The Secret Sauce to a Thriving Business: Think Employee Development & Training

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Follow these 7 tips for better employee development

Employee Development & Training

Sure, you onboard and train new employees, right? But do you have a plan in place for developing and training your employees on an on-going basis?

Here’s what you need to think about when creating an employee development strategy.

1. Make it fun. When people hear the word “training” or “class,” it’s easy for them to have flashbacks to ninth grade English. Yes, you want your training to be educational, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun as well. Start by having fun with the name itself (e.g. “Employee Awesomesauce Seminars” or “Camp Smartypants”) and work some fun into the curriculum itself by using creative examples when demonstrating a concept and encouraging interesting experiments. Your employees will appreciate your efforts and begin to look forward to periodic trainings instead of dreading them.

2. Make it regular. The way to get employees mentally prepared for employee training is by making it part of their workday routine. If they know every quarter, for example, there will be weeklong training, then they can create their schedule accordingly (and not feel overwhelmed or over-burdened, which can be the case if it’s something last minute).

Providing regular training has another important benefit as well: it sends a message to your employees that your organization values them enough to invest in them. It’s a subtle message, but it can go a long way in boosting employee morale.

3. Make it incentive-driven. If your trainings are optional, consider offering incentives for participation, like a credit system that people can cash in for something worthwhile, such as an extra personal day. Encourage employees to take part in training outside of the organization as well (at industry related conferences, for example) by picking up some (if not all) of the expenses.

4. Make it accessible. We all operate within a busy 24/7 world. You might have employees who are genuinely interested in a program you’re offering, but, for whatever reason, the timing just doesn’t jive with their schedules. Or maybe you have some employees who telecommute, and they find it challenging to attend in-person training sessions for one reason or another. It’s important to be mindful of your employees’ needs.

Consider providing different types of training: some in-person, some online, some during the workday, and some after hours. Consider making all training available after the fact by recording every session and posting it to your company intranet. This gives your training more mileage since you can create a library that people can easily access (perfect for new employees).

It’s also important to be aware that not everyone learns in the same way. Some people respond to text, other people prefer video tutorials, and still others like a combination approach. Some people learn best in groups and others respond well to one-to-one coaching. Provide a variety of options that achieve the same goals. Here’s a short video that defines learning styles–it’s worth watching:

Notice that we followed our own advice by including a video that emphasizes this point. In case someone doesn’t read all the text in this article, or only skims it, the video is inviting enough that it will likely capture the interest of those who prefer getting information in this format.

5. Make it relevant. Your programs must be tied back to something specific, such as the organization’s goals. Don’t offer training in a certain area just because it sounds good or because you simply want to have something to offer. Make it relevant to your employees’ needs. You’ll likely need to customize some training based on departments. For example, the instruction that your HR people need will be different from the training you provide to your customer service reps. Yes, you will have training or employee development that you can offer to your whole organization, but don’t be afraid to come up with specific programs and courses for each department.

6. Make it mentoring. One of the most powerful things an organization can offer its employees is a mentoring program. Employee mentoring provides many benefits to both mentees and mentors, including increased self-confidence and improved interpersonal skills. Read more about what’s involved in starting a mentoring program in this article we wrote.

7. Make it something you work on regularly, improving the training as you go. On a periodic basis (yearly at the very least), you’ll want to take stock and determine whether the training:

  • Met your company’s objectives
  • Helped employees
  • Could be done better or differently (you’ll learn this through feedback, which is something you should actively seek from program participants)

Here are some additional resources to check out:

What sort of training and employee development programs do you offer your staff? What tips do you have to offer fellow small business owners? Share in the comments.

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