A well-executed employee training program can promote a safer workplace, reduce turnover, improve customer experience and even increase your bottom line. But it’s not as simple as walking your new team members through the essentials of onboarding and compliance. You need to design, test and fine-tune a training plan that promotes comprehension, retention, and engagement.
How to develop an effective employee training program
The bare essentials of developing an effective employee training plan can be broken down as follows:
- Establish your plan and goals
- Determine your core training methods
- Develop effective training content
- Follow up with trainees
- Fine-tune your training content
1. Establish your plan & goals
The first thing you need to do is decide the goals of your training program. More specifically, what outcomes do you hope to achieve as a result of the training. Do you hope to improve speed and efficiency? Minimize customer disputes? Reduce workplace accidents? Impart a general commitment to workplace procedures and ethics?
Make a comprehensive list of training goals. The majority of these goals should add specific value to the organization, such as improved revenue, safety, turnover, or customer satisfaction. Ultimately, the success of your training program will depend on the quantifiable benefits to your business, so make the goals themselves quantifiable.
When developing the goals for your training program, you’ll also want to consider the following questions:
- Who is your target audience? Do the trainees already have some knowledge of the material being taught? Are they completely green? (Knowing this information will help you to tailor the content for maximum comprehension and retention)
- Which learning objectives do you need to teach? Safety procedures? System software? Customer service? (Make a comprehensive list of topics, each of which will warrant its own training module or modules)
- Which learning objectives have the highest level of urgency? (This will help you to prioritize your training materials).
- How much time can each participant realistically dedicate to training? (This will help you to determine the optimal length and depth of each training session)
- How much of your existing training material (if any) is relevant and usable? (By compiling and/or improving upon your best existing training materials, you can build your new training program more quickly)
Once you have all of this information, you can start organizing it. Build a graph or chart that lists your goals as primary topics. Then organize your learning objectives beneath their corresponding goals. This will allow you to accurately measure how your learning objectives are affecting your KPIs. You can organize the topics and goals in order of priority.
2. Determine your core training methods
There are numerous training methodologies: instructor-led training, one-on-one coaching, video training, technology-based training. In most cases, though, your training process will fall into one of three categories:
- Digital training (e.g. with a learning management system)
- In-person training (individual or group)
- Hybrid training (digital and in-person)
There are pros and cons to each method, but when you’re building an employee training program, you’ll likely need to leverage an LMS as part of the process. This will help you deliver a consistent learning experience across the scale of your organization and provide detailed analytics you can use to measure the success of your program. That’s part of the reason why 84% of U.S. companies use an LMS.
A great LMS blends digital and hands-on learning. This is why selecting a flexible, mobile-first platform that’s easy to use is so important in today’s workplace. For example, Axonify can be accessed on any internet-capable device, including point of sale systems, tablets, handheld scanners, and personal smartphones. This enables organizations to deliver training programs that are easy to access, no matter where an employee does their work.
3. Develop effective training content
Once you have a plan and right-fit technology in place for your employee development program, the next step is to build your content. You can approach this step in a few different ways.
Update your existing training materials
The easiest way to start populating your program with valuable content is to look at the materials you already have—perhaps from past training programs. If you have particularly effective or engaging materials, you may be able to use them as-is. If you have materials that are outdated or otherwise lacking, you may be able to improve or expand them.
Invest in off-the-shelf (OTS) content
There’s no reason to recreate the wheel when great content on common, durable skills is already available from a variety of training providers. For example, the Axonify Content Marketplace includes more than 600 topics that span a range of industries and disciplines, including retail, grocery, finance, safety, leadership, compliance, inclusion, and more. However, the purpose of introducing OTS content isn’t just to offer as much content as possible. It allows you to accelerate your program development using materials that have already proven successful while you focus your limited design resources on topics that are unique to your business.
Create new training materials
Finally, you can create your own new materials from scratch. Just remember your topics, priorities, and target audience, and craft your content accordingly. Keep your training materials short to maximize comprehension, and include quizzes and surveys so that you can track the overall success of your program. Training materials should be developed by experts in each field. For instance, you might task an HR director with developing content related to company policies and culture, and you might have a frontline supervisor develop training materials related to customer support.
4. Follow up with trainees
You should involve your audience in the program development process. After all, who knows more about the knowledge and skill needed to do a good job than the people who do the job every day? Pay special attention to how they engage with the training materials. How much time do they spend on training? What are their reactions? Their quiz scores? Do they acquire the necessary skills? And more importantly, do they apply these new skills on the job? Note all of these details.
This is where an LMS becomes especially beneficial, as the system helps you track a range of data points to determine the effectiveness of your program. For instance, Axonify highlights your top performers and identifies employees who need extra help to reach their goals. Participants can also complete surveys and share their thoughts on different materials. Axonify analyzes data from across the employee experience, including knowledge growth, behavior change, and business results, to determine if your content is or is not working as intended. All of this information can be reviewed on interactive dashboards or exported into custom reports.
In addition to soliciting subjective feedback, you’ll also want to observe trainees directly to determine the extent to which your materials are promoting the desired behaviors. Are employees actually absorbing the material and applying it in an actionable way? Using your reports, surveys, and real-world observations, determine where your training materials can be improved.
5. Fine-tune your training content
Once you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your training program, you must make the necessary adjustments. This isn’t a one-time step but a continual process that you should return to on a regular basis.
When improving your training materials, keep the following in mind:
- Pay attention to employees’ feedback about what they struggle with or don’t understand. Modify your materials accordingly.
- Take note of how employees respond to assessment questions. If a question is consistently answered incorrectly, the topic may require additional clarification. However, if a question is answered correctly 100% of the time, it may be too simple and not worth including.
- Keep a close eye on your reports, and address any noteworthy metrics. For instance, if a particular lesson has a high drop-off rate, this may indicate that it needs to be broken up into shorter lessons.
Your training materials don’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. As long as you make gradual improvements over time, you’ll be well on your way to a rock-solid program.
Tips for maintaining an effective training program
As you develop and improve your training program, there are a few other things you can do to ensure ongoing success.
- Designate a program manager. This may be a learning and development (L&D) manager, training coordinator, or other specialists. If you have a large team and a lot of training materials, you’ll need a skilled, dedicated person (or people) overseeing the program.
- Incorporate gamification into your program. If you want to ensure maximum engagement and participation, use an employee development system that offers gamified learning. According to the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, gamification can improve retention by 12.23% and overall performance by 7.03%. Axonify offers gamified learning complete with badges, points, leaderboards, rewards, and more.
- Emphasize training reinforcement. Don’t build a training program that uses one-time lessons. This type of learning is quickly forgotten. Instead, use microlearning activities to reinforce key knowledge and make sure people remember what they learned when they need to apply it.
Finally, make sure that all of your training and development materials are relevant, useful, and engaging. As long as you do that, you’ll have a significant advantage over the majority of employee development programs out there.