Optimal Training Plan for Your Employees
Training can do much in terms of contributing to the success of your business. However, frequently it is seen that when companies devote money and time to train their employees, they are not able to achieve the outcomes (results) they were hoping for. It must be kept in mind that there is no cookie-cutter format for the best training program. The truth is that the training and development program ideally suited for your company would be uniquely customized to specifically suit your company and its employees.
This article will guide you through 1) some features of an ideal employee training experience, 2) steps for coming up with an ideal employee training plan, 3) training assessment and business performance measurement, and 4) benefits of an optimal training plan.
SOME FEATURES OF AN IDEAL EMPLOYEE TRAINING EXPERIENCE
1. Supports organizational goals and training needs
This is a fundamental element of all commendable training programs. The internal training for employees should support the achievement of objectives which contribute directly to the company’s strategic initiatives. Thus, clarity of thinking and sharper focus are essential to ensure this alignment is fulfilled.
2. Relevant content/curriculum
When designing or planning content/curriculum, it is worth remembering that whatever the employee learns at the program should be something that he can apply in his work environment. The curriculum should have a direct connection with each organization’s distinctive requirements as well as trainee job experiences. It thus goes without saying that post-training, the employees (trainees) should be provided opportunities to put the skills/knowledge they’ve learned into practice.
In addition, you can consider incorporating video for small amounts of learning content in the course of the training program.
3. Taps employee knowledge, expertise and experiences
Employees carry a lot of experience with them when they come for the training program. Successful training programs frequently utilize this experience and give the trainees adequate opportunity to share their experiences. In a training program, new concepts are discussed and reviewed, with trainees desirous of applying the new knowledge to their past experiences and building on that knowledge. As an outcome of a good learning strategy, trainees can reflect on what they just learnt and determine how to apply it to their job.
4. Features blended learning
The individual employees at an organization have different learning styles (such as listening or hands-on experience). In addition, different training methods are required for different topics and different kinds of skill development. Ideal learning programs take these and other factors into consideration for a blended, tailored learning environment.
5. Interactive and with activities for employees
A training session can be made lively by encouraging active participation of the trainees in the learning process. Create an environment where all participating employees can speak candidly and freely, or ask questions. This is based on the idea that the trainees would be more receptive to the training process when feelings are involved. If there is something valuable a particular employee can contribute, he can be invited to share the associated information or experience(s). In addition, the trainer can test trainees on their comprehension of the training curriculum. It would also be good to incorporate activities into the program. There can be frequent exercises, games and/or role-playing, and problem-solving activities for small groups. There can also be variation of activities from large group to small groups to individual.
6. It is interesting or fun
- If training sessions are boring and dry, one can’t expect an enthusiastic response from the audience.
- If your training material involves written matter, try reading it aloud to yourself and see if it is too verbose, or uninteresting. If it is either or both of these, you might have to chunk the material in favor of something written in a style of talking directly to the trainee.
- Utilize a variety of training media such as video, audio, on-the-job training (OJT), books and magazines.
- Make way for some fun by way of creative and enjoyable activities such as games. This will help trainees better remember the theories or other things that were taught to them as well as apply the knowledge gained long after the training is over.
- Incorporate some humor to keep the enthusiasm alive. Using humor to teach can actually help to make a point more clear than traditional teaching methods. It is also okay to engage in self-deprecating or personal humor instead of jokes to avoid the risk of offending anyone in your audience by the joke. An offended trainee may lose interest in the rest of the training program.
A training program should begin much before the actual beginning of the class. This means that effort should be taken towards organizing the pertinent information (and stationery) prior to the class. In that way, employees would have the material they require before moving from one training section to the next. All supplies, visual aids, handouts and other training materials should be available and ready in advance.
8. Helps develop self-esteem
The ultimate end of the majority of training programs is to bring in money from the company through its competent, productive and confident employees. Show your employees that the training program won’t benefit just the company but the employees too by ensuring that it lifts their spirits and helps them build up feelings of self-worth.
9. Invites feedback
Trainee input is essential for the next session or the overall training program to be better or more effective than the previous one(s). So trainee sessions should encourage feedback, preferably anonymous and written feedback unless a particular employee would like to give his feedback in person.
10. Measurable outcomes
Effective training programs have in place, a well-developed and lucid system for gauging the effectiveness of different aspects of the training program, whether it be course quality, participation or main business impacts. With respect to this, it would be good to follow identification of the training program’s goals with establishment of a baseline measure directly linked to these strategic objectives. Later, the before and after outcomes can be compared.
