HR professionals and management alike agree that having a properly trained team of employees can make all the difference to an organization’s success. But take note: not all staff training and development programs are created equal, particularly in today’s rapidly changing business environment. In order to achieve the best results possible from training and development, therefore, it can help to keep the following steps in mind, whether you’re launching a new program at your company or updating an existing one:
1. Look to your competition.
If you’re planning a new training initiative at your company, it can be a good idea to get a sense of what other organizations in your field are doing. Check out social media reviews, both of your company and others, to get a feel for customer satisfaction levels related to staff and service. Reach out to colleagues to see what they do or have done in terms of employee training, what they would continue doing, and what they wouldn’t do again. Creating this kind of benchmark for your company can help you identify any areas in which you fall short or areas that need your special attention. It’s also a helpful tool to use in convincing reluctant management teams that training and development is a worthwhile investment.
2. Survey your employees.
Current employees are your best possible resource when it comes to getting information about your company’s organizational performance and needs. They will not only be able to tell you what’s going on and what things need to be changed, they’ll also appreciate your interest in their ongoing development. Focus groups can be a great way to establish employees’ needs and wants, which you can then use as training program objectives.
3. Consider management’s operating goals.
Vague training programs intended simply to “improve employee performance” are not usually very effective. Instead, take your company’s operating goals into account, and design targeted development programs that directly address specific management objectives. Productivity might be a hot topic at your organization, for example, or customer satisfaction. You can also investigate the needs of particular departments in your company that might benefit from specific training initiatives, such as consistency training for a marketing team.
4. Run training like a business.
There’s no reason to treat an employee training and development program differently than any other business initiative. This means drafting a proper plan for your training that includes all the necessary strategic elements.
You’ll want to state your purpose for the training and your proposed deliverables; conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) to help identify what kind of training would be appropriate; develop a realistic budget; and include a clear benefit analysis so that everyone in the organization can understand the return on their investment in the training. It is also a helpful idea to hold pilot classes for the training to identify any shortcomings and make necessary refinements.
Finally, be prepared to sell the training to your employees: don’t assume they’ll be on board because they are told to be, but market the training program as if it were targeted to customers. This includes effective branding and promotion, as well as post-program surveys to get feedback from participants.
5. Measure results.
In order to make sure you’re getting what you and your organization want out of training and development, it’s crucial to measure outcomes. And it’s best to incorporate your goals directly into the program so that all participants know what’s expected. This means letting employees know about the behaviors you’ll be measuring on the job to determine how the training impacted their performance—a strategy that allows for maximum feedback and no surprises.
6. Make training part of your company culture.
One reason why training programs are not always as effective as they could be is that they are often viewed as one-off initiatives that are completed and then quickly forgotten about. Instead, work to develop a philosophy within your company of “life-long training” focused on employee development and satisfaction. Use internal communications to advertise training programs and participants, and to celebrate employee achievements and successes during training.
When it comes to promotions, give preference to employees who have completed and performed well in training. Increase opportunities for employees to get involved in training initiatives: as trainers themselves, as subject-matter experts, or as evaluators for new training participants. The more that both the idea and the reality of training become a part of the fabric of your company, the less likely your employees will be to resist or feel apathetic about training programs, and thus these programs are more likely to make a real impact on your company’s bottom line.