The main idea behind employee training is to equip workers with the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs and improve performance in their current roles. However, a high-impact training program has broader implications than simply making your employees better at their jobs. Effective training also helps retain high performers, reduces the time it takes for new hires to reach optimal productivity, and directly impacts your bottom line.
But training your employees isn’t without its challenges. Issues such as resistance to change, hectic work schedules, and high training costs can get in the way of implementing a successful program. The good news is that it is possible to master employee training. There are numerous examples of small and large businesses that have succeeded within this HR function. We’ve created this guide to help you master the most critical aspects of successful employee training.
There are also tools and technologies to make this complex task more accessible and far more manageable. These tools guide you through creating a training program step-by-step, let you review learning outcomes, and combines all your training material in a single place.
Why Does Employee Training Matter?
According to LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say they are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their learning. In addition, with experts estimating the cost of replacing an employee between one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary, the cost of employee training more than justifies itself.
But employee training isn’t just about lowering attrition and retaining your valuable top performers. Training is crucial on many different fronts, including improving employee performance, boosting employee morale and job satisfaction, increasing workplace productivity, and creating consistent work processes.
What Does Success Look Like?
Prioritizing employee training is a positive step in the right direction. But how do you know that the training program is successful? While there are a few different approaches one might take, the Kirkpatric Evaluation Model is one of the most effective means of measuring the success of a customized employee training program.
This model was developed by Professor Donald Kirkpatrick in the 1950s and is arguably the most popular and widely used model for evaluating training and learning outcomes. The model is also considered standard practice in HR and training communities across the globe.
The four levels of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model are:
Here’s what a successful employee training program would look like according to Kirkpatrick’s four-level model:
Employees Think Positively About the Training (Reaction stage)
The first level of gauging the success of a training program is finding out how employees feel about the training experience. This step is quick and easy to accomplish and can be done immediately after the training ends. Gathering and analyzing trainee reactions is inexpensive, even for large groups. You can do it with feedback forms or surveys for quick and anonymous feedback.
Some of the areas worth going over include:
- Did the employees like the training’s style, venue, and timing?
- Were they engaged?
- Do the employees think the training was worth their time/relevant to their job?
- Do employees think they can apply what they learned to their job?
- What might be improved or changed in future training?
- What support or resources do employees require to apply the acquired skills and knowledge in their day-to-day job functions?
As noted, happy sheets, surveys, and feedback forms are great ways to collect employee feedback about the training. You can also use metrics such as participation rate and completion rate to determine the training program’s success.
Ideally, the employees will be generally happy with the training. You’ll also be able to identify areas for improvement or change for future training programs.
Increased Knowledge, Skills, or Intellectual Capability (Learning stage)
A successful training program increases/improves the employee’s knowledge, skills, and intellectual capability in measurable ways. To this end, a solid training program has set objectives that it needs to accomplish.
Some of the ways to measure learning results include:
- Pre-training and post-training assessments
- Assessing the training’s influence on performance KPIs
- Supervisor reports and feedback
- Course completion and certification
Some forms of training are easier to measure than others. For example, quantifiable and technical skills are easy to measure and score. Attitudinal development and other more complex learning may be more challenging to assess. Either way, a successful training program will have accomplished its objectives.
Improved Employee Behavior (Behavior stage)
A successful training program will also change employee behavior for the better with applying the learning. For example, if the program was about cybersecurity, employees will be keener to change their passwords regularly and back up data.
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to notice a change in employee behavior. Still, successful training means that employees apply their learning to their positions shortly after the training. Conducting regular surveys and skill assessments is a great way to track how training impacts employee behavior.
Measurable or Tangible Results (Results stage)
Finally, a successful training program should produce tangible results. For example, quality control training may lead to improved quality, reduced waste, improved compliance, and fewer customer complaints. But, again, there must be set objectives to accomplish through the employee training program.