STEPS FOR COMING UP WITH AN IDEAL EMPLOYEE TRAINING PLAN
1. Creation of a business case
An area that people often fail to attach importance to is the building of a business case when commencing any new initiative. Any new expenditure or program has to be looked at in terms of its overall value to the business. It is essential to create a formal business case or perform a cost-benefit analysis to find out the financial benefit of carrying out a training program.
2. Identification of needs and goals for which training would help
Defining weak areas, short- and long-term goals
You can identify your company’s training requirements by identifying the areas or functions where your business is weak or lacking. Examples of such areas or functions may be:
- Company policies, harassment resolution, conflict resolution or time management which come under soft skills, or
- A process or how to use office equipment or machinery, which come under hard skills.
To help you identify where the gaps lie, you can ask yourself questions along the following lines:
- Whether you get customer complaints and if yes, are they because of a deficit in terms of skills or knowledge?
- Do you rely on more than one person to perform critical business tasks? The majority of businesses depend on a single person to perform a specific technical operation. It is essential to document the process and to give other employees training in the process, as a precaution.
In addition to identifying weak areas, it is good to identify the short and long-term goals which you hope to achieve through the training. Training goals and learning outcomes should match both an employee’s position competency profile, as well as the organization’s mission and business objectives (as already mentioned earlier).
Inviting employee participation for training-associated decisions
In addition to considering what kind of training suits your business needs, you should talk to your employees face-to-face. Ask them about any kind of skills they wish to develop, whether they have any areas or functions that they struggle in, or what their career aspirations are. Sometimes, even though employees have an idea of where they want to reach in the career ladder, they may be confused about how to begin towards the goal. In such a situation, communication with them will enable the management and the employees to jointly understand what contribution the organization can make or what opportunities it can provide to help the employees accomplish their career goals.
3. Looking at different training options
Options include in-house training, off-the-shelf training, seminars and workshops, lectures and conferences, mentoring, online courses, and shadowing.
- In-house training: The majority of in-house training is on-the-job training. So, people can study at their own speed and put new knowledge to practice immediately. Be careful to choose a trainer with the patience to coach to meet the pace of the trainee.
- Off-the-shelf training: These are one-size-fits-all training courses handled by training companies. For this course, your employees will join staff from other businesses. Mixing with staff from other businesses may make it possible to understand how other companies/organizations operate. Some of these courses are intended to count towards or accomplish a specific recognized qualification. Though off-the-shelf training is a considerably low-cost training option, it may be less relevant to your business considering the fact that it can’t be tailored to suit your business.
- Seminars and Workshops: In addition to providing them with information, this form of external training helps the trainees practice problem solving.
- Lectures and conferences: Another kind of external training, conferences and lectures are a great way to deliver plenty of information to a large audience with opportunities for great networking. External training facilitates the introduction of fresh energy and ideas into the learning process. A competent external trainer would challenge your employees’ manner of thinking and operating.
- Mentoring: You can usually trust and consult a mentor for business guidance and advice that would help with your business’ professional development. A mentor is typically someone outside the immediate team but can also be someone outside your company. Mentoring typically entails the informal communication of knowledge and social capital over a constant period, with a number of face-to-face meetings supported by telephone communication and email. In addition to looking yourself, you can ask your senior employees (who have contributed much over the years) to look for one.
- Online courses: Online courses (e-learning) are an affordable yet effective way to put new approaches and ideas across to trainees. Such courses are particularly useful when there is a need to train a considerable number of staff based at different locations. As is the case usually with online courses, the employees doing the course can progress at their own pace. Online interactive courses are available that aid with behavioral training.
- Shadowing: Job shadowing involves the employee who wishes to learn something, following (observing) another employee competent in that area/function, to satisfy his learning requirement. The person who is being shadowed may have something valuable to teach, may be able to share useful information in terms of certain competencies or behaviors or new facets pertaining to the job or organization, or may be just engaged in a job totally different from the trainee’s and which the trainee would like to pick up. Once the trainee has learnt what he needs to learn and can apply it, a periodic assessment of his progress can be made, feedback provided and guidance given on how it can be further improved on.
4. Matching training to your business and employees
Following identification of weak areas and goals and considering different training options, you need to determine which training options (on-the-job training, mentoring and so on) would work best for your business or employees. This is to be preferred to getting the training first and then adjusting it to your employees.
