Every new job has a learning curve – and every existing job evolves over time. Consistent learning and training helps employees build and sharpen their skills, and ensures that your team is growing with their roles, rather than remaining stagnant.
Passing around a lengthy PDF or slideshow presentation may seem like the easiest method of training, but it's not going to help your team members learn how to do their jobs well. Business News Daily asked business leaders to outline a few training methods that help employees stay engaged and motivated throughout the process.
With busier schedules and shorter attention spans than ever, finding the spare time for learning and enrichment activities can be difficult. That's why microlearning – short, focused, and often interactive learning initiatives broken down into 3 to 5-minute segments – has become so popular in the modern workforce.
Matthew Brown, director of HotSchedules Train at HotSchedules, said microlearning forces companies to "deliver the most meaningful and critical content in a condensed format that is designed to be snackable and accessible in the moment of need."
"E-learning strategies [like microlearning] make the transfer of learning from corporate down to front-line employees significantly more efficient and impactful," said "Especially in today's fast-paced and highly distracted world, we learn in more ways than ever before. Being able to deliver the content your employees need at the moment they need it is critical to their success."
Darren Shimkus, VP and general manager of Udemy for Business, agreed that e-lear works because it allows employees to control their experience, which means learning at their own pace, on their own time, and on the topics that are relevant to them.
"Online learning provides that flexibility and low-pressure environment that enables learners to more readily succeed," Shimkus said. " At Udemy, we have seen that students are increasingly downloading course content ... to consume on their mobile devices while on-the-go. Organizations can only benefit from integrating online courses to their existing learning and development programs."
Because of the format, microlearning is often best applied to informal, simpler training needs, rather than a complex, in-depth skill set. In a blog post for eLearning Industry, author Asha Pandey suggests this method for training employees in things like time management, workplace compliance and professional skills development.
2. Hands-on shadowing
It's one thing to have someone explain to do something, but doing a task on the spot can sometimes be the most effective way of learning. Melissa Cohen, managing partner at Metis Communications, said her company incorporates hands-on shadowing into the new employee training process.
"The shadowing process allows trainees to retain information better by applying learned skills in real time and translating them to their daily tasks," Cohen said. "It also helps new team members experiment with responsibilities in a controlled environment without risk, all while building their confidence." [New hire? Start them off strong with these onboarding tips.]
3. One-on-one meetings
Kathy Thiessen, vice president of operations at 101 Mobility, said that structured, biweekly meetings between an employee and their supervisor have been a very effective training method for her team.
"Our leadership team adheres to that schedule to show our trustworthiness and our investment in the team's success," she said. "Employees are required to bring their own agenda to kick off our coaching discussion."
In these meetings, Thiessen said 101 Mobility employees focus on opportunities for skills development and building self-identified strengths.
"I like to close out those meetings by talking about the last 10 percent – the things that are difficult to discuss or topics an employee may be hesitant to discuss," she added. "This needs to be done knowing their confidentiality will be respected."
4. "Lunch and learn" sessions
Some employees learn best when they're in a more relaxed environment. Many businesses have adopted the concept of a "lunch and learn" session, in which a team member or third-party source gives a brief seminar-style presentation while refreshments are served. It doesn't even have to be a full lunch — Cohen said Metis Communications hosts optional, 45-minute Bagel or Beer 'n' Learns in the office and over video chat for its employees.
"In these sessions, a senior team member usually creates a casual, interactive and engaging presentation about a topic she has personal experience with, and then opens it up at the end for further discussion," she said. "Such sessions usually lead to brainstorming among the group, as well as comfortable, open communication between team members of all experience levels."
5. Video recordings
While live training sessions can certainly be engaging, you run the risk of the employee forgetting what they've learned after it's over. Recording these presentations and making them available to your team can serve as a great refresher, or as a convenient "makeup" for those who missed the meeting.
"For basic training on technology tools and other standard PR and marketing practices, we provide links to video recordings and have the team make internal presentation recordings through join.me, so any team member can watch them at his or her own convenience," said Cohen.
Making your training stick
Fred Mouawad, founder and CEO of Taskworld, said employee training shouldn't be tackled with a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, training programs should be tailored to each employee based on their skills and profile, because the success of those programs hinges on employee motivation. Each employee learns differently, so discover whether they prefer visual, auditory or kinesthetic (learning by doing) methods of instruction, Mouawad said.
"It's important to convince employees about the effectiveness of training programs to boost their engagement," he added. "Remember that lecture in school when you just couldn't focus on what was being said; when your mind was in a completely different place? That's exactly how employees feel when they are not interested in training programs."
You should also listen to your employees and gather their feedback about training initiatives, to make sure you're not wasting your time or theirs.
"Training and learning opportunities in today's workforce should be personalized and tailored to each individual user," Shimkus added. " A good place to start is by figuring out what your employees actually want to learn and what kind of skills will make them more effective in their jobs. By aligning learning and training opportunities with the preferences and desires of employees themselves, businesses will be able to keep their teams engaged and productive."
"Make training an ongoing discussion with employees to ensure it's a useful tool, not a burden, for new hires and training leaders alike," Cohen added. "We've implemented a variety of in-depth training methods through the years, but not everyone engages in them effectively, and it would have been a disservice to keep a training approach around just because it seemed like a good idea on paper."
Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this story.