“When experts are wrong, it’s often because they’re experts on an earlier version of the world.” – Paul Graham
Training practices that used to be relevant in 1999 are probably no longer applicable.
Herein lies the challenge that companies face around the world in the face of new technology and evolving working practices.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, it is crucial for companies to invest in training and development programs to keep their workforce up to date with new skills.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about training and development, tips on how to train your workforce effectively, and how visual communication can augment your training programs.
Table of Contents
Why Training and Development?
The era where investing in training was optional is over. Hiring competent employees is becoming increasingly challenging in today’s competitive market, characterized by a shortage of skills and talent.
Amidst this challenging period of hiring and retaining talent, organizations must provide continuous training for several reasons:
- Continuous training also provides a competitive edge – employees can stay ahead of industry advancements.
- High-quality training programs attract talent – 68% of employees claim that training and development is the most crucial policy when considering a job.
- New opportunities from training increase retention rate – Organizations that offered new career opportunities through training had a 34% increased retention rate compared to companies that had fewer opportunities for career growth
- New hires become more expensive – Companies now spend $1,207 on average to train each employee, an increase from $1,071 per employee as reported in 2021.
As important as training is, how it’s delivered is just as impactful. Now, training is all about creating comprehensive, personalized programs that align with the needs of modern learners.
How Training Has Changed Over Time
Imagine this scene.
A room full of employees, listening to a trainer present with a flip-chart or a PowerPoint presentation on a clunky projector that would flicker and may need to restart every 15 minutes.
It’s largely one-way comms, where trainees had to absorb information passively.
Customizing training to individual needs was daunting, and tracking learning progress was mostly done through paper-based assessments.
The main focus of instructor-led training was providing employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to use new software or processes and keep them up-to-date on compliance matters.
This setting was the norm before smartphones and virtual learning programs were widely available. Employees were given a handbook to refer to; their working gospel, so to speak.
Not to look down on employee handbooks. Creating comprehensive ones is essential to smooth onboarding and new employee training.
It’s just that this hands-off style of front-loaded training is now considered archaic, where employees would receive a bit of training when they first start and then be left to figure out the rest as they go.
Today, an employee development program is now a blend of in-person and digital learning. It might involve:
- Learning through bite-sized e-learning modules on their smartphone on the train
- Participating in a virtual reality-based training exercise
- Collaborating with global peers in an online workshop
Here are some of the key ways that the learning and development process has evolved:
- From Passive to Active Learning: Today’s training tools facilitate interactive, hands-on learning experiences, replacing passive lecture-based sessions.
- Personalization: Modern technology allows training programs to be tailored to individual needs and learning styles, resulting in more effective skill development.
- Tracking and Analytics: With digital tools, learning progress can be tracked in real-time, providing valuable insights for continuous improvement.
- Focus on continuous learning: Employee training is no longer a one-time event but rather an ongoing process.
- Emphasis on soft skills development: In addition to technical skills, there is now a greater emphasis on developing soft skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving.
The technology available today enables employees to pursue their own training and development initiatives for upskilling or reskilling purposes.
Benefits of Training and Development
For organizations, investing in training and development programs attract and retain top talent, as employees value organizations that invest in their professional growth.
Research has shown that organizations that provide higher budgets for developing employees have experienced these benefits:
- Organizations that adopt an open approach to leadership development perform 4.2 times better than those that restrict growth opportunities to management alone. (Global Leadership Forecast)
- 38% of CEOs that invest more in training and development are more confident in revenue growth. (PWC)
- An MIT study showed a 250% increase in productivity 8 months after the end of soft skills training. (MIT)
Let’s look deeper into some of the benefits that employees experience after completing an effective training program.
Increased productivity and efficiency
The most direct benefit that training has for employees is improved productivity.
Equipped with the knowledge to perform their job more effectively, their output is more significant and of higher quality.
Efficient employees can streamline processes and eliminate unnecessary steps, saving time and costs.
By promoting productivity and efficiency, organizations can not only improve their bottom line but also create a culture of excellence and innovation—all features of a thriving company.
It’s also worth mentioning that training can boost confidence in employees. As they learn new skills or approaches to their work, it becomes easier to adapt to new technologies and industry changes.
This not only enhances their skillset but also boosts their confidence and ability to perform their tasks effectively.