These objectives need to be specific and measurable if you hope to reap tangible results from your training program. You can also use the organization’s key performance indicators to measure the program’s impact. These metrics may include:
- Return on investment
Best Buy is a world-class example of a company fully dedicated to its employee training and development. The company’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, earning Best Buy third place on Training Magazine’s 2020 Training Top 125 Winners. Best Buy has appeared in the top ten of this list for three years in a row. Customer relationships are at the heart of Best Buy’s growth strategy. The company’s CEO and Chairman, Hubert Joly, is adamant that its training program is critical for customer relationships.
Best Buy also spends a lot of money on its sales training program. The company recognizes that sales training is directly related to driving sales and improved customer experience. Executives are more than happy to participate in crafting the sales training strategy and creating content. This level of executive buy-in can be challenging to achieve in many organizations but is a no-brainer for Best Buy execs.
Additionally, all new sales employees go through a four-day Sales and Solutions Essentials (SSE) training class. The purpose of the course is to equip new hires with the skills and behaviors needed to create a differentiated experience for each customer. The company has experienced growth in profit and revenue due to equipping its sales teams with these skills.
Best Buy has also incorporated employee training into its onboarding process. For example, In-Home Advisors (IHAs) go through a five-week learning plan. The training includes e-learning, in-store job shadowing, and riding along with home installers on appointments.
Retail associates and call center agents aren’t left behind either. Best Buy creates custom training for each of its employees. It is no wonder then that the company could come back from what many experts predicted was sure death. Many customers would go to Best Buy to test products before purchasing them from Amazon. The brand has since made a massive turnaround and is a formidable force in the electronics retail market.
Best Buy has done a lot to reinvent itself in the face of stiff competition and a fast-evolving market. And employee training has been a significant contributor to the company’s success and longevity.
One Secret Weapon to Master Employee Training
According to a KPMG position paper, 90% of organizations implement some form of e-learning in their employee training programs. Since part of or most of your training program will be online, it makes sense to use training software to create and manage the program. This software can also help you reduce training costs, provide personalized training, and also repurpose, reuse, and revamp your courses.
Lessonly is an exceptional tool to help you create and implement your training program. More than 1000 organizations already use this software for their training programs, including McAfee, LendingHome, and KellyConnect. Lessonly focuses on four types of teams, including sales, customer service, talent, and enterprise.
Creating a training program is simple and intuitive. You only need to drag and drop to add media, including text, videos, images, and quizzes. You can also create personalized lessons for your employees to access in or out of the office, including on mobile.
Other useful Lessonly features include:
- Interactive quizzes and surveys
- Training event tracking
- Automation and triggers
Like most other training software, Lessonly offers custom prices depending on your plan and the features you want.
4 Essential Strategies For Successful Employee Training
Employee training may seem like a broad concept. But there are specific strategies that you can implement to get the most out of your training program.
1. Consider Hands-on Shadowing
Having your employees perform tasks on the spot can be one of the most effective forms of learning. Job shadowing involves having trainees follow and observe more experienced employees. This way, the trainee can learn about job nuances that are easy to miss in a classroom or through virtual learning.
This advice goes doubly for new hires. There is no guarantee that classroom instruction will stick. Having trainees apply their learned skills in real-time helps them to retain the information better. This strategy also ensures that the training program is relevant to the employee’s daily tasks.
For the most part, job shadowing is used when onboarding new hires. However, existing employees can use this training to learn about a different job or position within the company.
Job shadowing can work effectively for almost any job. Admittedly, this strategy works better in some industries than others. For example, hospitality, medical, manufacturing, skilled trades, product development, and administration jobs have stronger visual and practical components. This makes job-shadowing especially effective in these scenarios.
2. Implement Brown-Bag Seminars
Most people picture virtual seminars or classroom instruction when employee training comes to mind. Although a relatively new concept, brown bag seminars can be just as practical as traditional training. Brown bag seminars refer to training offered during employee lunch breaks.
