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Employee Training And Development: Who, What, When, And Why

by Karyn H. Rhodes | SHRM-SCP, SPHR on Feb 28, 2023 11:08:46 AM

Whether you want to make your company more attractive to new and existing employees, increase productivity, or comply with workplace regulations, employee training is a must today. But it can be confusing to know just who should be trained, when, and on what. Here, we’ll break it down for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss why training is important, who should be trained and when, what training is required by law, and the best methods of training. After reading this, you’ll understand the importance of training employees and how to ensure you have a plan in place to develop all workers – for their benefit and yours.

What are the benefits of employee training and development?

As you consider whether to implement an employee training and development program, it’s important to understand why this investment in your workforce is critical. Training offers companies a big return on investment by delivering 5 big benefits. Training:

  • Improves performance. Employee training can help your employees gain the latest skills needed to improve their performance and trigger continuous improvement and creative learning that can help you remain competitive.
  • Prepares your company for the future. Investing in employees can help them be in the best position to take on more responsibilities within your organization, which will allow you to build talent to promote from within to avoid hiring in a tight labor market. Training is also key to preparing successors you may have identified to fill important impending vacancies.
  • Reduces turnover. According to LinkedIn, 94% of employees say they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. That’s because training your employees will help them feel like you value them, boosting their loyalty in the process. And increased retention can lower your turnover costs; the cost of replacing a mid-range manager is 20% of their salary.
  • Reduces your risk. In some states or industries, certain training is required. Whether it’s safety or sexual harassment education, employer training courses that help employees adhere to the rules will reduce missteps and lower your chance of costly consequences.
  • Improves customer relationships. By training all employees to follow the same standards, you’ll ensure a consistent customer experience every time. Plus, when workers are trained, they’re likely to be happier and more engaged, which will drive more positive interactions as well.

Should all employees receive training?

Generally speaking, it’s beneficial for everyone in your organization to receive some level of training. But you’ll want to take a different approach depending on the type of worker you’re educating.

For employees, you may want to provide training that will help them strengthen their job-specific or general professional skills. For each employee or group of employees, you should have a program in place that:

  • Assesses the skills they already have and areas for improvement
  • Identifies knowledge your employees want or need to have
  • Outlines the goals for education and how employees can achieve them

It’s also important to include managers in your employee training plan. Effective managers are critical to an organization’s success because they can more effectively connect with workers, resolve conflict, and positively influence their direct reports.

And while often overlooked, executive training is also key to organizational success. That’s because, as strategic leaders, the C-suite needs to know what’s new, in order to make sure their vision aligns. That could mean training on anything from technology to interpersonal skills depending on workforce trends that are unfolding in order for the company to adapt as fast as competitors.

When should employee training be provided?

While employee training should be a continuous investment, the best way to reap the benefits is to start as soon as a new employee is hired. By giving new hires the right training on your company standards, requirements for their specific role, and the tools used, you’ll set the tone and enable them to become contributing members of your team immediately.

It’s important to note that early training during the onboarding phase is also required in some instances. For example, in Connecticut, employers must provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to new employees within six months of their start date.

Once employees are onboarded, you’ll want to have a plan in place for providing ongoing training. This additional learning could happen at any time such as when:

  • Employees need to learn a new skill due to an updated tool or procedure they have to follow
  • Evaluations reveal deficiencies
  • The company has to address skill gaps among your existing workforce
  • You want to improve performance of certain positions like customer service
  • There are new compliance regulations to follow
  • You want to prepare workers to take on additional duties in your company

What are the types of employee training?

Depending on your needs, there are several common types of trainings you may want to consider for your employees. There are no federal training regulations that apply to all employers. However, certain laws and agency regulations may apply to certain industries or businesses in particular states. Some examples include:

  • New hire training: Within the first days or weeks of an employee’s start date, many companies choose to provide orientation training. These sessions could address the company’s history and mission, company policies, products, and tools or processes that individual employees can use to perform their jobs.
  • Mandatory training: While there are no federal training regulations that apply to all employers, certain laws and agency regulations may apply. OSHA, for instance, requires employers to provide training to workers who face hazards on the job. HIPAA training is mandatory  for covered entities (medical providers) and business associates who may have contact with personal health information. And, as we discussed earlier, some states require sexual harassment prevention training to new and current employees, whether they are in person or remote.
  • Industry-based training: Many industries face some type of regulatory oversight. For example, Texas requires licensed child care facilities to provide a certain training, so it’s important to check with your state labor department to make sure you’re meeting all the requirements and legal obligations for your business.
  • Leadership training: If employees are working towards moving from an individual contributor role to managing others, it can be valuable to provide training for them to take on leadership opportunities. These can be designed to strengthen communication skills, employee development, and effective management. For senior executives, consider offering programs that focus on things like culture development and strategy.
  • Technology training: Depending on your company and the employee’s line of work, your staff may need to acquire new skills or stay on top of the rapid pace of technology changes to maximize their performance. Technical skills training generally includes specific targeted courses that focus on things like data analytics.

What are the best training methods for employees?

While instructor-led classroom training remains the most popular method of training, several other approaches to employee development are available that may better suit your workforce’s needs. Some more common options include:

  • Mentoring: With this approach, which can be either formal or informal, you match a seasoned worker with one who has less experience. This approach can help anyone from a new hire at the beginning of their career to middle managers who need to develop their leadership skills.
  • Coaching: Slightly different than mentoring, coaching is when a more experienced employee provides guidance to a colleague to help them gain new skills or improve performance.
  • Job shadowing: Instead of just following a co-worker around, a job shadower watches how they interact with other departments, the challenges they face and their decision-making.
  • On-the-job projects: This type of training gives employees the opportunity to learn while completing actual work. Oftentimes, these assignments allow workers to gain the practical experience they need to move to the next level.
  • Online learning: Especially with today’s remote workforces, many companies use a corporatelearning management system (LMS) to help employees conveniently access instruction. 

What steps do I take to get started with employee training?

With learning and development so important to advancing a company’s objectives, it’s critical to have a plan in place to invest in employee development. The best way to get started is to first identify your goals for the program. Are you looking to improve service, boost workplace engagement, plan for impending changes, or something else?

Then you’ll want to understand what you should offer. You can accomplish this by several means, including doing a gap analysis and identifying competencies. You’ll also want to interview workers to understand what methods they prefer or what types of training would help them improve their performance. From these findings, you’ll be able to determine where to focus your employee training efforts.

Lastly, you’ll want to decide what types of training to include. Keep in mind you may want to offer a mix of styles depending on employees’ different interests and learning styles. Solicit feedback once you launch your program so you can adapt your offerings as needed.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in August of 2021 and was updated in February of 2023 for accuracy.


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