Improved morale and engagement
Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report showed that six in ten employees are quietly quitting. When the stress of the role gets too much, 68% of employed staff quit their job without any role lined up.
With the war for talent raging now more than ever, retaining employees is a constant struggle that HR departments face.
Increasing employee engagement is a possible solution to reduce staff turnover while improving morale.
By learning new skills through training, employees increase their chances of moving into other roles within the organization. Internal promotions can increase engagement by 3.5 times, according to a recent LinkedIn survey.
Enhanced job satisfaction
A growing body of research in recent years, with studies done across different countries, indicates that training leads to higher job satisfaction.
The reason for this is mainly two-fold:
- Firstly, when employees have access to opportunities for skill enhancement, they tend to perform better in their roles. As a result, improved performance leads to increased job satisfaction.
- Secondly, organizations that prioritize staff training and development are more likely to experience lower employee turnover rates.
When employees feel that their needs for professional growth are being met, they are more likely to stay with the company long-term.
Types of Training and Development Programs
The benefits of training are well-documented and researched by this point, as we’ve just seen.
What remains is how to deliver high-quality employee development programs to reap these benefits.
There are several types of training and development programs you can consider.
1. Classroom training
Classroom training, with its structured and interactive learning environment, provides employees with the opportunity to engage in collaborative discussions and gain knowledge from experienced instructors. This traditional method of employee training is still widely used in training and development programs by HR teams.
Due to the face-to-face setting, employees can receive immediate feedback and clarification to get a deeper understanding of the training material.
2. E-learning and online courses
Organizations increasingly turn to online training options to invest in their employees’ growth and success. E-learning provides a flexible and convenient way for staff to enhance their skills and knowledge at their own pace, anytime and anywhere.
Due to the easy accessibility of online learning, organizations can address skill gaps or retrain employees for specific job roles by subscribing to a wide range of courses. Thanks to newer technology, these courses can integrate interactive modules, quizzes, and assessments to ensure effective learning outcomes.
3. On-the-job training
It’s as expected – employees are immersed in real-life work scenarios, learning and acquiring new skills while actively participating in their daily tasks.
What you might not have realized is that 65% of HR managers choose this method when reskilling employees.
This highly interactive approach can be effective for technical training because employees can immediately apply what they’ve learned, reinforcing their knowledge and building confidence.
Here are three key benefits of this type of training:
- Practical Learning: Provides hands-on experience that you can’t replicate in a classroom setting.
- Immediate Feedback: Employees receive immediate feedback from supervisors or mentors. Directs can make adjustments and improve their performance in real-time.
- Tailored Development: Training can be customized to each employee’s specific needs and goals through a personalized training plan, ensuring that employees receive targeted skills training and development opportunities that align with their career aspirations.
Investing in on-the-job training is crucial for employee growth and development, ultimately contributing to the overall success of the organization.
4. Mentoring and coaching
Some employees prefer a more intimate training approach where they work closely with a mentor or receive 1-1 coaching.
Mentoring or coaching provides bespoke guidance tailored to the employee’s unique strengths and areas for growth.
For example, a junior marketing executive, under the mentorship of a seasoned professional, can learn from their mentor’s experience. This type of training allows you to glean insights not easily found in textbooks or mass lectures.
This symbiotic relationship builds critical soft skills like decision-making and problem-solving while fostering a supportive company culture.
If not already part of your current onboarding process, consider assigning a mentor to new hires so they can learn about the company culture quicker, as well as have someone to bounce ideas off.
5. Professional seminars and conferences
If you can’t find a mentor, you can still learn from some of the industry’s best minds at bigger-scale events.
By stepping outside the confines of their office and engaging directly with the larger industry community, employees can discover what are the current cutting-edge trends, technologies, and strategies.
For instance, an HR professional attending a conference on remote work strategies would not only learn about the latest tools and practices but also connect with peers facing similar challenges.
While the camaraderie and exchange of ideas is a major draw, there’s also a standout benefit of attending these types of events.
Attending conferences or seminars is a golden opportunity to build relationships with industry leaders and like-minded professionals.
It’s a chance to cultivate partnerships, learn from pioneers, and even spot career growth opportunities. Who knows, you might even find your mentor there!
