For businesses, employee training plays a significant role in developing talent and helping people realize their full potential. But many companies don’t actually know if they’re making the most out of their training programs. Are you maximizing this time?

Why Employee Training Really Matters

What comes to mind when you think about the concept of employee training? Do you picture a stale conference room with a geezer hired by corporate to deliver a lifeless video presentation of the company’s archaic core values? Or maybe you have this image of HR packets and pamphlets that new hires toss in a drawer and never see again.

Whatever the case may be, most business leaders don’t view employee training in a positive light. As such, these programs fall flat, and employees don’t receive the necessary information and tools that they need to thrive.

It’s time that we stop viewing employee training as some mandated program that must be completed to check off a box and move on. Instead, it needs to be looked at as a critical piece to the employee development puzzle.

Here are a few specific reasons why employee training really does matter: 

  • Health and safety.

    On a practical level, many organizations need employee training programs in place to promote proper health and safety of employees. This is especially true in industrial, manufacturing, construction, science, and healthcare settings where there’s close interaction with heavy machinery and/or potentially dangerous substances.
    Employees without training in how to handle specific actions and protocols are far less productive than those who are educated on how to carry out specific tasks. Multiplied across dozens or hundreds of employees, these slight increases in productivity multiply to yield significant returns. 

  • Employee satisfaction.

    When employees feel like they’re invested in and cared for, they’re far more likely to be satisfied in their day-to-day jobs. This leads to a healthier corporate culture and less turnover (which saves time, money, and HR resources).

  • Customer satisfaction.

    It’s not just employees who are more satisfied with training – it’s also customers. Well-trained employees are able to better serve customers and deliver positive experiences that make them happy. 

  • Legal protection.

    Every business is subject to certain legal and regulatory requirements – albeit, some more than others. Employee training not only prepares employees to follow these rules, but it also establishes a certain duty of care on the company’s part should there be problems down the road. This may lessen the sting of a lawsuit or fine, should a situation arise in which penalties are assessed. 

These are just a handful of reasons why employee training matters. If you dig in and explore the intricacies of training and the psychological/emotional impact it has on employees, it becomes overwhelmingly evident that this isn’t a responsibility that organizations can afford to take lightly. It needs to be part of your approach to employee development – and it needs to be properly optimized to generate a meaningful return.

6 Ways to Make Employee Training Worth Your Time 

Employee training is an investment – and it must be treated as such. As with any investment that commands time, money, and physical energy, you want to make sure it’s worth it. You need a positive return to justify the upfront costs.

Here are some ways you ensure your time isn’t coming back empty-handed:

  1. Set the Right Objectives 

From the very beginning, you need to establish clear, precise training objectives that set you up for success. Vague, generic objectives won’t do any good.

Clear objectives do a couple of things for you. First off, they establish direction for your training and ensure you stay on track. They give you something to shoot for, as opposed to mindlessly implementing some training initiatives and hoping they lead you to a good conclusion.

Secondly, objectives give you something to measure against on the back end. When you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you can pretty easily determine how the actual results stack up against the intended results.

  1. Establish Effective Training Sessions 

Training sessions should be viewed like meetings. If you want to maximize the time you have, it’s important that you learn how to schedule productive meetings. Each gathering should have a clear plan with specific micro objectives that help you reach your macro objectives (i.e., larger training goals).

Structure your training sessions/meetings with maximum impact in mind. Employees won’t pay attention to a 90-minute lecture. They will, however, engage with a 20-minute hands-on exercise that’s followed by a short break. Segment the time accordingly and focus on keeping employees engaged. It’s better to have a brief moment of clarity and engagement than an hour of disengaged babbling.

  1. Gather Feedback 

It’s easy to become misguided about whether training is working. You may think that because you’re getting through all of the sessions and checking off boxes on the syllabus, that it’s going well. However, this doesn’t really tell you much. We can all remember sitting in a high school or college classroom and daydreaming until the bell rang. If you’re judging your training program’s efficacy on attendance, you’re subject to the same harsh reality.

It’s important to gather feedback on how your training programs are doing – before, during, and after. The best way to do this is to develop quizzes that are specifically designed to evaluate the progress that’s being made. Align them with your training objectives and study the data. What does it tell you? Are you succeeding, or is the training a waste of your time?

Based on the feedback you gather, you can tweak your training and zero in on the methods that yield the highest ROI. As a result, everyone from the employees to the customers to the organization as a whole will benefit. 

  1. Use a Variety of Training Mediums 

Everyone processes information and learns differently – including your employees. There are four predominant learning styles:

  • People with this learning style do their best when they listen to the content being taught. Voice recordings and lectures are fine for these folks.
  • Many people are visual learners, which means they understand and retain information much better when it’s presented to them in a mode that they can see. Graphics, videos, and slides work best.
  • Some employees will fall on the kinesthetic side of learning, which means they prefer to learn via experience. Hands-on exercises and simulations work best for these individuals.
  • While not nearly as common as the other three learning styles, some individuals take information better through the written word. Handbooks and manuals are ideal for these people. 

In order to achieve your training objectives, you’ll need to account for multiple learning styles. This likely means using a variety of training mediums – including classroom learning, lectures, workbooks, hands-on, video, etc. 

  1. Leave Space for Implementation

There’s only so much training you can subject an employee to until they need to go out and implement what they’ve learned. Don’t spend so much time on imparting knowledge that you fail to leave space for employees to use the knowledge they’ve accumulated. It’s through real-world experience that training makes sense. 

  1. Consider Outsourcing 

If all of this sounds intimidating and time-consuming to you, don’t worry. It isn’t critical that you handle training on your own. There are plenty of organizations – including most Fortune 100 businesses – that outsource training to companies that specialize in corporate training. You can, too.

The key when outsourcing is to make sure you don’t adopt a totally hands-off approach. You still need to be involved in order to be sure that the training aligns with your objectives and corporate values. Otherwise, your results will be skewed. 

Changing Corporate Culture

More often than not, business leaders try to initiate sudden and stark changes within their organizations in hopes of changing corporate culture and setting the company on a new path.

“But culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of ‘how things are done around here,’” entrepreneur Bryan Walker writes for Harvard Business Review. “Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can’t dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.”

You aren’t going to revamp your employee training program in one fell swoop. In fact, if you try an aggressive rollout and attempt to make significant changes within a few days, you’ll see some major kickback.

Stop thinking in terms of mandates and begin fostering cultural change at the core – i.e., in the hearts and habits of your people. If you can change the way individuals view your organization and its processes, you’ll have a chance to initiate tangible and lasting change. Whether it’s an employee training program or a brand new management style, cultural change doesn’t happen via a mandate. It only happens when people take action and move toward a specific goal.

If you confront your employee training program with this approach, you’ll be far likelier to generate positive momentum that yields lasting change (and a positive ROI).