Employee training should be less of a necessary evil and more a path to continuous improvement.
With the current unemployment rate in the United States hovering under four percent, companies are not only struggling to bridge a so-called talent gap but also attract the right people to the job. A shortage of skilled workers is just the tip of the iceberg, the real question that organizations are looking to answer is, “what does the workforce want?”
With the obvious exception of more money, a recent CNBC survey said that the modern employee wants non-monetary rewards. In fact, the survey found that workers want more learning and training opportunities, an option that was reportedly more popular than paid time off.
The problem is that many companies take a laissez-faire approach to employee training programs. Most of the time, company trainers rely on standardized lectures or binders of dry content to onboard workers and get them up to speed on company policy.
And while training is an important tool for every company, there are ways to make the experience less of a mandatory practice and more of productive experience for all parties.
Training Provides Continuous Improvement
Taking the above into account, here are five best practices to enhance the concept of continuous improvement in employee training.
1. Don’t Linger on the Vision Statement
How much time is spent by during the training session on the mission statement, values and company vision or the North Star? While these elements should be part of the onboarding process, fixating on them at the beginning of a training session can be counter-productive.
The trick is to keep the message succinct and explain why these company-centric principles are important to each individual. For instance, is there a personal experience that brings the company values to life? Are there customer stories that would help people connect with the organization’s overall vision?
One suggestion is for trainers to put themselves in the employees’ shoes and consider dialing back anything that sounds like it has been said 1,000 times before. Instead, they want to start strong and strike the right tone to capture the audience’s attention.
2. Check That the Information Sticks
Many companies have no idea how much information their employees actually retain from training programs.
Three factors contribute to this problem:
· Rushing through modules: When faced with lengthy computer modules (or many of them, as is often the case), there is a temptation for people to just click through the screens as quickly as possible.
· Lack of assessment:If there is not some sort of test at the end of the training, there’s no way to assess what people actually know. In addition, if somebody knows that they will be judged on what they have been taught, they are more likely to pay attention.
· Testing end-run: Even if there is a test at the end, some people will game the system by speeding through the test so they can just fail and retake it quickly until they pass. And while employee training is not the same as, say, the tests that people took at school, there should be a defined purpose for the test itself.
Ultimately, the company goal shouldn’t only be to achieve 100 percent of employees completing training. A well-accepted concept is that people are more likely to remember what they have been taught if they not only see the training but also hear why it is important and take part in an exercise related to that information.
Competence is what really matters, and organizations are responsible for ensuring people have the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform their assigned tasks. That means not only making training procedures more robust, but also periodically checking in to verify that employees are adhering to standards.
3. Provide Opportunities for Practice
Computer-based training should only be part of the picture.
Sitting an employee in front of a screen is just one step in the learning process, and (as we noted above) there is a consensus that training must include elements of telling, showing and experiencing. In fact, the late Sir John Whitmore, author of “Coaching for Performance” famously observed that three months after training, people only remember 10 percent of what they’ve been told.
In recent years, companies such as Accenture have suggested that the retention period is even less. To put it simply, give the employee the chance to also see and practice or experience presented information, and retention shoots up.
The takeaway? In-person training and practice are critical to learning, especially if a trainer expects people to actually remember the information presented. Just as important, on the job training can provide opportunities to expand skills, which is a key part of keeping a workforce motivated.
To find out more about how effective employee training can enhance the quality journey, download this ETQ White Paper.
4. Explore Ways to Make Training More Engaging
Many people associate training with being a necessary evil. More often than not, that’s down to how information is presented. At other times, the trainer themselves can be less than engaging. That’s why it’s up to leadership to invest time and resources into improving training sessions.
So what can a company do to reduce the sometimes menial nature of training and make it a truly valuable experience?
· Train your trainers: If a company expects their employees to learn a lot of new material, then that organization should invest resources into brushing up the trainers’ skills. At a minimum, trainers should take time to plan some activities and interesting anecdotes to share, then practice delivery and ask colleagues for feedback.
· Switch it up: As we mentioned earlier, training shouldn’t just be words coming out of a person’s mouth. Training should also incorporate active participation, whether it’s a game, role-playing, discussion/debate or hands-on practice.
· Make time for breaks: Everyone needs the chance to periodically stretch, use the restroom, and grab a drink. A trainer may be tempted to keep people in their seats so that the session can be finished faster, but the reality is that people who aren’t comfortable are unlikely to be paying attention.
· Consider the environment: A recent study cited by the Los Angeles Times said that temperature impacts productivity, so make sure to keep the room at a comfortable level. Locations with uncomfortable seating should also be avoided.
· Give out treats:Sharing a snack like mini candy bars or granola bars can noticeably perk up a group if people are getting tired.
5. Don’t Use Employee Training as Punishment
It may not be a surprise that employee training is the number one root cause that employers ascribe to problems during a corrective action investigation. Yes, training can be the culprit, but it’s also an overused excuse for every problem that shifts the blame on to workers.
Instead, companies should be considering whether enough time has been spent on root cause analysis, asking deep questions through proven solutions like the 5 Whys method. Business leaders should also ask whether a process issue is contributing to the problem, or whether productivity pressures play a role.
When the first recourse is always to assign retraining, people may interpret it as a punishment. More importantly, retraining won’t solve the actual problem. If business leaders truly think training is the problem, a company may want to address how they can improve the effectiveness of the initial training program.
Employee Training As Business Optimization
Muhammed Ali once said that he hated every minute of training, but he knew that the process was part of his journey to being a champion. The good news is that the average person is unlikely to need hours of blood, sweat and tears in a boxing ring to become well-versed in what is expected of them in a work environment.
The key to effective training is to focus on continuous improvement, with the ultimate aim being to make these sessions a strategic part of enhancing employee skills in the workplace.
With that in mind, companies that take the time to develop training strategies that not only increase knowledge but also turn an employee into a defined asset are more likely to see an improvement in business performance. People are the life-blood of any organization, giving them the tools to succeed is both the path to success and a measure of quality.
ETQ believes that quality creates limitless possibilities. With more than 25 years of quality management software experience behind us, we know that success is often dictated by the people who can turn insights into action. As a result, ETQ’s software enables you to optimize the critical processes that drive excellence through quality.
To find out how ETQ can help your company on its quality journey, contact us today and ask for a demo.