Employees’ learning styles must be taken into account. For example, some people may be able to grasp best by listening, while some others may grasp best with hands on-learning; some may favor group learning while some others may favor individual study. The learning preferences of employees need to be taken into account before designing a training plan.
Identify groups or individuals that are likely to benefit from a specific training module or set of modules. Match training to the employee(s) who it is best suited for or would most benefit from it. For example, training in how to use a particular piece of equipment may only benefit employees engaged in jobs that utilize that piece of equipment. On the other hand, training that has to do with time management and/or company policies is useful and should be provided to all employees. To make things easier, you may want to carry out a staff skills assessment to help determine what kind of training each individual employee would require. Also, base your decision considering the employee’s career goals.
With respect to the trainer, you can either opt for one or more of the experienced and talented people among your employees or bring in a professional trainer. You can even use both. The desired person would lead the trainees, deliver lectures, answer questions and do whatever else is required to give the employees a truly effective training experience.
You can acquire training material from training companies or if you have any employee(s) educated in employee training, you can let him develop the material. Remember that the training program should be relevant, interesting and interactive. Incorporating variety (different training media such as audio, video or books) and repetition (for example, portions of training can be incorporated into factoids, slogans and images) will help to hold the attention of the audience.
5. Development of an action plan
To create an action plan, answering questions such as the following would be helpful:
- Would employees be required to take time off from work to attend the training?
- Is there any prep work that has to be completed prior to the training?
- Would someone have to take an employee’s place during the time he spends for training?
- Who else would be involved?
6. Communication and Scheduling
You should inform your employees about the training you have planned for them. It would be a good idea to hold a meeting prior to the start of the training and in which you give your employees an idea of what the program is about and what the trainees can expect from it. You may also want to mention that the program should be taken seriously considering what the company’s expectations are.
When creating a schedule for the training program, keep in mind that training many or all employees means lost work time. So, you may want to plan the training after working hours or during slow periods. Before creating the schedule, you should have a rough idea of how long the program would take (one day, a few days, one week or several weeks). Depending on company preferences, all staffs can be made to attend the program together or they can be splitted into small groups and trained accordingly.
7. Encouraging feedback
Participant feedback is essential to understand how the overall experience of the program was, its strengths and weaknesses. One option is to pass around an employee feedback form on which employees can rate the training, and/or furnish opinions or comments pertaining to how effective and useful the training sessions were. An even better idea would be to meet the participants individually so as to be able to get unbiased and honest feedback. Training programs and modules should be altered or improved when needed, based on employee feedback.
TRAINING ASSESSMENT AND BUSINESS PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT
You can use training assessment to find out from your employees whether the course was suitable for their job and degree of expertise. Training assessment forms will give you an idea of which aspects of the course worked and which didn’t.
Measuring the effectiveness of the training program must ideally start from participant reactions to the program and culminate in terms of assessing whether there were improvements in business outcomes and performance.
BENEFITS OF AN OPTIMAL TRAINING PLAN
An optimal training plan designed in the manner described above, will not be without its share of great benefits. Here are a few of them:
1. Better employee contribution
An effective training program can be a trigger for more ideas, suggestions and recommendations from employees with respect to improving procedures, processes or performance. In addition, training helps the participants acquire new knowledge and skills which in turn builds up their confidence and increases their contribution.
2. Improvement in employee motivation
Good training makes employees feel like they are progressing in their career because of the associated up skilling. So employees feel happier and more motivated which in turn makes them work harder and better contributing to increased productivity and better business performance.
When employees realize that the company is helping them upgrade their skills and knowledge which in turn gives them opportunities for career growth, they are more satisfied with their job and are willing to put in their best for the company they work for. Increased job satisfaction also means they would be less inclined to leave and the company/business benefits from reduced turnover.
3. Employees can cope with challenges better
Employees that are trained in-house are in a better position to cope with challenges and changes affecting the business as a whole and/or the credit department, specifically.
4. Cross-training adds to flexibility and productivity
Cross-training contributes to flexibility and productivity. If employees are cross-trained in multiple aspects/areas (customer service, sales, administration, and operations, for example), this will be particularly helpful if someone suddenly and unexpectedly leaves the company or else, is promoted or transferred. For some employees, the flexibility of job role helps to sustain interest in the job leading to more job efficiency on their part.
Putting in dedicated efforts to create an optimal training plan for your employees will result in a win-win situation that really shows in your employees’ work attitude and your company’s gains. Hence, it is truly worth the time and work.