5 Steps to design an effective training and development program
The power of a well-crafted employee training plan lies in its ability to communicate complex information in a digestible manner.
When creating a program, remember: One size doesn’t fit all.
Unique learning styles require different approaches. For example, trainees who process information better visually will benefit from visual aids, like infographics and videos.
It helps to vary your training materials. Monotonous slides and repetitive sessions can dull the learning experience.
To avoid losing trainees, incorporate diverse visual elements like charts, diagrams, animations, and real-life scenarios.
When strategically intertwined with text, visuals can transform a mundane training session into an engaging and effective learning experience.
This understanding will be the underpinning theme as we delve deeper into the specific steps of designing a visual communication-centric training plan.
With this said, let’s look at the first step to designing an effective training program: identifying the training needs.
Step 1: Identify training needs
For the training to succeed, take stock of the employees’ needs and ensure that training addresses actual issues.
Use both qualitative and quantitative methods to see what areas need more attention, such as:
- Performance reviews
For example, if a performance review shows that the sales team struggles with a new CRM tool, then bespoke training focusing on this tool can be developed.
You could use visual aids like video tutorials and process infographics can simplify the learning process, increasing CRM proficiency. In this case, you could also ask an expert or someone from the CRM’s support team to come in and provide some training on how to get the most out of the tool.
The key is to gather enough information so you have a strong understanding of the employee’s expectations of training.
Step 2: Set clear learning objectives
Building upon the identified needs, the next step is to create a roadmap that guides the entire process of creating an employee training program through well-defined goals.
This is about pinpointing what you want your employees to learn during training. It’s key because it provides direction for training and sets expectations for participants.
The timeless SMART goal framework is a good place to start. Creating objectives with SMART goals ensures they’re concrete and progress can be tracked.
Imagine your organization identified a need for better project management. An example of a clear learning objective could be: “By the end of Q4, all project team members will efficiently use our project management tool to track progress and deadlines, as demonstrated by a 30% decrease in missed milestones.”
Visual aids and different types of graphs like Gantt charts can assist in achieving this objective, making progress tracking more intuitive and visual.
Step 3: Create a well-structured and engaging training plan
By this point, you’ve laid the groundwork for the training plan. Now, it’s time to bring it all together.
To create an engaging plan, blend various forms of content delivery.
Mix up theory with practical examples, incorporate group discussions, and use visuals extensively to cater to different learning styles.
For instance, if you’re training employees on a complex product update, don’t just provide a product manual.
Supplement it with visual aids like:
- A video demonstration
- Interactive quizzes
- Infographic summaries.
This visual mixture makes learning more engaging and improves the grasp of nuanced product features.
Keep in mind that no two learning and development programs will be the same. You can select from a range of learning program templates to start with and adapt them to suit your employees’ needs.
Step 4: Customize training content based on audience
You have the outline of a well-structured and engaging training plan done, but what do you put in it?
You have to tailor your content to cater to your trainees’ specific needs, roles, or learning styles.
If you’re delivering a training program across the company or different departments, consider segmenting your audience and mapping their learning needs. This helps to tailor the content, delivery method, and even pace of the training.
For example, IT compliance training might need a different emphasis for software developers compared to the marketing team. Developers may benefit from detailed infographics explaining compliance processes, while marketers might prefer a video explaining the broader implications of non-compliance.
Customizing in this way ensures all learners engage with the most relevant content.
Step 5: Ensure proper implementation and evaluation
The final step is twofold; deliver the training, and review its effectiveness.
The key to a successful training and development program is for trainers to take ownership of providing support during and after the program.
Providing consistent communication during the rollout and establishing a robust feedback system increases employee engagement throughout the training.
You can schedule regular check-ins and surveys to gauge trainee understanding and satisfaction.
Remember to make the most of the evaluation results to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments for future programs.
Tips for Successful Training and Development
Crafting an impactful training and development program is more complex than it appears on the surface. Striking the balance between a comprehensive program and one that caters to unique individual needs can feel more like art than science.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, successful programs consider the unique aspects of each learner. They also employ strategies to encourage continuous learning and provide ongoing support to employees. It’s equally important to measure the effectiveness of these programs accurately.
Let’s dive into some tips to help you navigate these intricacies and create training and development programs that truly make a difference.
