Why Your Organization Needs Employee Training and Development
Investment in employee training and development is essential. And while many companies have onboarding programs for their newest staff members, fewer continue on-the-job training over workers' tenure.
According to a 2021 Salesforce report, 59% of knowledge workers said that since the pandemic, they've had fewer workplace learning opportunities, and 60% said they don't have time for learning and development throughout the workday.
Employers would be wise to pay attention to these trends because investing in employee training programs can boost productivity, increase engagement and make employees happier and more likely to stick around.
Employee Training vs. Employee Development
Many people believe employee training and employee development represent the same idea. And to a degree, they're right. Most people use the terms interchangeably.
But there are some notable differences between the two.
A training program is more focused. It centers on learning specific hard skills, such as how to use a new phone system, how to edit photos, how to speak French, etc. Employee training is essential because it teaches workers how to meet the business's essential goals, processes and functions.
Employee training tends to happen at the beginning of a person's time at a company — though it's also useful when changing software, adding new workplace technology or updating procedures.
Development stresses broader skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, that can be applied to a variety of situations. These soft skills might include emotional intelligence, effective collaboration, problem-solving, communication skills and more.
A development program encourages employees to continuously learn and grow, such as through attending online courses, reading books or pairing up with mentor colleagues. It's formed around a long-term vision of the company and the employees who execute it.
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What Are the Benefits of Employee Training and Development?
Organizations that invest in a training and development program see lots of benefits — beyond the new skills their employees learn. They include:
Higher Employee Retention
If you train employees and help them develop new skills over time, you increase your chances of hanging onto them.
A report from LinkedIn found that 93% of employees will remain at a company that invests in their careers. And retaining employees, even when it costs money to increase their knowledge, is cheaper than hiring new employees.
Increased Workplace Productivity
Employees empowered with knowledge better know how to tackle challenges and make decisions.
It should be no surprise then that organizations that focus on increasing employees' soft skills — communication, time management, problem-solving and decision-making — see a 12% increase in productivity, according to a study from the University of Michigan.
Improved Employee Performance
Productivity rates, even high ones, don't always correspond to quality work. Workers may be busy, but are they creating a superior service or product, maintaining communication and collaboration, and satisfying customer needs?
Fortunately, not only does training and development boost production, it also enhances staff performance. According to research from the International Journal of Business and Management Research, 90% of employees strongly agreed that a training and development program improved their job performance.
Fewer Workplace Accidents
A lot of accidents in the workplace are due to improper or inadequate training, or failure to enforce that training. And these accidents come with stiff costs, including employee replacements, increased insurance rates and possible damage or loss of equipment.
All employees, new and old, should have ongoing training on the skills needed to work safely. That could mean knowing how to operate machinery or what safety gear to wear. It might also mean understanding online safety and ergonomic desk setups.
Increased Return on Investment
Employee training programs and employee development ultimately impact a business's bottom line. That same University of Michigan study found that soft skills training generated a 256% net return on investment.
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How to Design Employee Training and Development Programs
Before you start designing an employee training program, think about your long-term goals. What skills do you think will further your business objectives and lead to stronger, more adept employees?
Once you have those goals in mind, you should:
Talk to Your Teams
Talking to your employees is critical. Ask workers which skills they think they need to better do their jobs and aid overall company performance. Are there any tools or software programs they want to use? Any processes they think could be updated? Is there a current training program in place they think is outdated or unnecessary?
This step can be done in a group setting. Leaders can also collect this information through email surveys or written questionnaires.
Margaret Rogers, vice president at Pariveda Solutions with 20 years of employee training experience, wrote in a Harvard Business Review article several questions she recommends leaders ask their employees, including:
- What parts of your job do you find the most rewarding?
- What are your top challenges right now?
- What are your long-term career goals, and how do you plan to reach them?
- What other responsibilities would you like to have?
- What areas interest you that you haven't been able to explore?
Look at On-the-Job Opportunities
Some employees have obligations outside of the office and don't have time to work through an after-hours training and development program. Not to mention that, as the Salesforce survey found, 80% of workers retain information better when they learn it on the job.
