Industry Market Trends

10 Tips to Improve Employee Training

Sep 28, 2010

Maintaining workers' skills and improving their performance are critical for companies looking to retain a competitive advantage. Consider these tips for providing better training without breaking the budget.

As employees continue to struggle with cost-cutting measures that force fewer people to handle rising workloads, proper training is more vital to professional success than ever. For employees, training can strengthen workplace skills and lead to greater long-term job security. From an employer perspective, having well-trained workers is key to maintaining competitive performance and distinguishing a company from its rivals.

According to a survey from international staffing firm OfficeTeam last month, improving professional skills is a top priority among businesses today, with 45 percent of human resources (HR) managers citing training and development as their greatest staffing concern - ranked above retention of top-performing employees (27 percent) and recruiting new employees (23 percent).

"As workers take on expanded responsibilities, it becomes more important for companies to offer professional development to help their teams keep up," OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking, said in an announcement of the findings. "Training programs boost job satisfaction for employees by enabling them to build new skills and take on more challenging roles."

Not only does a concerted effort to provide employee training improve workplace performance and satisfaction, it also boosts workers' sense of stability and security within their positions by enhancing their value to the company.

"Job security is on everyone's minds, and having up-to-date skills is the key to staying relevant and marketable," Hosking added. "By providing training opportunities, companies demonstrate they're committed to their employees' long-term career growth, and this can help with their retention efforts."

The wide range of benefits conferred by employee training and development means that more workers are interested in participating in these types of programs when they are available. In fact, many prospective employees consider training opportunities an important factor when deciding whether or not to accept a job with a particular company.

A recent survey from HR firm Robert Half (free registration required) found that, when asked to rate the importance of a specific benefit in evaluating an employment offer on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being most important), workers ranked in-house training programs at 7.2, ahead of their job title (6.7) and just behind corporate reputation (7.8). In terms of overall job satisfaction, subsidized training and education was rated 6.9.

"Many professionals want to build tenure with their firms, so offer assignments that allow them to expand their skills and support their efforts at professional development (e.g., provide tuition reimbursement, online training, time off to attend seminars, workshops or conferences)," Robert Half advises.

Many companies may be reluctant to make a significant investment on training programs instead of devoting their resources to core business functions. However, there are several ways a business operating on a constrained budget can provide effective training opportunities.

Workforce consulting firm The Performance Solution offers a few recommendations. The first is for companies to collaborate with one another to save on training costs. Another idea is to select a specific training structure so that some staff members can add to existing skills rather than everyone training under the same conditions. Other cost-saving alternatives include: ensuring that a set fee is paid without any additional or hidden charges for a training regimen, checking that the certification received is accredited and worth the value paid for it and shopping around between providers to find a cost-effective rate.

Launching a successful training program requires more than a financial plan, however. Business research firm Dun & Bradstreet offers the following tips from human resources management center for introducing effective training at your company:

  • Emphasize training as an investment. While the initial costs may seem high, stress within your company that training is a long-term investment in the development of your staff.
  • Target your needs. Identify the specific skills you need to improve and the timeframe within which you'd like to meet your training goals to provide the optimal payback.
  • Encourage a learning culture. Express to all employees that your organization cares about enhancing their skills and wants every worker - whether training or not - to remain competitive within their skill set.
  • Include management. Bringing managers and company leaders on board with the new training initiative is a vital way to build support for the effort.
  • Start small. Before rolling out a new program, test some aspects of your training system with a smaller group of people to gain feedback and fine-tune the process.
  • Select high-quality instructors. Make sure the trainers hired are professional educators and that their materials can serve as valuable resources in the future.
  • Pick a good space. A training location can strongly affect the quality of the learning, so make sure your training area has sufficient space and the necessary equipment, such as computers.
  • Clarify your goals. Ensure that employees know the specific purposes for their training and how they connect to larger company goals. Remember to award those who perform well.
  • Make it a continuous process. Don't limit your training to new employees, and try to bring in as many workers as you can who would benefit from additional training.
  • Track the results. A training program won't be effective unless you monitor its progress. Choose a metric, such as productivity or profit, to help determine the return on investment for your training efforts and establish concrete results.

Training can be beneficial to employees at nearly every level of the company, but there may be unexpected challenges to implementing a program. Some employees may be reluctant to participate because they fail to see the purpose of additional training or don't want to sacrifice their time. In these cases, it is important to thoroughly communicate the company's staff development goals to every member of the organization.

"Provide information for the employee about why the new skills, skill enhancement or information is necessary. Make certain the employee understands the link between the training and his job," HR expert Susan Heathfield writes at Human Resources. "You can enhance the impact of the training even further if the employee sees the link between the training and his ability to contribute to the accomplishment of the organization's business plan and goals."


A Case for Better Communication in the Workplace


Lessons Learned

OfficeTeam, Aug. 19, 2010

Workplace Redefined: Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change

Robert Half, 2010

Making the Most of a Tight Training Budget (The Performance Solution), July 2010

Ten Employee Training Tips

Dun & Bradstreet

Ten Tips to Make Training and Development Work

by Susan Heathfield Human Resources