- An effective employee learning and development program can lead to higher employee retention.
- Employee training programs should be customized to fit the needs of each employee.
- Survey your employees to see which training tactics are most meaningful to them.
- This article is for business owners and managers who are interested in creating or improving their employee training programs.
Every new job has a learning curve – and every existing job evolves over time. Consistent learning and training helps employees build their skills, and ensures that your team is growing with their roles rather than remaining stagnant. Additionally, Work Institute found that a lack of career development is the No. 1 reason employees quit their jobs. If you want to attract and retain top talent, you must create effective training opportunities for your employees to learn and develop their skills.
As with any business process, the type of strategies you use to train your employees affects how effective that training is. Although passing around a lengthy PDF or slideshow presentation may seem like the easiest method of training, there are several other training methods and strategies that can help employees become more educated while staying engaged and motivated throughout the process.
1. Set employee expectations.
Poor communication limits an employee's ability to perform at full capacity. One of the best strategies for training new employees is to set employee expectations and clearly communicate them to the employee. Setting expectations means you and your employees will be on the same page. It also gives the employee a chance to ask any clarifying questions. Immediate open dialogue not only informs the employee about expectations and operating procedures, but it also sets the tone for future learning and workplace interactions.
2. Offer microlearning initiatives.
Increasingly busy schedules and decreasing attention spans make it harder to find the time for learning and enrichment in the workplace. That's why microlearning – short, focused and often interactive learning initiatives broken down into three- to five-minute segments – has become so popular in the modern workforce.
Matthew Brown, chief people and culture officer at talent development company Schoox, said microlearning forces companies to "deliver the most meaningful and critical content in a condensed format that is designed to be snackable and accessible in the moment of need."
Because of the format, microlearning is often best applied to informal, simpler training needs, rather than complex skill sets.
3. Offer e-learning opportunities.
E-learning opportunities are a great way to make learning more accessible to your employees. These allow them to learn from any location, which is especially useful if you have a remote or hybrid workforce. Flexible working has become common for many businesses, and that flexibility should extend to learning as well.
"E-learning strategies make the transfer of learning from corporate down to front-line employees significantly more efficient and impactful," Brown told Business News Daily. "Especially in today's fast-paced and highly distracted world, we learn in more ways than ever before. Being able to deliver the content your employees need at the moment they need it is critical to their success."
Darren Shimkus, former president and general manager of Udemy for Business, agreed that e-learning works because it allows employees to control their experience, which means learning at their own pace, on their own time, and on the topics that are relevant to them.
"Online learning provides that flexibility and low-pressure environment that enables learners to more readily succeed," Shimkus said. "At Udemy, we have seen that students are increasingly downloading course content ... to consume on their mobile devices while on the go. Organizations can only benefit from integrating online courses to their existing learning and development programs."
4. Allow new employees to shadow colleagues.
It's one thing to have someone explain how to do a particular task and another to try it on your own. Demonstrating and practicing how to carry out that task on the spot can be the most effective way of learning. Melissa Cohen, vice president of communications at Unbabel and former managing partner at Metis Communications, said to incorporate hands-on shadowing into your new employee training process.
"The shadowing process allows trainees to retain information better by applying learned skills in real time and translating them to their daily tasks," Cohen said. "It also helps new team members experiment with responsibilities in a controlled environment without risk, all while building their confidence."
Tip: Do you have a new hire? Start them off strong with this list of employee onboarding tips.
5. Hold one-on-one meetings.
Kathy Thiessen, senior vice president of operations at 101 Mobility, said that structured, biweekly meetings between an employee and their supervisor have been a very effective training method for her team.
"Our leadership team adheres to that schedule to show our trustworthiness and our investment in the team's success," she said. "Employees are required to bring their own agenda to kick off our coaching discussion."
In these meetings, Thiessen said 101 Mobility employees focus on opportunities for skills development and building self-identified strengths.
"I like to close out those meetings by talking about the last 10% – the things that are difficult to discuss or topics an employee may be hesitant to discuss," she added. "This needs to be done knowing their confidentiality will be respected."
6. Start a mentoring program.
Employee mentorship programs can be helpful for both personal and professional development. Pair up each new employee with a mentor who can help guide them through their career. This type of program can also help new hires acclimate to your company culture. It gives employees someone to turn to if they are struggling, without fear of judgment. The mentor can help educate the employee through their tenure with your organization and guide them to the resources they need.
7. Hold lunch-and-learn sessions.
Some employees learn best in a more relaxed environment. Many businesses have adopted the concept of a lunch-and-learn session, in which a team member or someone from another company gives a brief seminar-style presentation while refreshments are served. It doesn't even have to be a full lunch – Cohen said Metis Communications hosts optional, 45-minute Bagel or Beer 'n' Learns in the office and over video chat for its employees.
"In these sessions, a senior team member usually creates a casual, interactive and engaging presentation about a topic she has personal experience with, and then opens it up at the end for further discussion," she said. "Such sessions usually lead to brainstorming among the group, as well as comfortable, open communication between team members of all experience levels."
8. Offer video training.
Video training is increasingly popular among younger generations. The LinkedIn Learning Workplace Learning Report of 2021 found that Gen Z learners watched 50% more hours per learner of learning content in 2020 versus 2019. While live training sessions can certainly be engaging, you run the risk of the employee forgetting what they've learned after the session is over. Recording these presentations and offering other video training means these resources are available to your team when and where they need them. They can serve as a great refresher after the fact, or as a convenient catch-up for those who missed the meeting.
"For basic training on technology tools and other standard PR and marketing practices, we provide links to video recordings and have the team make internal presentation recordings through Join.me, so any team member can watch them at his or her own convenience," Cohen said.
How to make your training more effective
Although the tactics above are a great starting point for creating an effective employee training program, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
Fred Mouawad, founder and chairman of Taskworld, said employee training shouldn't be approached with a one-size-fits-all mindset. Instead, training programs should be tailored to each employee based on their skills and profile, because the success of those programs hinges on employee motivation. Each employee learns differently, so find out whether they prefer visual, auditory or kinesthetic (learning by doing) methods of instruction, Mouawad said.
"It's important to convince employees about the effectiveness of training programs to boost their engagement," Mouawad said. "Remember that lecture in school when you just couldn't focus on what was being said, when your mind was in a completely different place? That's exactly how employees feel when they are not interested in training programs."
If you have trouble getting reluctant employees interested in utilizing your training opportunities, you may want to consider offering incentives. You can gamify training, set up competitions, and offer gift cards. You may even incentivize employees to attend training by offering paid time off.
You may think you know what type of training your employees want, but the best way to find out is to ask them. Send out a survey to gather their thoughts about training initiatives and make sure you're not wasting your time or theirs. Gathering employee feedback can also be a great way to customize your training approaches.
"Figure out what your employees actually want to learn and what kind of skills will make them more effective in their jobs," Shimkus said. "By aligning learning and training opportunities with the preferences and desires of employees themselves, businesses will be able to keep their teams engaged and productive."
Offer continued learning opportunities for all employees, and keep in mind that your strategies may need to be modified over time. Cohen suggests making training an ongoing discussion with employees to ensure it's a useful tool for new hires and training leaders alike, and that it doesn't become a burden.
"We've implemented a variety of in-depth training methods through the years, but not everyone engages in them effectively, and it would have been a disservice to keep a training approach around just because it seemed like a good idea on paper," Cohen said.
Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.