What are employee training programs?
Employee training programs are designed to help employees improve their skills and knowledge so they can do their job in a more efficient, productive and/or safer way. Companies typically develop training and development programs to onboard and train new hires or improve the expertise of current employees.
During World War II, employee training became a growing practice. Many workers learned new skills to support war efforts and the end of the war brought a surge in industrial activities requiring better-trained employees.
As technology advanced, increased use of computers and automation brought a novel approach to employee training, with firms and employers outsourcing training to third parties. Thanks to continuing innovations in employee education, employers have seen a boost in workplace performance and improvements in their employees’ social, mental and psychological health.
Generally, companies now educate employees on their responsibilities, new skills, company culture and other essential topics. Training is now a regular part of most peoples’ jobs — and growing companies understand that one key to increasing productivity and success is through better-trained employees.
Benefits of training and development programs
When done right, employee training programs can improve the overall performance of an organization. This kind of training should prove beneficial to both employees as individuals and the company as a whole.
Of course, there is a cost to develop these programs. In addition to the financial investment, training takes employees away from the normal course of business. But many organizations find that these programs are worth the cost. Here are a few of the key benefits of employee training programs
- Increased productivity and adherence to quality standards. A trained, knowledgeable workforce is essential to achieving high productivity, consistency and increased efficiency.
- Eliminating weaknesses before they become big problems. A solid employee training program helps employees strengthen their skills and identify weak areas that have the potential to disrupt productivity.
- Improved employee satisfaction, performance and retention. Training programs show employees that their companies value them and are willing to invest in their future, so employees feel appreciated. Plus, enhancing their knowledge base and skill set can boost their confidence. According to an Indeed survey, 39% of job seekers who left their job within the first six months said that more effective onboarding and training could have helped them stay longer.*
- Staying innovative and competitive. Having effective training and development programs keeps companies vibrant, creative and forward-thinking. They also are an excellent recruiting tool; people want to work at companies that promise to teach new ideas and offer opportunities for growth.
- Addressing gaps within the organization. A training program is an opportunity to solve gaps in skills. The best training programs will bring employees to an equal level and address the weakest within the organization. As a result, you’ll have a better-skilled staff and a more efficient work environment where employees can work more independently with minimum supervision.
- Creating a strong employer value proposition. With the introduction of employee training programs, you’re contributing to the organization’s employer value proposition (EVP) — i.e., an organization’s values, culture and other benefits it offers to employees to attract top talent. Providing training to employees is a good way of attracting new candidates, thus having a stronger group of potential candidates to choose from.
*Indeed survey, n=438
Examples of effective employee training methods
There are five common training methods typically used by employers. Here’s a breakdown of each method, including tips to help you choose which one is right for your employees.
Certified facilitators generally lead classroom-based training seminars or programs. Usually, classroom training is conducted with the aid of audiovisual materials, presentation slides, handouts and other materials.
This type of training is effective for large groups and ensures that groups of employees are trained on a subject at the same time. Many employees find it useful because they can ask questions of a facilitator on the spot.
Interactive training can be cost-effective and useful for training larger groups of employees. It’s particularly useful for educating remote workers or employees who work in different time zones or countries.
Interactive training employs games, quizzes, simulations and other techniques to confirm learning. It also allows employees to practice their skills or new knowledge in realistic work scenarios.
This employee training approach requires employees to learn as they perform their duties. On-the-job training is effective for new employees because they are immersed in their work environments. Employees learn from their coworkers and understand the work environment and customer needs quickly. This method is also beneficial for employers who need their employees to start work immediately.
Online training or e-learning is one of the most commonly employed and effective methods of training. Videos, webinars and ebooks can be made available online for employees to read, watch or listen on their own time. This type of employee training may be a good option if you’re looking for something with flexibility.
Types of employee training and development programs
Beyond training methods, there are also a number of other things to consider before developing your employee training program.
- Internal or outsourced training: You can choose to create a company training program or hire a professional to do the job.
- Classroom-style or workshop-style: For presentations and sessions that involve storytelling, classroom-style is often best. If you’re looking for brainstorming sessions and role-playing, then the workshop-style might be best.
- Individual or group training: Individual training can be tailored to an individual’s needs, while group training may be more cost-effective.
