What your staff can do today is important, but it pales in comparison to what your staff will be capable of doing tomorrow. This is because employees are high-return investments: if you treat them well and give them the support they need, your employees become immensely more valuable over time.
It’s no surprise that big brands commit significant budgets to developing company-wide training programs, and it’s obviously a strategy that’s working for them; companies simply wouldn’t spend that kind of money if it weren’t paying off. But the key to ensuring that training programs are successful is in how they’re approached, developed, and delivered. If you source assistance from a great vendor and put post-session sustainability strategies into place, training can prove to be transformational.
Picture this common scenario: a member of the managerial staff gives a lengthy lecture to attendees who barely stay awake and leave with no fresh knowledge, no new skills, and no application assignments. This type of training wastes everyone’s time and breeds resentment—so why bother with it at all?
Instead, whether you bring in a custom training solution or attempt to develop one on your own, you must approach staff training in a more dynamic and creative way. It needs to be something that will grab attention and drive employee engagement. Let’s take a look at four options.
1. Cross-platform training
What does “cross-platform training” mean? It’s simple: you make training materials (including resources and tests) accessible from different types of electronic devices. That way, employees can work on their training at any time and from (almost) any location. This approach is perfect for driving microlearning.
Think about that low-value lecture we mentioned earlier. What if it had included some practical skills and useful tips for application? It’s a shame for training programs to miss their mark due to weak delivery. If those tips had been part of an e-learning course using some suitable mobile-learning software that worked just as well on a tablet as on a laptop or smartphone, they probably would have been received much better by the audience.
Remote work and flexible hours are becoming standard practice throughout the business world because businesses are seeing that employees who are given more freedom typically end up being more productive. By letting people choose how and when to pursue their training, you ultimately ensure that they can work on it when they’re so inclined (and won’t waste time attempting it when they’re not in the right frame of mind to develop their skills).
2. Reciprocal shadowing
The practice of shadowing has long been used to get new employees up to speed. For example, when an essential employee has given his or her notice and you’ve sourced a suitable substitute, you can have that new hire follow the outgoing employee for the remainder of their time in the firm. This allows the new employee to absorb as much of the veteran employee’s knowledge as possible and also gives them the chance to ask the outgoing employee pertinent questions before he or she is no longer there.
But that’s not all that shadowing is good for: it’s also extremely useful for training. On occasion, you can take employees away from their regular work responsibilities and have them follow their colleagues—ideally, people who fill very different roles from their own. The person doing the shadowing gets to see the business from a new angle—something that’s highly educational—and the person they’re shadowing gets to expand their perspective on what they do.
Although job shadowing can take some time and attention away from the bottom line in the short term, it will also ultimately encourage employees to share skills and information and improve interdepartmental communication.
3. Running joint ventures
For some people, getting motivated for regular training is extremely difficult because everything feels theoretical. An option you could use to overcome this challenge is to throw real-world stakes into the mix: let your staff members develop their skills by working on meaningful, real-world projects for the organization.
Central to this method is the prospect of a joint venture. This involves you partnering with one or more of your employees on a fresh project separate from your main business. You provide some funding and free time to help them get the project off the ground and then leave them to work on it at their leisure.
You needn’t fear the setup taking too long if you lay the right foundation: create some options that can you can take action on rapidly (trying ecommerce with a template-built store, for instance, or using rapid prototyping to design a workable product). Being largely responsible for a new business venture helps employees demonstrate their professional value inside and outside of the organization, allowing them to develop greater professional credibility and the leverage needed to drive up their salaries—two excellent incentives.
4. Learning by teaching
Although there’s no evidence that he ever actually said it, there’s a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein that asserts the following: if you can’t explain something to a 6-year-old, you don’t really understand it.
Regardless of whether the quote is Einstein’s or not, there is truth in the idea that you need to understand something very well to teach it effectively. Being asked to teach something to someone else will force you to understand it inside and out. This elevated understanding is often achieved without consulting any textbooks or taking any courses. Instead, it stems merely from giving the topic or concept additional thought. In trying to explain how something works, the mind can shift its perspective, unlocking fresh insights and new layers of understanding.
So how do you use this in training? You turn your employees into subject-matter experts who run their own training sessions. Have everyone spend some time detailing the intricacies of what they do to their coworkers. Not only will this be useful to said coworkers, but it will also make the trainers better at what they do (and at public speaking, for good measure).
If you’re not investing in staff training, you’re undermining the future of your business, but successful training isn’t just about spending money. It’s vital that you get the approach right, opting for training methods that engage audiences and actually work. If you give one or more of these methods a try, we’re sure you’ll see excellent returns on your investment.
Content written by guest author: Rodney Laws
CMOE guest authors are carefully selected industry experts, researchers, writers and editors with extensive experience and a deep passion for leadership development, human capital performance, and other specialty areas. Each guest author is uniquely selected for the topic or skills areas they are focused on. All posts are peer-reviewed by CMOE.