Organizations that want to prioritize new skills training and development must look for work-hours opportunities. This might include hands-on training with a new tool or mentorship from a more experienced colleague.
Set Clear Expectations
Don't leave workers in the dark when it comes to expectations around learning new skills. Communicate exactly what that training or development will look like, what goals leadership wants employees to reach and what timeframe they should achieve those goals within.
This communication should be ongoing, too — not just at the beginning of the learning process. Provide employees with feedback on their training and give them ample time to discuss failures and successes.
Follow-Through on Commitments
You've thought about goals, talked to employees, looked at learning opportunities, developed a plan and communicated that plan to staff. Now, it's time to follow through.
Delivering on promises is crucial to a successful employee training program. Provide educational opportunities that cater to the skills workers want to learn. And don't forget to follow that up with potential promised incentives, whether it be more role flexibility, the ability to scale upward, an increase in pay, etc.
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Types of Employee Training
There are a lot of ways to teach employees new skills. Let's take a look at some of them:
Use an Instructor
This can be done in a physical classroom setting, in the office or through online courses. This more formal method includes an instructor presenting information through lectures and visuals, such as charts, videos and images.
Instructors are ideal for training large groups or zeroing in on more complex skill sets. The benefit of this method is that employees can ask questions and get answers immediately.
Look to Simulations
Simulations are great for virtualizing hands-on training or adding safety to high-stakes skills. A pilot, for example, can use a flight simulator to practice taking off or trying out new maneuvers — all without the dangers of crashing (or the cost of fuel).
Doctors and police officers also rely on simulated training. These professionals often deal with high-stakes situations, such as performing a life-saving operation or attempting to talk down hostage situations. Practicing in a simulated environment provides room for error that lacks any real-life consequences.
Tap Into Online Learning
Online learning doesn't just include listening to a live instructor through the computer. It could also mean watching pre-recorded videos, taking interactive quizzes or reading through written materials.
Gamification, which turns learning into a game, is also an effective form of online learning. Research from Omega Consulting shows that about one employee out of two gets bored in traditional training. Gamification, on the other hand, increases engagement and knowledge retention. Almost 90% of employees polled said gamification makes them happier and, as a result, more productive.
Utilize Group Discussions
Your employees collectively hold a great wealth of information. With group discussions, you can encourage them to share knowledge with each other and promote inter-group collaboration.
Encourage the free exchange of ideas. Allow employees to discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions. This is also a great opportunity for feedback, where workers can share progress or projects and gain constructive criticism.
Develop Hands-on Training
Learning a concept without any context behind it can be tricky. Many people learn best when they can do so in a hands-on environment, bringing context to those new skills or ideas.
Hands-on training is great for learning how to use unfamiliar equipment or hardware, such as how to operate a commercial copier or drive a forklift. It's also ideal when walking through a new digital tool or computer program.
Promote Employee Mentoring
As mentioned earlier, your employees, especially your seasoned ones, have a lot of valuable knowledge. Encourage them to pass it along by establishing employee mentorship programs.
Mentors are typically supervisors, managers or longtime employees. They're often paired with a new staff member, a person who has switched to a new department or role, or someone looking to learn a new skill or platform.
Studies show that more than 90% of workers who have a mentor are satisfied with their job. They're also more likely to feel their work contributions are valued by their colleagues than those without a mentor, boosting happiness at work.
Assign Required Reading
It may seem traditional, but one way employees can acquire new skills is through required reading. Reading is a valuable way to learn about specific organizational procedures or safety guidelines.
One benefit of required reading is that employees can take the material with them anywhere and read at their own pace. If they have questions about the information, however, they might have to wait until they see their supervisor.
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Designing a Successful Employee Training and Development Program
When it comes down to it, employee training is essential to maintaining and maximizing an organization's health. The right program will create smarter, more productive employees who are happy in their roles and plan to stick around.
And while employee training might seem expensive from the outside — and indeed, it does come with costs — it ultimately has a positive effect on a company's bottom line and can become one of your most powerful business assets.
Remember, however, that designing a successful employee training and development program is not a one-time thing. Leadership should constantly look for new skills they can teach and better ways to educate employees.