How to Make Your Employee Training More Effective

July 7, 2016

If you were to ask ten members of your team if your employee training has improved their performance, how many would say yes? Six, maybe seven?

According to a 2010 survey by McKinsey & Co., the number would be about three. One-quarter of respondents found that training actually improved employees’ performance.

That’s not great.

So how do you make your training program more effective?

There’s a lot of research out there that shows the impressive ROI of an employee training program. Here are two examples:

  • Companies that offer comprehensive training have 218 percent higher income-per-employee than those with less comprehensive training and enjoy a 24 percent higher profit margin than those who spend less on training.
  • Companies on the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” offered 66.5 hours of training annually for salaried employees and 53 hours of training for hourly employees, with close to 70 percent of those hours devoted to employees’ current roles and nearly 40 percent focused on growth and development.

In essence, employee training makes for happier, better employees, which overall makes your organization more efficient. But only if it is legitimately improving your people.

So consider, is assigning employee training just another checkbox on your list? If you are really aiming for employee development of skills, then how do you know if it’s actually working? And more importantly, if one of the fundamental tenets of assigning training is for employee satisfaction and development, then...how do they really know they are learning?

To support an efficient, contented and confident workforce producing at high levels, remember the acronym F.A.S.T.:

1. Feedback

Feedback is critical to the acquisition of knowledge, whether in the form of real time human interaction or a simple signal that says “Yes, you got it!”.

For example, say you’re learning to play the guitar. You strum a chord that you believe is the G chord, according to online guitar tablature. You could simply move on at that point and determine that you have learned the chord; however, if given an opportunity to hear what the G chord should actually sound like, you can then compare the two sounds and determine if it was correct or not.

Quizzes and scenario-based questions can help ensure that you have successfully absorbed the key terms and ideas before moving onto the next section of new knowledge. They can also help you minimize cognitive overload and maximize usability (“brain power”) by breaking material up into smaller modules.

Active learners utilize feedback, which dramatically increases their retention of knowledge. Be sure to look for feedback mechanisms in the training resources you have chosen, or construct opportunities for feedback that reflect your unique organizational needs.

2. Application

Following closely on the heels of the importance of feedback is the actual application of knowledge. Learners are able to root information into their long-term memory by accessing that information frequently, in new and different ways. In short, learners need to put new information to use!

Do your training resources prompt users to test concepts and their understandings within real world experiences? Do they challenge learners to actually utilize the information they have learned, and then provide guidance by experts on the best solutions to prescribed problems?

3. Structure

Your organization spends hours setting performance goals, acquiring data, measuring against standards and constructing meticulous calculations to ensure a profitable result. Why should anything be different for the investment you are putting into your employees?

Create a learning schedule. Prioritize tasks. Set measurable goals within a master plan. Assess progress along the way against standards.

Use all the data you have at your disposal. Do you have access to how many times your employees accessed their training resources, connected with their peers, or re-took their quizzes? The more they’re engaging with the content and learning supports, the more active they are as learners and the greater their performance will improve!

As an added structural component, consider establishing a cohort of learners who can engage in real-time interactions within a synchronous learning environment, making the learning more engaging and sticky than by learning in isolation. Encourage them to engage in the art of inquiry. Keep your team active in their learning process, where quick responses from team members offer both feedback and application possibilities, and minimizes their chances of repeating mistakes in the future.

4. Tools

Not all e-learning courses are made alike. Consider the tools that you are providing to your learners for their training experience. Do they include interactive, visually stimulating experiences? Did subject matter experts with a background in education and/or instructional design create them? 

Are you offering a variety of tools (online training, reading materials, in-person presentations, etc.) to optimize your content and provide for continuous learning after formal training? 

Hope so. Because, as the numbers show, there are tremendous benefits to employee training – so long as it's done right.

*Image by Death to the Stock Photo

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