THE BLOG
10/27/2016 04:46 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2017

5 Tips for Developing an Effective Employee Training Program

You spend a fair amount of money onboarding employees, so you want to be certain you’re maximizing that investment by providing ongoing training that keeps them up to date on trends that are pertinent to their job.

You Can’t Afford to Skimp on Training

It costs a lot of money to onboard a new employee. Anyone who owns a business or has worked in HR knows this to be the case.

According to business expert Jason Hesse, the typical business pays an entry-level employee roughly £21,800 in typical wage rates for a professional or skilled worker. On top of this, you have to account for things like payroll, pension contributions, national insurance contributions (estimated to be £13,900), legal fees, sickness absences, and more.

Interestingly, the smaller your growing business is, the more costly it can be to comply with regulations and administrative burdens. When it’s all said and done, you aren’t just paying an employee’s wages. You’re also spending time and money on contracts, benefits, interviews, IT equipment, office furniture, and other basics.

And this is just within the first few days! When a worker sticks around for a few years, you have to tack on retirement contributions, pay raises, paid time off, new equipment, and so on.

So where does training fit into all of this? Training is how you maximize your investment. Do you really want to spend thousands of pounds on an employee and then toss him or her aside?

You have to make training a priority so you can help each employee become his or her best version … one that can handle all the responsibilities and duties hand over.

Thus, though you might believe a training program is only necessary for established corporations that have thousands of employees, the truth is, growing businesses can’t afford to ignore the opportunities of training.

Otherwise, you risk throwing your investment down the drain.

Five Tips for a Successful Training Program

How do you go about developing a successful training program for your business? We’ve compiled five basic tips that have helped countless other growing businesses develop and perfect their programs. Take a look:

1. Identify Clear Goals and Outcomes

Any good program starts with clear and definable goals. Training merely for the purpose of having it is futile. You need concrete outcomes in order to stand any chance of deploying materials and a curriculum that add value to your firm.

Here are a few essential factors that might play into your company’s current needs -- and therefore shape your goals and outcomes for the training program.

  • Stage of business. What stage is your business is in? Are you a growing business that's adding multiple employees every month or are you a more established organization with low turnover? These are two highly different situations and no training program is a one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Employee roles and responsibilities. When it comes to training specific groups of employees, you have to consider their roles. What will they be doing, and what won’t they be doing? Without a clear understanding of everyone’s responsibilities, training efforts could be misguided.
  • Industry requirements. Depending on the various organizations your business is involved in and the licensing or oversight groups that have jurisdiction over it, certain types of training could be mandatory to stay in business.
  • Firsthand knowledge. You can’t always quantify what your employees need. Sometimes, you have to simply observe what’s going on to recognize a shortcoming that needs addressing.

These are just a few examples of factors that come into play when you’re seeking to establish training goals and outcomes. Don’t overlook this all-important aspect of the process, because it essentially creates the foundation for the rest of the program.

2. Develop Engaging Training Resources

In addition to having the correct goals and the best intentions, you also need materials and a curriculum that are sufficiently interesting to engage your employees and keep them focused. It comes down to three choices:

  • Develop your own resources. In 2016 and beyond, it’s now possible for your business to create cost-effective training programs in-house by leveraging new technologies that allow you to combine content, develop visuals, and build courses without any preexisting knowledge of training program development.
  • Bring in an outside party. While you can save a lot of money developing your own resources, it takes a fair amount of time. If you want to streamline the process, you may choose to outsource training to another firm.
  • Use generic industry resources. Finally, you can turn to generic industry resources such as books, guides, online videos, manuals, etc., if you’re looking for cheap and easy. This is pretty much guaranteed to be the least effective method, however.

So you have options for developing training materials and resources. You’ll have to weigh such factors as cost, time, and quality when you think about how to proceed.

3. Establish a Consistent Schedule

Effective training is all about consistency. Instead of trying to cram all of your company’s required training into a three-day period at the end of the calendar year, try spreading things out and commit to a couple hours of training every week or month.

This kind of consistency not only lessens the burden on your company, but it also raises the probability that your employees will become committed to ongoing learning. (They’ll also retain more information this way.)

4. Give Employees a Say in the Curriculum

Though you’ll have the final say over which curriculum your organization uses for its training programs, don’t deny your employees the opportunity to get involved. Ask them about concepts and topics they feel would help them grow as employees, leaders, etc. There’s a lot of potential value in getting their input, and you may stumble across some ideas you hadn’t previously considered.

5. Bridge the Gap Between Knowledge and Action

One of the biggest mistakes organizations too often make is failing to bridge the gap between knowledge and action. In other words, they expend generous amounts of time and money on training, but don’t give employees a timely opportunity to transfer the knowledge they’ve acquired into action.

Employee training expert Julie Winkle Giulioni believes in developing an action plan: “Organizations, leaders and individuals invest heavily in training and development through traditional classroom-based workshops, elearning, webinars, apps, mentoring, experiences, and more,” Giulioni explains.

“But formal and informal learning efforts fall short of the full range of possible outcomes if we don’t metaphorically cross the finish line by bringing the learning to life. Action planning is what does this, bridging insights and intentions to results.”

You can increase the odds that your employees will convert knowledge into action by setting them up for success. Always enable employees to debrief before they leave any training session.

Ask questions like “What will you do differently now that you know X?” Host follow-up meetings with your team to see what progress they’re making. Simple things like these can have a significant impact.

Make an Investment in Your Future

Employee training is designed to equip your employees with the skills and knowledge needed to become better professionals in their own careers. But it ultimately benefits your business more than any other party.

An investment in a robust training program is an investment in your future. Is that an investment you’re willing to make? This is a situation where the benefits can far outweigh the costs.