Training your employees isn’t cheap. Some training providers I know can make hundreds, or even thousands, from an afternoon’s work. No wonder most organisations’ training budgets creep up each year, not down.
Not to mention that training also takes your employees away from their duties for hours, or even longer, which means the most immediate effect of training is a loss of productivity!
With this in mind, employee training had better deliver some seriously useful results.
But, does it?
Unfortunately, in all too many cases, employee training just doesn’t work.
So, if yours is not doing the job, you aren’t alone. But when you know the most common reasons why employee training flops, you can put things right and start getting the value your business needs. Here are some of the most frequent issues:
1. There’s no training strategy
Do you organise your training ad-hoc, to deal with skills gaps as you spot them? Do you base your plans on training provider scare stories, like “Your company is at risk without this course”? Or simply follow the latest trends, like e-learning, because they sound like a nice idea at the time?
If so, then it’s difficult to know if your training is working or not – because no goal has been set for the training to achieve.
Many companies commit themselves to long-term staff training – even to becoming a ‘learning organisation’ – because they believe (rightly) that it can improve performance.
But, you need to have the right learning. And you can only choose the right learning if you have a plan in place. Otherwise, you are simply training for the sake of it. The outcomes might be of no use to your business whatsoever!
Start planning for success
It’s less daunting than you think to create a staff training plan. Simply:
- Write down your company’s 3 most important goals. One example could be to increase your sales by 50%.
- Identify the skills your staff needs to achieve each goal. For the example above, these could be learning new sales skills, or increasing product knowledge.
- Plan a training schedule for the coming year that develops the skills your employees need.
Pretty simple, right? Best of all, you will know if your training is working – because you’ll be closer to your company goals.
2. You’re using the wrong trainers
There are many highly professional trainers around who just aren’t capable of teaching your staff the right skills. They know how to tick all the right boxes to get fancy certificates for your delegates, and they might even be entertaining speakers.
The problem is, they don’t have any hands-on experience. They’ve never succeeded in the field you are trying to succeed in, so they don’t possess the skills they’re trying to teach. They can’t inspire your people. All they can really do is sell you a pile of diplomas.
Try new trainers and methods
It doesn’t have to be that way. Make some calls. Talk to as many trainers as possible about their real-world experience and methods, and see who has the most to offer.
When arranging your training, make sure to always opt for quality by choosing a training provider that is well established, quality assured, and flexible.
It’s also a good idea to choose the best trainer for each session, rather than being locked into one provider. This gives your programme a wider variety of methods and trainers, catering for more of your employees’ individual learning styles.
3. Your training sessions are too long
Have you ever been on a day-long training course that almost sent you to sleep? Chances are, there’s been more than one.
The problems with long training sessions are numerous. They tend to involve a lot of listening or reading for your staff, which becomes boring after a while. There’s also usually a big lunch, which can make delegates tired in the afternoon.
The biggest issue, though, is that it’s difficult to retain so much learning in a single session. So, your employees might only remember a few nuggets from their expensive day’s training.
Train in short bursts
Of course, we all know why the full-day training session is so common. It’s just more convenient for you and the trainer.
You can break training up into smaller, more memorable chunks. But then, things get more difficult to organise.
The best answer is to plan training days made up of short sessions, each of which involves a different learning style – such as group work, hands-on training, or e-learning. This can help your employees stay fresh and focused throughout the day.
4. Training isn’t being followed up
If you’ve ever learned a few Italian, French or Spanish phrases while on holiday, you’ll know that knowledge rarely sticks after you’ve stopped using it. The same goes for training.
Even if you have a great training strategy in place, and the skills your employees train in are actually useful, they won’t necessarily use them once back at the workplace.
A good example is IT training. In modern computing, there are quicker ways to do most things – and training your staff how to speed up their spread sheets (for example) is a brilliant way to increase productivity.
But, employees are often stuck in their ways – or they may simply forget what they learn in training, before they have a chance to use it.
That’s why follow-up exercises are vital for reinforcing important skills training.
It’s also a great way to measure success. If your staff don’t retain knowledge after training, it might be time to try new methods.
Reinforce and evaluate staff training
A great follow-up exercise is to have your delegates come together at work, after training, and practice what they’ve learned together.
They can remind each other about things they’ve forgotten and reinforce their new skills. Meanwhile, you or a line manager can evaluate the effectiveness of the training itself and encourage staff to keep using it.
As I said earlier, employee training isn’t cheap. But, when you stop making mistakes, training can add huge value to your business.
What do all of our reasons for training failure have in common?
They prove you can’t trust your success to external (or even internal) trainers. It’s up to you to make sure your training is right for your company’s goals, delivered will, and put to good use by your employees.
Sam Carr, Activia.co.uk