees stand in knowledge and skills. This should be assessed both individually and for the team. Ask: What skills do employees already have? What skills are needed to improve both individual and team-wide performance?

Third, assess resources. How much time can be allocated to training? Can it be completed internally, or are external sources or consultants needed? Does the organization have a training budget, or does it need one?

Fourth, prioritize training needs. Do people need to be trained on certain skills in a short timeframe? This may apply for the launch of a new product, the implementation of a new system, or for new hires. Are there skills that the team is significantly lacking? Those may take priority over skills that would just be nice to have.

Fifth, set a budget. Even if there’s an allocated training budget, it’s important to set a specific budget during the new training strategy’s implementation. Be sure to include designations for any vendors, materials, and time commitment from employees.

Sixth, draft a training plan. This can include employee training best practices and how to train employees specific to the organization. We’ll discuss this in further detail later.

Seventh, hire or assign training leaders. In certain situations, current employees may be able to train new employees. In other cases, outside vendors may be needed to conduct training that includes certifications or content areas that the entire team is lacking.

Finally, monitor performance and adjust as needed. Employee training best practices should include constant performance evaluation. This takes into consideration the quality and efficacy of the actual training and the resulting employee performance. 

Types of Employee Training

When drafting a training plan, it’s important to consider which type or types of training will be best for the organization and its employees. There are many approaches to employee training, and the models and methods aren’t one-size-fits-all. 

Here are several options for carrying out training that instructional designer Dr. Aaron L. Smith recommends:

On-the-job training. This is a learn-as-you-go approach that places the employee in the role they’ll be fulfilling and is typically supported by a supervisor or veteran employee. The employee learns as they’re performing the job, which allows them to ask questions when real-life scenarios arise and follow through with practical applications.

Gamification. This relatively new type of training allows employees to learn through game-like elements, such as incorporating leaderboards or assigning points. The goal is to engage employees through interaction and enjoyment.

Microlearning. These compact learning modules are created to prevent employees from training fatigue. The information provided can be as comprehensive as needed. However, it’s usually broken up into single objectives or topics.

Peer-to-peer learning. As opposed to on-the-job training, this approach is focused on two or more employees of the same knowledge or experience level. These employees learn from and teach each other through sharing and collaboration.

Blended learning. This is a mixed-method model of training where employees spend some time using technology as a vehicle for training and some time in a classroom-type setting. 

Experiential learning. This is the process of learning through experience. This may or may not include hands-on learning or on-the-job training. Experiential learning is reflective, so the learning is focused on the big picture, systems, processes, or inner workings of what’s being taught, rather than taking the information at face value.

Mobile learning. This is learning that can be done from a mobile device–most often a mobile phone. 

Role-playing. This is an active form of training where employees perform and resolve realistic scenarios under the guidance of a supervisor or trainer. The performances are typically followed up with reflection or discussion.

Personalized learning. This is training that’s tailored specifically for an employee. This type of training takes an individual’s skills, knowledge, and needs into consideration.

Virtual reality training. This is the digital simulation of a real-life scenario. Employees are immersed in the experience, even though it’s not actually taking place.

Which Training Style is Best for Your Organization?

In considering all of the types of employee training, it’s important to consider what’s best for the organization and its employees.

The organization should look at what can be customized for what’s specifically needed. There are many great training methods available, but it’s important to choose the one that will work with the resources available. 

For example, it doesn’t make sense to do a blended learning training for employees if the organization is completely virtual. In that case, a fully virtual training or mobile training might be the best option.

It’s also important to consider how the training can be communicated to employees. This is applicable to before, during, and after the training. Be sure that supervisors or managers can follow up to ensure that what’s communicated in the training is also communicated during normal working hours.

Another item to think about is whether employees receive incentives to complete training. This could be necessary for when there’s no set date or time for training completion. For example, if employees are recommended, but not required to complete training, or if training needs to be completed on the employee’s own time. In such a case, providing an incentive could help increase the chances of completion. 

Constant evaluation and adaptation are necessary for effective training. One way to evaluate is by asking for employee feedback. This helps determine whether training is meeting needs or objectives, and to keep tabs on the overall quality of what’s being provided.

Regardless of which employee strategies an organization adopts, supporting continued learning will make it more effective. Highly trained and knowledgeable employees keep an organization competitive and productive.

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