Training really sets a foundation for your staff as to what you’re trying to get accomplished — your goals and visions. In addition, it gives employees an idea as to what’s in the future, because as an employee goes through the interview and training process, he or she wants to know what he or she gains from taking the position.
“Specifically in Houston, there are so many competitors here that if we don’t have a good training program in place — if we don’t have a good development program in place — we can lose some of our good talent to our competitors,” says Jeremy Wilcomb, the operations manager at The Daniel Group.
Smart Business spoke with Wilcomb about some best practices to follow when implementing an employee training and development program.
Why might some employers hesitate to put formal training or employee development in place?
Maybe in the past, you’ve hired experienced employees or didn’t have the manpower to put forth a formal training program or dedicate anyone to training employees. You just trusted that those you hired had enough experience to develop themselves. You might hesitate because of the time and effort that goes into putting a program in place. With any company, you want to see an instant return on your investment, and that isn’t always clear with a training and development program.
Also, employees sometimes have the tendency to hop to the next best paycheck, so it’s hard for companies — small companies specifically — to put a lot of money into training or development with the fear that trained employee will inevitably leave. However, that’s why it’s so important to set the standard up front with employee training, career development and constant education throughout the course of an employee’s employment. It will help the employee feel more valued and assist with retention.
What training and development opportunities should employers make available to employees?
Industry-specific training is always good to have, whether employees have been in the industry for a long period of time or are new to the industry. Make the training specific to their job so they are constantly getting educated about changes. That constant training will help keep them up to speed and potentially allow them to think ahead of the curve.
Even if it’s just little tidbits here and there, you can try to do some sort of continuing education quarterly. A lot of the continuing education is very minimal in cost — maybe someone comes up with a new idea that you can share. As long as someone is taking some sort of nugget away from a training session, you can consider it to be successful.
What type of training you should implement depends on the employee and situation. A lot of companies do online training. It can be inexpensive and really effective, but there’s no one-on-one interaction and it’s hard to ask questions. It’s more of an information dump, which works with busy schedules and provides people time outside of the workplace to continually educate themselves. With open forum topic training, there’s a dialog that is created between the trainee and the trainer so you can dive a little bit deeper into a particular topic. There are also webinars, which always open up to questions at the end.
You can create a combination that works for you. For example, it’s great to have some sort of roundtable or open forum training quarterly, with other supplemental training as necessary.
How should you deal with the cost while ensuring employees are making the most of the training?
There’s never a perfect science to that. However, you can have anyone who undertakes training write up an overview of what they learned — what they took away from it, what they liked, what they didn’t like. This can help you decide whether it was worth the cost. If you’re sending employees to a conference, which is expensive, that’s always the big question: Is it worth the cost, and which employees are ‘A players’ who can get the most out of it?
You should set up goals and parameters that you want your staff to meet, while budgeting additional training costs for new employees up front. As long as they are bringing some sort of piece out of any type of training and using it in the field to some success, the cost often will justify the means.
What are some common mistakes employers make when creating an employee training and development plan?
Some of the common mistakes include reading too much into it and putting too much information in it, or being too vague by rushing through it and saying, ‘Hey, here’s a pamphlet. Go get ’em, tiger.’ It’s like training your kids; there’s that medium level that you need to have to make sure that it’s comprehensible and that they can retain the information, while bringing in different inserts into the ongoing training. Another mistake is if there’s no followup.
The plan should have a small overview, a table of contents, as well as go over company values and all of the pertinent information of whatever area they are in. Then later, you can do the ongoing education and training and key in on specific points of their position. This keeps them from information overload.