As a leader or manager, you are often faced with a simple question that demands a complex answer: How do you train employees to learn new skills? How well you answer that question could determine the success of your business. If you don’t think deeply about that question, you default to not training your employees well enough to do a good job. As a result, they don’t know how to be productive, and since they don’t feel valued, they tend to become disengaged. Do this for long enough with enough employees and you are looking at business failure somewhere down the line. Neglecting employee training by minimizing its importance and only doing it superficially can ruin a business. Conversely, if you think deeply enough about this question, you can even turn a struggling company into a thriving one.
On the job training depends on the type of job in question. In many senior executive positions, it’s unnecessary. In some technical positions, it’s essential. When job training is necessary, the most important thing is to structure it in a way that it empowers the new employee while not disrupting everyone else’s workflow. Effective job training engages employees and provides a company with a productive, well-informed workforce.
Three effective ways of job training have been onboarding, on-the-job training, and micro learning. Let’s take a quick look at each one.
It’s nerve-wracking being a new employee. It’s like being a child on the first day of kindergarten. New employees don’t know anyone nor where anything is located. Onboarding is all about helping an employee nail the details to get over this feeling of discomfort. One way to do this is, after you have welcomed them and introduced them to their colleagues, sit them at their desk so they can begin to get acclimated. Then give them access to basic information about the company presented in an easy-to-digest way. Putting it all on an encrypted flash drive is one way to present it that can be personalized and private. Here is some information that you could put on it:
- Their new email account.
- Guides for any software that they will use.
- Instructions on how to use some office equipment, for instance, how to set up their voicemail and how to use the copy machine.
- A description of where everything is located – their designated parking space, restrooms, office equipment, the cafeteria.
- A list of people they can contact if they have additional questions.
- Anything related to their job that needs to be described or explained.
- Any resources that they may need to access for their work.
- Any codes, passwords, or other sensitive information.
Once an employee has become oriented to their new environment, you should match them up with an experienced colleague who will work as a mentor. The basic idea is to learn the job skills they need to learn under normal working conditions. While job shadowing and sitting in a classroom are ways to learn job skills, people learn fastest by doing something with a peer. Although supervisors can instruct new employees what to do, new employees are often too overwhelmed by formal instructions. With a peer, the learning curve is less steep and an employee is less likely to feel intimidated. This peer-based learning can be broken up into formal and informal training.
Structured training can work alongside informal training or may replace it. In most jobs, both forms of training complement each other.
In structured training, the employee is educated about concepts that they need to understand to do the work.
This education might take the following forms:
- Watching video presentations.
- Attending lectures.
- Reading recommended books.
- Learning through the process of gamification.
Unstructured training consists of the senior colleague allowing the trainee to learn through trial and error. Basically, an employee tries out new skills and is then given feedback on how to do it.
Here are two examples:
- In a sales job, an employee might be instructed to call a customer who is interested in placing an order. During the call, the mentor can offer suggestions on how to answer the customer’s product-related questions.
- In a technical job, an employee might be instructed to write a computer program or set up hardware and the mentor can provide suggestions when they get stuck or evaluate how well they did the work.
Instructions, suggestions, and evaluations gradually help the new employee absorb essential knowledge and basic skills. In this way, the employee improves on an ongoing basis until they can do the job competently on their own.
Many forward-thinking companies are also adopting a workplace training method called Micro Learning.
Essentially, it consists of sending learning modules to their computers or mobile devices at timed intervals. These modules are broken up into 5- to 10-minute chunks and an employee can access them at any time they want from their favorite device. The reason this works is because employees are given a small amount of information at a time which makes it easier to absorb. It’s also easier to engage the learner with videos, summaries, and interactive quizzes.
The Relationship Building Value of Workplace Training
Rather than viewing the workplace it as a routine way of getting employees up to speed, it can be used as a way to build a meaningful and lasting relationship with an employee. A company that takes the time to teach invaluable career-building skills will drastically reduce employee turnover rates. The strategic use of learning technology can make it much easier for new employees to learn more quickly and effectively.