These seminars are informal, intimate, and interactive. As a result, employees can learn new skills or about new company initiatives. Most brown-bag seminars are about an hour long, and the limited time frame encourages specific and relevant training. The interactive nature of these sessions also ensures that employees who would otherwise never interact have a chance to know each other.
Additionally, employees from different departments such as HR, sales, and marketing have a chance to exchange ideas in an informal setting. You can also consider letting each employee lead a session. This can be a great confidence builder and will also help to instill leadership and communication skills.
Finally, most companies that implement brown-bag seminars make the training voluntary. Additionally, offering free catering as an incentive to get employees to sign up for the training can help you drum up engagement.
3. Follow Up on Learning Outcomes
Following up with employees after training reinforces your belief in the importance and the relevance of the training program. This is also an excellent time to find out what resources employees need to implement their learning. The best time to begin the follow-up is soon after the training. This way, the training will be fresh in everyone’s mind.
Consider also posting related statistics to help employees track their progress. For example, if the training was about reducing customer complaints, post periodic statistics about customer complaints. Quizzes or practice sessions in the weeks following the training session are also great for making sure the information sticks. But, keep it simple, such as using multiple-choice quizzes. Lessonly offers an excellent practice feature for this purpose.
For example, your customer service team can simulate phone calls, chats, or emails with customers. Here, the employees have a chance to practice what they learned in a controlled environment.
Finally, it’s worth meeting with your employees to map how they intend to use the training. Go over any potential challenges or pitfalls. Then, encourage your employees to apply two or three skills they learned to their day-to-day job.
Be sure to follow up with employees and offer constructive feedback where warranted. Also, point out to employees what they are doing right. This exercise should not be intimidating. Gently remind the employees of the purpose and objectives of your training program.
4. Pace the Training
Employees have a lot to take in during the training. It is easy for employees to be overloaded with information. Pacing the training ensures that employees learn at a comfortable pace and retain the lessons. Create a block of time where employees aren’t learning. Allow employees space to absorb, reflect, and review the information.
Consider spreading out the training over weeks or months, depending on the intensity and complexity. Additionally, be sure to cover for employee work as needed. There are few things more frustrating than employees thinking about all the work they need to do after the training. This is also a quick way to build resentment, especially if the training is mandatory.
Another reason to pace the training is that that people learn at a different pace. Make room for slower learners, including discussing their most effective learning styles. Generally speaking, formal training can be effective for training slower learners. This training may include more one-on-one sessions, hands-on training, and feedback sessions.
Most Common Misconceptions of Employee Training
There are a few common employee training misconceptions that are worth dispelling before wrapping up this guide.
Only large companies benefit from employee training: Some small business owners might think that employee training only works for large organizations. However, many small businesses are prioritizing employee training programs and reaping benefits. Small businesses that offer training generally report higher revenue growth compared to companies that don’t provide training. In addition, employee training need not be expensive. In-house training and e-learning have made employee training cheaper and more accessible to small businesses.
Employee training courses aren’t practical: Long gone are the days of unnecessary and impractical employee training programs. Modern technology has made it possible to track ROI and other metrics, increasing the quality of the training. Additionally, businesses have numerous options for providing real-life and practical training. These include role-playing, virtual reality, gamification, simulation, on-the-job training, job shadowing, and internships.
Employees leave with their newly acquired skills and knowledge: No employer wants to invest heavily in an employee only for the worker to find another job elsewhere. However, these incidents are far less common than many employers think. Offering employee training can help you retain your employees. As we noted from the Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees are likely to stay with a company that invests in their careers. Additionally, offering opportunities for lateral growth within the company can help you retain your highly trained and skilled employees.
You need external trainers: Although external trainers bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the table, you don’t necessarily need to hire one. With training software like Lessonly, you can easily create a training program from scratch. You don’t even need previous experience designing one. You can also incorporate your most experienced employees and high-performers to train staff via mentoring and peer-to-peer learning.
Employee training is a worthwhile investment. As many organizations have come to learn, employee training can help standardize critical work processes, boost productivity, reduce direct supervision, and increase employee engagement.