From catteries to thrift stores, employee training is vital to every small business’s success. Not only does it provide your staff with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their roles, but it also helps your business stay up-to-date with industry trends, best practices, and technology.
Unfortunately, employee training is often overlooked or neglected. Many companies spend as little as possible on training and development and make training budgets difficult for employees to access.
While this low investment is likely due to the perceived cost of employee training, which can include lost productivity, travel expenses, and training materials, the benefits of employee training far outweigh the upfront costs.
To build a robust training program, start by following these four essential recommendations for training design:
- Talk to Your Employees and Customers
- Define Your Training Goals
- Choose an Appropriate Training Format
- Create a Learning Plan
Engaging initial and ongoing employee training can improve worker satisfaction, engagement, and retention, as well as boost productivity, sales, and customer satisfaction. In other words, employee training is essential to your small business’s success.
1. Talk to Your Employees and Customers
Before you start designing your training program, you need to determine exactly what you’ll be training them on. While you likely already have some ideas about the training you want to develop, it’s also crucial that you ask your employees and your customers for their thoughts and recommendations.
Ask your employees:
- What do you want to learn?
- What tools and resources would you like to have at your disposal?
- What skills do you need to be successful in your roles?
For example, social workers might ask to develop their time management skills. Dog kennel employees might want additional training on new dog boarding software. While answers will likely range widely from one employee to the next, focus on common themes and trends that many want to be addressed.
Additionally, ask your customers:
- What new services would you like our business to offer?
- How can we better address your needs?
- Where can we share additional expertise?
Answering these questions will help you develop a training program that meets your employees’ needs, shows them that you care about their success and well-being, and helps your business achieve its long-term goals.
2. Define Your Training Goals
Based on your conversations with employees and customers alongside the business needs you’ve identified, define the goals of your training program.
Choose goals that align with the SMART best practices. Your training goals should be:
- Specific: What exactly do you want the training to achieve? Why is this goal important?
- Measurable: How will you measure the success and progress of the training?
- Achievable: Is it reasonable to achieve the goal with training?
- Relevant: How is the training goal related to your business goals?
- Time-bound: How long will the training last? How long will it take to meet the goal?
Having clear SMART goals puts you in a solid position to meet them and make the most of your training.
3. Choose an Appropriate Training Format
Next, you’ll need to choose the proper format for your training. There are a variety of training formats to choose from, and the right one for your business will depend on your goals, budget, and employee learning styles.
Common training structures include online courses, webinars, in-person workshops, hybrid classes, and on-the-job learning. Additionally, training can take on a range of modalities, including coaching, mentoring, lecturing, and micro-credentialing.
When used in the right contexts, each of these strategies can increase employee performance and engagement in your business.
4. Create a Learning Plan
Once you’ve defined your goals and training format, it’s time to put everything together in a learning plan. Your learning plan should be a thorough written document that details everything you’ll need to run a successful training.
Your learning plan should include:
- Your training goals (determined in Step 2 above)
- Target audience (e.g., all employees, recent hires, or a specific department)
- People involved (e.g., facilitators)
- Format of the training (e.g., in-person, online, hybrid)
- Activities participants will complete
- Methods for measuring retention of training material
- Timeline for completion of the training (e.g., single session or ongoing)
- Resources you’ll need to run the training (e.g., conference room, online platform)
In many cases, you don’t need to come up with your learning plan and training resources from scratch. For example, when training on new digital solutions, Gingr recommends choosing software that comes with robust human-driven technical support that can help you orient your training, share learning resources, and address employee questions.
Ultimately, your learning plan document should be detailed enough that anyone could pick it up and implement the training you’ve designed. With this in mind, store all your training plans in one accessible place for easy reference.
Wrapping Up: What Comes Next
Once you’ve developed your training program, it’s time to implement it. While part of implementation involves communicating training schedules and resources with employees, it also involves evaluating the training’s effectiveness after it’s complete.
Your evaluation might include the following:
- Asking participants to complete a brief post-training survey
- Leading a focus group or group discussion
- Requesting informal feedback from employees
- Holding one-on-one conversations
- Conducting a short quiz or assignment based on the training materials
- Comparing relevant business metrics from before and after the training
By evaluating your training, you ensure that your employees understand the training material and can apply it to their jobs. Incorporate their feedback and other insights into your learning plan to make sure each future round of training is better than the last.
Ultimately, by putting these training design essentials into practice and continuing to iterate on your design, you can develop a program that meets your employees’ needs and helps your business achieve its goals.
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