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How to Create an Employee Development and Training Program

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

An employee training and development program has many benefits for both your staff and your company. Here's how to build a successful program.

  • Employee training and development programs improve performance by strengthening employees' job-specific and general professional skills.
  • The benefits of ongoing development and training include improved morale and retention, increased employee independence and more-efficient workflows.
  • To build your employee development and training program, set goals and determine how your company can work toward those goals. You should also factor in your employees' interests when setting your goals.
  • This article is for employers, human resources professionals and managers who are interested in creating employee training and development programs. 

No matter how talented your team is, there is always room for growth. As an employer, you should always be looking for ways to strengthen your team. One way is through employee development and training. In a survey by ClearCompany, 68% of employees said a company's employee training and development program is an organization's most important policy. Another survey, by Middlesex University's Institute for Work Based Learning, found that 74% of employees don't think they're reaching that potential and would happily participate in development programs to get there.

Read on to learn the benefits of employee training and development, the steps in developing an employee training and development program, the types of programs and more.

What is employee training and development?

Employee training and development are processes through which a company continuously improves its employees' job performance. These processes may include group seminars, long-term professional development programs and hands-on skills training.

Notice that the phrase "employee training and development" contains both "training" and "development." These are distinct terms. "Training" describes job-specific skills improvement, such as how to use advanced company equipment or execute complex processes. "Development," on the other hand, describes professional skill improvement not specific to an employee's role or even your company. It can entail lessons in management, leadership and other executive responsibilities.

Key takeaway: Employee training and development programs bolster employee performance through job-specific skill enhancement and general professional learning.

Why is ongoing training and development important?

Ongoing employee training and development programs strengthen the foundation that you build for employees during their onboarding. These programs help you develop a skilled workforce that sets you apart from your competitors, and if you develop a competitive advantage, you're more likely to experience business success.

Here are some other benefits of ongoing employee training and development:

  • Better employee morale. Employees who are confident and have the resources to do their jobs well are more likely to enjoy their work, because offering training and development programs shows the company is invested in their success.

  • Increased employee retention. As you develop your employees' professional skills, you set them up to grow within the company. You may have to fill the role the employee vacates for them to move up in the company, but you've still retained the employee.

  • Less micromanagement and supervision. The more skills you've taught an employee, the less you need to check their work and guide them through everyday processes. More independent and less micromanaged employees are typically more efficient and happier.

  • Better company adaptability. As more startups enter the business world, the prevalence of flat organizational structures may increase as well. This decentralized structure may appeal to some of your most promising job prospects, not to mention current employees whom other companies target. When you invest in employee development, you give employees the professional skills they need to help your company gradually transition to this organizational structure while showing you're invested in their success.

Key takeaway: There are many benefits of employee training and development programs, including increased employee morale and retention, less supervision and better company adaptability.

How to develop an employee training and development program

Now that you know what an employee training and development program should include, it's time to start developing one. Here are five steps to follow, according to e-learning resource ej4:

1. Set your goals.

The first step in developing an employee training and development program is to know why you're doing so. Knowing that these programs are prevalent and beneficial isn't enough. Ask yourself which job-specific and general professional skills your employees should know. In addition, identify which employees you want to train, develop or both.

2. Determine which skills your employees already have.

Training and development programs are intended to teach employees skills they don't yet have, so make sure you know which skills your team does have. Identify your staff's core competencies, and pivot your training away from those areas. Although learning never stops, you're better off focusing on newer skills.

3. Identify which skills your employees don't yet have.

Consult a wide-ranging list of employee skills for a comprehensive guide to attributes and talents that many employers seek in their employees. You'll likely encounter professional skills in general lists like these, but for training, you may also want to seek industry-specific skill lists.

Once you have these lists in front of you, identify the skills your employees either don't yet have or need to improve. Then, decide on a modest number of core competencies that are most important to you, and determine which ones might require training and development. No employee or team will be perfect at every skill – even the best teams have flaws – so it can be counterproductive to teach your employees everything possible.

4. Find out which skills your employees want to have.

Effective employee training and development programs aren't based solely on your goals; the skills your employees want to build are just as important. If you find overlap between what your employees want to learn and what you want to teach, consider these skills the foundation of your program. With your employees' needs addressed, you're more likely to notice higher rates of employee engagement and interest throughout your program.

5. Build the program.

After you determine the first batch of skills you want to teach or improve, you're ready to build your program. For job-specific skill training, you may want to consider implementing blended instruction (in-person and digital lessons), online self-learning portals and practice sessions. For professional development, you may want to incorporate mentoring, coaching and group discussion programs.

