I’ve never had the experience of working full time for an organization that did employee training particularly well. I think I know why. In today’s world, corporate loyalty is a thing of the past, and some people switch jobs more frequently than they change their wardrobe. Many organizations probably feel uncomfortable about spending buckets of time and resources helping employees to develop important transferable skills, only to see them contribute their newfound knowledge to a competitor’s bottom line.
Fortunately, most organizations are starting to realize the inherent value of having a culture focused on learning, and as a leader, you might even feel pressure from above to get an effective program up and running right away. And though your natural instinct might be to dive into planning, you want your employee training decisions to be informed by knowledge of your organization’s needs. Otherwise, you could end up regretting your investment. Here are some basic steps to help you assess your current environment and make the most of your training dollars.
Step One: Analyze Your Situation
Too often, businesses opt for too little, too late when it comes to employee training, leaving their people with incomplete or inappropriate solutions. You can prevent this from happening by zeroing in on the most critical questions about your business processes and your employees’ skill acquisition – right at the start.
- Are you making any major changes in your business processes? How do those changes impact your team members’ job functions?
- How do your team members currently learn? Do they have the skills they need to do their jobs?
- What training activities and materials currently exist?
- Are there any business needs that are not being met? How can you better align training to those needs?
Step Two: Evaluate the Training in Place
Even if your company or group hasn’t formalized team member training, you probably have some relevant materials developed already. Existing background documents relevant to the training subject should be incorporated into any and all new training plans.
Step Three: Identify Gaps
You’ll want to inventory existing internal resources to see who and what you’ll be able to leverage for any new training initiatives. By identifying what your organization can and cannot provide, you’ll know exactly what you need when looking for assistance. For example, if you think you might want to utilize e-learning, you could first check with your IT team to see if it could develop a solution in-house. If this won’t work, tap those team members to help you determine project requirements for an outside vendor.
Step Four: Assess Your Options
The larger your organization, the more likely it is that you will be able to take advantage of internal resources. If you do decide to look outside, consider the following questions before inking a deal with a solution provider:
- Does this company or individual have a proven track record of satisfied customers?
- Will they work well with your business culture?
- Will they be able to fill in all the gaps you have identified?
- Can they provide you with multiple training options?
Formal Course Design
Once you’ve assessed your training needs, you’ll be ready to start planning your implementation. When you need to train all of your team members – whether on a specialized software program or a century’s worth of company history – a formal course design may be the way to go. Training provider Intulogy compares this exercise to building a new house, for which you would want to make sure that the architect provides the builder with a clear set of blueprints that creates your dream home. Based on your training needs and goals as identified in the needs analysis, you might follow Intulogy’s instructional design steps to develop your course:
Step One: Determine the Entry Behaviors of Participants
It’s important to consider what your team members already know and how they will approach the material, so you’ll need to identify the skills, knowledge, and attitudes an average participant can be expected to possess at the beginning of the course.
Step Two: Set Performance and Learning Objectives
Then, you’ll want to assess what skills, knowledge and attitudes your team members need to achieve through the course. Write learning objectives that define a task, a context, or a situation, and a measure of success. Some examples include:
- The supervisor can conduct annual performance reviews, based on company guidelines.
- The technician can use current procedures for nightly backup of system records.
- The sales representative can accurately enter all fields in the new customer profile within five minutes.
The course’s goals are critical to its success. In order to ensure that your team members really understand and can apply a concept, your learning objectives must lead to actions that you can observe and measure.
Step Three: Build the Training Outline
Individual training steps should take your participants from their entry behaviors to the completion of the learning objectives, with each step building upon the previous steps.
Step Four: Create Performance Assessments
Consider how an instructor or supervisor can determine whether the participant has met the learning objective. A learner may be asked to demonstrate a skill, identify the correct action, or apply the knowledge.
Step Five: Select Program Format
Evaluate the possible methods of training delivery, including classroom-style or online.
Both individuals and organizations benefit from well-defined training and growth plans. Having appropriate processes in place to develop people in the right way increases competitive ability and motivation. The positive reputation derived from such an approach also increases the potential to recruit capable people to your team.