Developing talent is a crucial component in the bag of tricks you use to stay ahead of the competition and increase your business’s success.
Ideally, learning and development should be a win-win. They can help your employees be more productive and streamline your processes, resulting in a better bottom line. Training also shows employees you value them enough to invest in their development, fostering a sense of validation that can translate into higher levels of satisfaction and retention.
But training comes at a price. First, there’s the cost for the session itself, which may include registration or consulting fees, travel and lodging. Then you have to consider the indirect costs that come from taking employees away from their regular jobs, which can upset productivity and the normal flow of business.
To help you get past the sticker shock of direct and indirect costs associated with employee development, look at it as an investment in your business and your employees. Do your due diligence to get your money’s worth, maximize your return and ensure your employees (and your business) benefit from the experience. The following steps provide a blueprint of what to do before, during and after employee training.
Evaluate each opportunity and choose wisely
Beware of training for training’s sake. Do not blindly throw training at your employees, just so you can check off a box on their annual review. It should have quantifiable value.
What is your vision for your organization? Your key initiatives for this year? What about individual employees’ career goals? When presented with a professional development opportunity, cast an analytical eye. Make sure the content and performance outcomes align with your organizational goals and your employees’ development plans.
Communicate the “what” and “why”
Often, employees don’t know why they’re taking training. They may not even be aware there is a need. Is there a gap in their skill set, or do they need to learn about a new process or procedure? Help them see the bigger picture by telling them what you want them to learn – and why it is important.
Explain how the training relates to their jobs and why you think it will help them and the organization be more successful. Your employees will appreciate your candor and will likely be more engaged as a result.
Establish performance outcomes
How will what they learn help employees be more effective in their roles or help them accomplish their career goals? Guide them in establishing specific, clear outcomes for the training and encourage them to write them down. It doesn’t matter if they’re formally documented or jotted in a notebook. Studies show that the simple act of writing out goals and objectives increases the likelihood they will be achieved.
Plan ahead to keep work on track
Expect the flow of the usual work routine to be affected when employees are away. Minimize interruptions to workflow by arranging back-up support far enough in advance that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute because of unanticipated scheduling conflicts. Being proactive helps ensure you don’t overload back-up staff. It also allows employees being trained to focus on what they’re learning, rather than worrying about work not getting done.
Model the behavior you desire
It’s not uncommon for managers and employees to attend training together in certain scenarios. For example, when an organization is implementing a new process or procedure company-wide that is not job-specific, there may be no compelling reason to deliver training to the two groups separately. If you or another leader attend the same session with your employees, be engaged and set an example of the behaviors you expect. Respond to questions and participate.
Make sure support staff have what they need
Individuals tasked with covering for their peers in training may experience challenges, especially if they are not as experienced in the role as their counterparts. Whether you’ve shuffled another employee or hired a temporary worker to fill in, it’s a good idea to check in with them regularly. This will help you address any issues that may arise before they become a bigger problem.
Obtain an overview of the session and key outcomes
If you are not attending the training yourself, ask the facilitator for an overview of the session and expected performance outcomes. By reviewing this information, you will get a better feel for the overall experience. It can also help you identify opportunities for application on the job to discuss with your employees after the session. You want a solid understanding of what employees learned and how it can be applied on the job.
Meet with attendees for feedback
Once the training is complete, set aside time with employees who attended to discuss their experience and what they learned. Try to schedule this as soon after the session as possible so content is still fresh on their minds.
Do they feel the learning was valuable? What worked well and what could be better? This is the perfect time to discuss the desired performance outcomes and how they might be measured.
Put it into practice
For years, conventional wisdom has favored the 70:20:10 rule for learning in the workplace: 70% on the job, 20% from others and 10% from formal training opportunities. Although a recent survey reveals that the majority of leaders consider the ideal ratio more like 52:27:21, the data still suggests that a combination of all three modalities is the best strategy to achieve the highest-quality development.
So, yes, training is important. No leader would deny that. But in order for it to truly be effective, employees must be able to incorporate newly acquired knowledge and skills into their day-to-day jobs. Ask them to define how they will apply what they learned to their current role. If the training wasn’t company-wide, invite them to share what they learned with their team or department. For example, they could provide a mini-presentation or summary of the content at an upcoming team or department meeting.
Hold employees accountable and follow up regularly
Remember those goals and objectives mentioned earlier? It’s important to revisit them at regular intervals once training is completed. This will help ensure that employees are taking the appropriate action steps and provide you with an opportunity to re-direct as needed.
Effective training comes down to execution. When your employees are able to successfully incorporate new concepts and expertise into your culture, it has the power to impact your organization exponentially.
Want to learn more ways to build a stronger, more engaged workforce? Download our free magazine, The Insperity Guide to Employee Engagement.