How to Use Training Effectively in Your Business
Training can take a workforce from good to great. We look at how you can identify where your firm needs training and your different options
Training is essential if you are to get the most out of your employees; it can make an average or below-par worker much more effective, and can push high achievers to the limits of their potential. Ongoing training is also important in sustaining your business as a whole. Fail to implement training when it is needed and it can start to undermine your business.
From getting employees to understand the ins and outs of an IT system to increasing sales, training is potentially useful in countless areas. This article will provide you with a thorough guide to maximise the effectiveness of training in your business; learn how to identify your needs, decide on objectives, create a specific programme and much more here.
How do I figure out my business’ training needs?
Focusing on the areas where training will bring the best results will be the first step to maximising its effectiveness. When looking to identify critical areas, ask yourself if you’re experiencing problems in a particular area. Try and identify which parts of your business are holding you back – simply asking your employees’ opinions is a good place to start.
Targeted training can often present the solution to these problems. In particular, look at if there is an actual or potential skills shortage, or are you receiving complaints from customers, or if a particular part of your business (i.e. sales or production) is not pulling its weight.
Another key consideration to look into before deciding upon what training initiative to introduce is whether your business is changing in some way, as staff will often need training to adjust to the change. This could be because of a number of new introductions to the company such as a new product or service, new software or IT equipment that people need training in, or if you need to clarify how staff should use the internet or email.
Another reason your employees could need training is if there is a need to safeguard a crucial area of your business as training can provide you with a backup option if things go wrong. Analyse if your business relies on just one person to complete a crucial operation and if you have a backup option in case they get sick or leave. Also check if employees know how to navigate laws like the Data Protection Act, if not then this could be a key place to start in order to protect your business as well as increase its efficiency.
How do I set training objectives for my employees?
After identifying the areas which could benefit from training, try and crystallise what needs to be done in a set of concrete training objectives.
Start off by keeping objectives SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-limited) as this will keep training relevant and focused, and will greatly increase the chances of it succeeding. Also keep training goals in line with business goals. Always consider the end goal of the training, and whether the objective will ultimately benefit your business.
Finally, stay focused on standards so that your training concentrates on employees reaching a specified standard of performance. Set the standard based on how a good, experienced employee completes the task. Additionally, try and break standards down into the distinct components of knowledge, skills and attitude.
How do I draw up a training plan for my business?
Creating a good training plan is crucial to achieving the outcomes you want. Start by drawing up a training brief, focusing on practical objectives and make sure training objectives are firmly grounded in reality – there is no point in an employee learning the theory of something if they have no idea of how to apply it in practice. An example might be ‘10 queries a press officer should be able to handle’.
The programme should identify the different stages of the programme (signed and dated as the employee progresses through them), where it will take place, the content of the course, the method of teaching, who the trainer will be and the cost of each stage.
How do I get employees committed to training?
Training will be vastly more effective if the people being trained are engaged with and committed to the process. To get employees committed to the training process, make sure to explain the need for training and give staff an idea of the ultimate goal. If employees understand why they are being trained and how this benefits them and the business, they are far more likely to be on board.
Make sure to train keen employees first. If you’ve already won over an employee or group of employees, put them through the process first so they can espouse its benefits to the rest of the group. Also, before starting ask employees how training could improve their productivity as often it will be the workers themselves who know where training could benefit them the most. Finally, find out how members of staff prefer to learn as some people prefer face-to-face learning, whilst others prefer studying alone. Find this out and you can target your training accordingly.
Throughout training use Personal Development Plans (PDPs), these represent a structured way of engaging the employee, finding out their goals and training needs and individually agreeing on a way forward.
What are my in-house training options?
Whether you realise it or not, you will always train employees in one way or another when they join your business, or when they take on a new role.
On-the-job training is the most common and informal method of training employees. Your main challenge here is selecting a suitable trainer to conduct the process; they should be a shining example of how to do things right in your business, as well as technically able to carry out all the tasks they are teaching. A poor attitude or casual attitude to quality from the trainer will simply be passed on.
Job shadowing is another way to install in-house training in your business. This simply involves one employee showing another how the job is done by doing it themselves. This is an especially effective method of training new employees, which minimises expense and disruption.
Finally mentoring is especially useful if you recruit or promote someone into a senior role. The mentor can come from within or outside your business, but they should normally be outside the employee’s immediate team, as there needs to be honest and open communication between mentor and pupil.
How can my business benefit from external training and what forms are available?
There are a couple of situations where external training might be more useful such as when you need specialist knowledge and when you need to bring employees up to speed on matters outside your business’ competence, such as health and safety. An external expert may also be good if you need a fresh approach as they will bring an objective view of how your business operates and might be able to suggest innovative ways of doing things.
Different types of external training include lectures and conferences, seminars and workshops work for different group sizes and involvement level – for instance a lecture works best for big groups as it tends to be cheaper but a workshop can give a more in-depth experience and therefore is a better option for small groups.
Another form of external training is e-learning, whereby employees are assessed centrally using a web-based course. This delivers a number of benefits as it’s cost-effective, useful for compliance-based training (e.g. health and safety), and easy to monitor. Also trainees can usually go at their own pace and complete their course anywhere. Finally e-learning programmes tend to have a wide range of approaches and delivery options.
How can I make sure that training was worth the investment?
You need to monitor the impact of training carefully, ensuring it achieved the objectives set out in your written training brief. To find out if training has worked, make sure to review the impact of training on performance.
One way to do this is through regular performance appraisals to accurately measure the effectiveness of training and by asking your employees to review their own experience. Use questionnaires and assessment forms to canvass opinion on the process, asking whether they felt the training was valuable. Be aware that what someone sees as a good training experience might not actually affect the performance of your business.
Finally make sure to monitor the performance of your business following training. Look for improvements in key performance indicators as well as for tangible improvements in areas such as quality of goods, customer satisfaction and innovation.