Perhaps the most important thing to do when building employee learning programs is to be open to change. If employees don't connect with the opportunities you provide or your program isn't developing employees how you'd like, adjust it as needed. When you notice gaps in your program, consider filling them by trying a different type of employee training and development.

Key takeaway: When developing an employee training and development program, set your company's goals, find gaps between your company's core competencies and those goals, incorporate employee feedback, choose relevant learning activities, and remain open to change.

What makes an effective employee training program?

Effective employee development and training programs typically include the following elements, according to the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • Training based on customer feedback. Is your target audience giving high marks to your competitors in areas that are less familiar to your company? Focus your training on enhancing these skills. Consider feedback from vendors and other clients as well.

  • Lessons from the experts. Employees learn more from training if you bring in an expert (or a highly skilled colleague) to lead your efforts. Experts might also know how to make employee training more fun and engaging.

  • Meaningful learning opportunities. Ask your employees what they want to learn. Ensure their answers are a major component of your employee training and development program. Similarly, ask department heads to identify key training and development needs as well.

  • Appropriate technology. There are countless websites, apps and other digital tools to keep employees engaged during training and development. You should mostly use these tools in group or self-learning settings, as they can interfere with interpersonal interaction in one-on-one situations such as coaching and mentorship.

  • Thorough plans. As with any successful business venture, you should have a plan, including a budget and goals. Employees likely won't find a disorganized program with little forethought engaging or enjoyable.

  • Regular analysis. Regularly analyze your program to determine its impact. Are employees retaining the information? Is your team becoming more efficient and independent? If not, don't hesitate to change things up.

  • Adaptability. Build your program so that it's easy to switch things up if your employees don't engage with a training session or reach your goals. A successful employee training and development program can adapt to any needs.

Key takeaway: An effective employee training and development program incorporates customer and employee feedback, expert education, helpful technology and regular reshaping.

What are some types of employee training and development?

There are four broad types of employee training and development:

  • In-person training is any group discussion, mentorship session or training opportunity conducted entirely outside a digital communication setting.
  • Web-based instruction may involve any of the above forms of employee training and development, but it has the advantage of allowing employees to pause and resume training whenever they please.
  • Self-instruction is any form of learning over which the employee has complete control. It may describe web-based instruction, or it may involve one-on-one mentorship appointments set to fit the employee's schedule and needs.
  • Audiovisual training is any program that supplements traditional learning with media such as videos and audio clips. Audiovisual training is common in web-based instruction but can be part of traditional in-person group training, too.

You can also divide the types of employee training and development into a specialized training method:

  • Orientations are fundamental to initial employee training. You'll teach your new hires the basics of your company history, policy and goals.

  • Lectures are ideal for presenting information to a large group in a relatively brief time – often no longer than an hour.

  • Case studies are hypothetical or real-life problem-solving scenarios that employees must solve. In doing so, they'll develop key job-specific and professional skills.

  • Job rotations involve rotating employees through shifts accompanying other professionals on the job. Rotations are especially useful for teaching highly specialized job skills.

  • Apprenticeships are opportunities through which employees learn new skills from a fully qualified supervisor. At the end of the apprenticeship, the employee should be able to perform all of the tasks involved in the supervisor's daily work.

  • Team-building activities are group exercises that develop crucial professional skills, such as communication, adaptability and efficiency. Many employers prefer to bring in outside consultants to oversee team-building work.

  • Role-playing is an activity through which employees can develop the behaviors most commonly associated with business success. These traits may include calm but authoritative leadership, enhanced communication with clients and quick but thoroughly considered problem solving.

  • Simulations are similar to role-playing and case studies, but unlike those methods, they often take place in a digital interface and may resemble games.

  • Mentoring and coaching are worth mentioning again, because there's an especially strong correlation between these one-on-one programs and employee retention, promotions, salary increases, efficiency and better decision-making.

You can choose which of these approaches to include in your program and adjust your selection as needed. As long as employees are enjoying their learning and performing better after their lessons, your employee training and development programs are almost certainly on the right path.

Key takeaway: The four main types of employee training and development are in-person training, web-based instruction, self-instruction and audiovisual training, and there are several training and development subtypes.

Image Credit: fizkes / Getty Images
Max Freedman
Max Freedman,
Business News Daily Writer
Max Freedman is a freelance writer who covers best business practices for business.com and culture for publications including The A.V. Club, MTV, Paste, FLOOD, and Bandcamp. He lives in Philly and doesn't miss his native New York.