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Make Staff Training Work for You

If you have doubts about the value of staff training, consider this: Your business functions in an environment of constant change. Either your employees keep pace with new developments in the use of resources and technology, or your competition will do it for you. Staff training is the most cost-effective way to bring new employees “up to speed” and to broaden the skills of veteran employees—thus maintaining high levels of competence and a companywide ability to gain new skills as changing conditions demand.

Other benefits of training include:

  • Clearer understanding of company policies and strategies
  • Keener grasp of specific job functions
  • Increased motivation leading to higher morale
  • Enhanced productivity resulting in greater profits for the business

Employees thrive in a workplace dedicated to ongoing learning. Staff training is not only an attractive recruitment and retention tool, but a valuable investment in the future of your business.

To put together an effective training program, start by identifying areas in your business where training would prove most helpful. This can range from learning how to use new software programs and office equipment to “softer” areas like training in conflict resolution or improved customer service.

Look for gaps between your company’s stated goals and employees’ abilities to meet those goals. What areas of training can help advance overall business strategy? What training can address weaknesses in current processes? Training objectives will grow out of the need to address those performance gaps.

Get buy-in

For staff training to truly work, everyone has to be on-board with the idea. Managers and supervisors must not only be persuaded that taking time to train staff is worthwhile, they should experience the training themselves. This should not be seen as a form of discipline when something goes wrong, but rather improving skills so far fewer mistakes occur.

Part of the company culture

For most people, attempting to acquire a range of new skills at the same time is very difficult. Segmented training breaks the learning process into different sections; when employees master a particular skill, they feel confident to move to the next (usually more challenging) skill. This approach lays the groundwork for continuous learning, where staff training is permanently integrated in the company culture.

Experts agree that hands-on participation is the most efficient and long-lasting approach to learning (as a supplement to written materials). Training that incorporates questions-and-answers, role-playing, multi-media and other interactive tools stands the best chance of success.

Don’t try to address all performance-gap issues at once. Identify areas where most employees will benefit and start there. For example, while every employee should undergo training for a thorough knowledge of company policies and other broad subjects, such as customer service and time management, more specific skills may be relevant for only a portion of the workforce. Whatever type of training is needed most should be implemented first.

Other tips:

  • Having the right person in charge is critically important. Either hire a professional trainer or ask an experienced employee to lead the training session.
  • Keep training sessions short—no more than 60 minutes to an hour-and-a-half. Employees retain more if they’re not subjected to information-overload.
  • Make the training relevant, by using real-life examples and situations based on employee workplace experiences.
  • Schedule training sessions that minimize work disruptions. Seasonal slow-times is an effective option or staggered schedules so employees don’t feel they’re falling behind in their day-to-day responsibilities.

Invite feedback

Give employees a chance to offer feedback on their learning experience. Ask them to rate the educational quality and relevance of the sessions, “grade” the trainer and offer ideas to modify upcoming sessions for greater effectiveness. This helps supervisors gauge how well training is going and encourages more active participation among employees.

Employees who are continually learning and acquiring new skills business are at least as vital to your business as upgrading tools and technology. Staff training requires an investment in time and money, but the pay-off is a highly motivated workforce that’s ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

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