Why training your employees is key

We’ve all experienced that first day on the job where we aren’t necessarily sure of any decisions we make. Most companies may have the assumption that a proper orientation can alleviate the stresses of a new role, but often new hires leave with a great need for answers In fact, the stresses don’t end as a new hire as an employee is likely to continue encountering new projects and problems that they might not be equipped to handle.

Yet most of us, after a certain amount of time, find ourselves adjusting and even excelling at certain positions. Why is it then that despite entering a job with little to no knowledge of their specific functions that employees end up performing and developing throughout their career? The answer lies in a proper employee training process.

How Employee Training Evolved Over the Years

It might seem obvious to us now that the modern workplace should have a proper training course that properly introduces and develops their employees, but this wasn’t always the case when it came to employment. Shane Austin of EHS Today describes early employee training as one that largely followed a “mentor-mentee” style of apprenticeship, where new employees needed to know how to seek a proper mentor for guidance. If you didn’t have this early on, your best bet was to learn through trial and error, which could be a dangerous and costly way of learning.

Formal training, according to Austin, really began to take hold in the 1950s up to the 1970s, when vocational or trade programs were introduced in school curriculums and the fact of teaching young adults how to do certain jobs became the norm.

Today’s employee training has largely evolved past those early iterations of teaching. With early versions being hampered due to a lack of process standards, employee training has since changed to become more dynamic and responsive towards an employee’s and the company’s needs. Jeff Seeley, a writer for Training Industry, writes that there are 3 main developments in the training environment in the 2020s.

Reinforcement and Sustainment

Back then, training was often isolated towards specific times in a person’s employment, which was usually part of their general onboarding process. After that initial training employees were expected to just “keep up” and learn on the go. While this can work in most places, it does deliver variables on how well each employee internalizes what was taught.

Hence, modern workplaces have ongoing development training for their employees to ensure that they learn and grow in a way the company needs them to. Usually, these training initiatives are partly informed by the employee’s learning goals, but it’s in the long-term effect of a continuous effort to train your employees that companies begin to see sustained growth in line with the broader direction the company is going towards.

Technology

Another aspect that has greatly accelerated the capabilities of training has been the developments in learning technologies over the years. Little less than a decade ago, specific training seminars were expected to last over several days in order to properly disseminate all the important information necessary to do the job. Today, training sessions have been compressed and relegated to different platforms to allow employees the flexibility to learn whenever and wherever they may be.

Moreover, technology has played a key role in actively involving employees in the training process itself. Asynchronous calls, recorded lectures, interactive PDFs, and more have all but transformed the landscape that training inhabits.

Variabilities in Approach

With flexibility comes the ability for both employees and employers to design training programs that best suit their specific needs. What limited a lot of training programs before was the narrow-focused, one-way lecture approach that usually pits one expert in front of a group of training subjects.

While this method can be elevated with some group discussion activities, modern training approaches have necessitated that this lecture approach is transformed into something more interpersonal and interactive. The engagement of individuals has become an integral part of training today, and with the everlasting goal of training being to produce a change in their participants, having more options than one in conducting training becomes extremely valuable.

Benefits of Employee Training Over Time

Employee training has a lot of benefits, namely that your employees learn how to do their jobs properly. But with the development of training practices as a whole, there started to emerge auxiliary benefits for employee training that went beyond what was naturally expected.

As for some of the effects, you’re likely to see them as quickly as within the same year of implementation, some other effects take longer to see and may require consistent employee training over the period. Nevertheless, it’s good to understand how your company can benefit from a robust training process that uses current best practices.

Short Run Benefits

The short run benefits are some of the most evident and most direct consequences of well developed employee training. Writer Eleni Zoe Papaioannou explains that good employee training practices creates very concrete efficiency improvements in the workplace. “Employees work faster and make fewer mistakes. They learn to work with tools that simplify and streamline your work processes.”, she writes. Moreover, utilizing training variants like cross-training, where employees are trained with skills related to another position in the company, allows employees to generate additional efficiency by covering manpower needs or moving across departments much quicker.

More than just direct efficiencies, good employee training can help workers feel more engaged in their work and with each other. Papaioannou weighs in on this, quoting a Gallup study that states that only 34% of US workers feel engaged at work. It’s these companies that employ these workers are likely to have developed their training programs to cultivate the importance of engagement.

