“Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.”
No one could have said it better than Anne M. Mulcahy, the former chairperson and chief executive of Xerox Corporation. Employees are the lifeblood of a company and investing in their training can prove to be a master stroke. Indeed, Gallup found that organizations with an engaged workforce outperform those without by up to 202 percent.
One of the best ways to boost employee engagement is to develop a staff training program. Once the program has been rolled out, it is essential to keep updating it so that it meets the organization’s changing needs. However, improving the program is not always an easy task, so we’ve put together a guide that will help you get it right.
1. Evaluate the Existing Program's Effectiveness
Of course, the first step to improving a training program is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the existing one. You could begin by interviewing employees to gather their views. Did the program significantly expand their knowledge and skill set? Did they enjoy attending workshops or receiving instruction from the trainers? How about what they didn’t like about the program? Secondly, evaluate the overall performance of the company. Did the operational or financial performance increase as expected? Other questions to ask include:
- Did the program meet all relevant legal requirements?
- Was the training delivered on time and on cost?
- Which training methods worked best?
- Were all the objectives achieved?
After you have all this information, embark on improving the program.
2. Develop New Objectives
Whether your existing program achieved some or all of its objectives, one thing is clear: new goals are needed. Just like when a business expands and ventures into new markets, its owners are always quick to set new targets. If the training program didn’t perform as expected, for instance, then you must focus on tweaking those objectives that were not met. For example, if the company expected employee performance to increase by 30 percent but only 5 percent was realized, you may want to adjust the expected performance to 15 percent. While it is important to aim higher, there is no harm in progressing step by step.
What if the training program met and exceeded the set objectives? Well, it is time to reach for new horizons. If the program only focused on skills improvement, consider expanding into areas such as stress management, conflict resolution, and cultural diversity. Be sure to effectively communicate new objectives to employees so that everyone is pulling in the right direction.
3. Heighten Engagement/Interactivity
An improved training program should seek to achieve more trainee engagement than its predecessor. How do you achieve this? According to UK-based LearnCore, making the program as relevant as possible to the workforce and offering incentives to employees who successfully complete the program can lead to more interactivity during training. Another way is to center training delivery on the interests or likes of the employees. For example, if the younger workforce in the organization is crazy for social media, consider delivering some part of the training via their favorite social networking platforms. This means that trainers could create a post on Facebook or a pin on Pinterest and let them engage with each other via comments.
How about letting the employees choose their trainers for sessions that require a hands-on approach? By doing so, you will be sending a silent message to the workforce: the trainers are there to help them get better, not poke holes at their incompetence. Even then, the senior or elderly employees may not be very comfortable receiving instruction from trainers who may be younger, so it makes sense to hire trainers from across the age divide.
Lastly, consider cutting the gap between junior employees, middle-level-management, and upper management. A program developed on the principles of organizational hierarchy only diminishes the little sense of unity that exists between the various classes of employees. As such, mix them up. Let executives receive some training with the junior workers. What’s more, the executives could double up as mentors and develop close working relationships with the younger workers. At the end of the day, this approach is more efficient and cost-effective.
4. What Are Competitors Doing?
Competing with another organization for customers and profits certainly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be comparing some notes. If your competitors are doing far well, it definitely means they have a more a productive workforce. Some companies do release reports on their staff training and development programs, so be sure to compare them with your own and ethically copy their best practices. As an example, if they rely on an external specialist company to manage their programs, you could also approach the same company to help with improving your program.
Closely tied to this point is trainer competence. Although it is advisable to maintain your trainers for as long as possible, you should ensure that they are competent enough. Should you identify that they are not up to task, don’t hesitate to ring the changes. This time you ought to get it right. Before hiring a skills coach, mentor or any other trainer, look at their track record. Are the companies they’ve previously worked for performing well? What is the employee retention level of these companies? Other questions to ask include:
- Does the trainer have vast experience in your industry?
- Does the trainer customize the curriculum where necessary?
- Does the training provider use a training approach (instructor-led or participant-centered) that suits your employees?
- Is the trainer focused on developing strong bonds with trainees?
5. Let Employees Put New Skills to Work
There is no point in having a staff training program if you can’t provide opportunities where employees can put their acquired knowledge and skills to test. An improved program should be clearly linked to updated job descriptions and work processes. This means that if supervisors or middle-level personnel are being trained to lead larger groups, they should be allowed to use their newly-acquired leadership skills. If the training is designed to boost the workers’ career progression, it shouldn’t take too long for them to receive a promotion to a higher rank or pay grade.
For this to happen, an organization must be ready to accommodate the outcomes of an improved training program.
Finally, staff training is a worthy investment that every organization, profit or nonprofit, should undertake. Whether you are a HR manager with sufficient expertise in employee development or a small business owner with little knowledge on this subject, improving a training program for your staff should not be a tough task. As long as you have an intricate understanding of the needs of both the organization and its workforce and you follow the strategies outlined above, there is no reason you should not successfully improve your training program.
Go ahead, improve your program, and let us know the kind of results you get…