Tailoring to individual needs
Netflix is largely credited with changing consumer behavior from patiently watching our favorite series episode by episode on a weekly basis to binge-watching in a weekend. The company is also lauded for its tailored employee training.
Understanding that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, Netflix shared in their culture presentation that they encourage self-improvement. Employees decide on their own growth and career trajectory by learning new skills to progress in the way that suits them best.
Here’s how Randyl Marquis, Training and Development Specialist at the Radiological Society of North America, approaches her training sessions.
Though not every organization can adopt this strategy, enabling employees to take control of their own learning and development programs can enhance engagement and open up more career development opportunities
One way of doing so is by leveraging ‘Personal Development Plans’ (PDPs).
These progress reports exist as a running document where the employee and manager can keep track of their progress.
The strengths of PDPs lie in:
- Giving employees autonomy to take control of their own development
- Giving managers the chance to support their directs by outlining specific learning goals, actions, and timeframes
For instance, an employee could be aiming for a managerial role. As part of their PDP, the next milestones may include:
- Leadership training
- Mentoring from a senior leader
- Leading a larger project than they’ve been handling so far
This custom approach not only maximizes training relevance and engagement but also shows employees that the organization values their individual growth paths.
There are several learning and development templates you can adapt to use as a PDP.
Measuring effectiveness accurately
A classic misstep HR departments make is only measuring training effectiveness through attendance or satisfaction scores.
However, companies like Xerox, recognized for their exceptional training programs, go beyond. They measure business impact, demonstrating how training contributes to the bottom line.
What organizations like Xerox do well is to align with stakeholders as well as their employees.
By asking for input from and involving stakeholders early, it’s easier to decide how to measure training ROI that makes sense for trainees but also satisfies stakeholders.
Encouraging continuous learning
Remember Nokia, the Finnish giant in the mobile industry?
20 years ago, they dominated the mobile phone market with the iconic 8810 and 3310 models. Yet they failed to adapt and learn from the rapidly changing tech landscape, leading to their downfall.
With the release of the iPhone, touchscreen technology was quickly adopted and set the bar for consumer phones; the rest is history.
In the smartphone era, Nokia was left far behind, now only a familiar name to millennials.
This isn’t just a cautionary tale but a strong reason for employees to keep learning. They stay ahead of the curve, and your company avoids becoming the next Nokia.
One way to encourage continuous learning is to tie it to career advancement.
You could establish a system where acquiring new skills or knowledge can lead to role progression or additional benefits.
At Deloitte, they have ‘Deloitte University,’ state-of-the-art learning facilities focused on building the next generation of leaders. Employees can engage with various learning materials to advance their skills, such as digital learning hubs and roleplaying.
These corporate learning centers keep the workforce up-to-date and promote a culture of self-improvement and adaptability, integral to the company’s success.
Providing ongoing support
Companies like Google and IBM, renowned for their robust training programs, understand that learning is an ongoing process. This culture of continuous learning is a large part of why they’re leaders in their respective industries.
Providing continuous support not only helps your company remain competitive but it can also increase the retention rate at your company. 94% of employees have stated they would stay longer at a company that invested in their development.
While it may sound easy in theory, effective ongoing support is more than just scheduling regular training sessions or courses.
It’s recommended to create an environment that encourages employees to learn and continue developing.
For example, a software company might host weekly ‘Tech Talks’ where employees present on a topic of their choice, from emerging coding languages to innovative project management tools.
This supports continuous learning and builds a culture of curiosity and knowledge sharing.
The power of investing in your workforce
Employee development is important for the workforce to adapt to new challenges, from learning how to remain productive while hybrid working to providing new employees with the necessary leadership skills to thrive in their roles.
Effective training and development programs will go a long way toward talent development in your organization.
Remember that creating the best training content requires understanding your organization’s needs and setting clear learning objectives. Only then can you craft an engaging and well-structured plan.
Customization is vital, ensuring your training caters to the individual needs of your audience. But the work doesn’t stop at implementation – proper evaluation is crucial for continuous improvement.
Be vigilant in monitoring the effects of the training. From there, you can observe what the benefits of employee training are and if they’re as expected.
Keep tweaking your training methods as you learn what works and doesn’t quite land. In time, your training and development policy will be an attractive prospect that draws the best talent to your company.