- In-house seminars vs. industry conferences: Using conferences requires more money, but you may not have enough space for in-house training.
- Skills-based training or management training: Training can revolve around hard skills, such as technology use, or soft skills, such as being a better supervisor.
- On-the-job training or external resources training: Training can be done while the employee is doing their job or through external sources, where the employee is given material such as e-learning tools to review at home.
The cost of employee training programs
According to a 2018 training industry report, the average training cost per employee is $1,096 for companies with 100-999 employees. The report also estimates that employers are offering an average of 46.7 hours of training per employee each year.
Besides the direct cost, it’s also important to factor in the additional costs of employee training programs. You might have to pay to rent space, such as a conference room to host the training program, unless you have the training done at your workplace. Additionally, once employees are trained, some may expect an increase in pay since they’ve picked up more skills.
However, while training may seem costly, studies suggest that the average cost to replace a salaried employee is around six to nine months’ salary. By implementing an effective training and development program, you can reduce your turnover rate and avoid paying even more to replace your staff.
How to create an effective employee training program
Planning is critical when setting up an effective employee training program. Here are a few steps you can take to plan for and implement a program to help ensure a solid return on your investment:
1. Perform an assessment
The first step is to assess any gaps in areas such as productivity, quality assurance and employee satisfaction. Conduct interviews with supervisors and workers or try sending out anonymous surveys. Find out if new employees are taking a long time to find their stride, or if bottlenecks are affecting your bottom line. For example, is your competition offering more effective training programs? Do employees feel that there are areas where they need more support?
Along with finding out your staff’s goals, open communication allows you to identify your employees’ preferred method of learning and gain further insight into potential gaps.
2. Identify the necessary competencies
A competency is a general term that refers to the groups of skills, knowledge, behaviors and abilities that are necessary for the success of the organization as a whole, as well as each employee in their specific position. A few examples of competencies are:
- Building effective teams
- Business acumen
- Customer service
Once you pinpoint the competencies that your company wants to develop, you can define the training needed to instill them in your employees.
3. Consult with experts
If you don’t have in-house employee training experts, consider consulting with outside professionals who can help you put together an employee training plan and produce appropriate materials. You could hire an instructional designer or work with a local public school or community college. You could also partner with a governmental agency that already provides the kind of training you’re looking for.
4. Develop a targeted training and development plan
Your training and development plan should specify learning objectives that aim to strengthen weak points. The plan should include an analysis of problem areas and how the program will address each one. It should also describe what the programs will entail (e.g., onsite classes vs. online training sessions), a budget that shows all expenses, what kind of awards or certifications trainees will receive after completing the program and how results will be measured.
5. Incorporate mentorship and coaching
Mentorship is a valuable addition to any training and development program because it encourages your team to build relationships with each other. This is critical, especially for employees that are less experienced. Here are a few tips to make sure your mentoring program is a success:
- When mentees and mentors have similar personalities, communication styles and approaches, it often results in a much more successful experience for both parties involved. It’s helpful to issue personality assessments so that you can match individuals based on their personality type.
- Make sure that both parties understand the purpose, responsibilities and expectations of the relationship.
- Match employees with a mentor that possesses enough experience to educate and challenge the mentee without overwhelming them.
After you have identified potential matches, create a mentoring agreement that clearly states the guidelines for the mentorship program so that you can clarify the expectations and formalize the relationship.
6. Conduct a test program
Once your plan is approved — but before you set it into motion — conduct a pilot training session to see what works well and which areas need tweaking. It’s much easier to identify and work out bugs at this stage than when the full program is underway. Consider having participants fill out a survey to evaluate what parts they feel worked well and where they feel improvements are needed.
7. Measure training results
Measuring the results of your employee training program is likely the most important step. Interview and survey supervisors and workers to find out whether the desired changes are coming to fruition. Are managers seeing improved behaviors? Are there any reductions in turnover over time as a result of implementing additional training? Are employees feeling more successful?
Ask participants to quantitatively express those changes. For example, are workers putting in less overtime due to improved productivity? Do the numbers tell you that productivity has increased in the way you had expected?
Companies of all sizes can benefit from implementing well thought out employee training and development programs. They help organizations remain innovative and competitive, while increasing employee motivation and satisfaction.