Lastly, a strong effect that you might see in the short run that will likely bleed onto the long run is employee training’s effect on retention and your company’s relative competitiveness in the field. In a recent LinkedIn study, an impressive 93% of workers feel the importance of employee development as a motivator for them to stay within the company. Employees no longer want to just work in a company, they want to be able to grow within one as well.

And once you continue to develop your employees, the higher the likelihood they develop skills within your business that helps keep it competitive amongst rival firms. Continuing with a high turnover can cost you plenty in terms of replacement costs but also in terms of lost income due to inexperienced staff.

Long Run Benefits

While the short run benefits are almost immediately noticed from the outset of training, seeing some of the long term effects of employee training is definitely something to keep in mind when you’re developing your training program.

In an article by firm Performance Management Consultants, one of the more underrated benefits of a good employee training program is its effect on your company’s overall reputation. Developing good starting programs for new hires can quickly generate buzz around your company’s practices and expand towards their perception of your business as a whole. This can help you continue to generate good PR as well as boost your overall stature in the market.

With good reputation comes people looking to get in on the action. By this we mean that companies with good reputation (think Google and Microsoft) are often the most sought after places to begin working in. Beyond their status as leaders in the industry, it’s these perks that likely bring some of the best talent in the industry that can further elevate your company. Stagnation is a key ingredient in the recipe for workplace disaster. Once tasks become repetitive, roles become stale, and turnovers become inevitable.

Sooner or later, these employee training processes will be folded into the overall culture that you choose to develop within the company. But culture is likely the hardest aspect to get across to new hires, especially as early as the onboarding. With something as integral as a culture that shapes the ultimate identity of the company, it’s important for them to see it being practiced outside onboarding situations as well. In developing your employee training program, utilize key insights and principles in your core values and include them into specialized modules that help ingrain these concepts for your employees.

Some Best Practices to Employee Training

We’ve discussed a lot about the different aspects that surround employee training, including some of the major changes that have occurred in the past few years and more underplayed benefits that it has over different periods of time.

To maximize your experience with employee training, we’ve collated some best practices that can greatly improve the ideation process as you develop a program for your company. A solid, well-planned training program is fundamental to success. Applying a few employee training best practices to your training model will help your new employees learn the ropes and thrive in their roles.

Develop a Training Template

If you’ve never built a structured training program, it can be challenging to start from scratch.  You can use pre-built training plan templates and checklists as jumping-off points even though your company’s employee training program will need to be crafted to meet your organization's unique requirements and goals. Think of these templates as a way to build a scalable and productive training initiative.

Utilizing a template that is remote-friendly can also be very good for employee flexibility. By making your training remote-friendly, you’re creating an environment where learners can learn at their own pace and in their own time. Offering a plan that’s remote-friendly and accessible anytime and anywhere means that you’re creating the most effective training that employees can better access whenever convenient. This has several benefits, including bolstering your team’s motivation as well as real business results in avoiding any production stoppage or lost hours to have employees complete training by its due date.

Define The Learning Path

Introducing a professional development plan (PDP) and creating PDP goals for your employees can help improve job satisfaction and retention rates. Your first goal is to create objectives that feed into each other and help your employees—and your organization—to grow. At this initial stage, it’s vital that employees are included in the conversation, as learning objectives will vary from person-to-person and will be highly individualized. Employees should set goals for themselves, through a variety of means and methods, to create training and development programs that suit their needs.

But you need to ensure you remain flexible with your training plan as this will need to be adjusted based on individual, function, and overall goal in the training session. You can start with an overarching structure, but the granular aspects are things you’ll need to shift whenever needed.

Keep Training Reference Materials

The development phase of systematic training often also includes selecting the most appropriate media and materials, for example, developing audio-visuals, graphics, manuals, preparing any needed facilities, and piloting course content to ensure it is understandable.

It’s in this latter that you’ll want to put time to better develop training materials that employees can easily refer back to at any time. While live training and other synchronous training methods are great in getting real-time reactions, these asynchronous training modules are both useful for pre-reads as well as reviews for future use. 

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