The Complete Guide to Employee Training

Employee training is training and education designed to improve employees’ skills, performance, and productivity. 

This guide will cover employee training in-depth and explore a brief history of employee training, its benefits, several types of employee training, and more.

Employee Training: History and Background

Throughout history, job training has always played a central role in the workplace.

Until recently, training usually took the form of apprenticeships and on-the-job learning. New hires would start working for their employer, often at a young age, and immerse themselves in their new role until they attained mastery.

During the 1800s, industrial technology began to enter the work world and with that new technology, came the need for more specialized skills. Formal training programs quickly became commonplace at factories and began to proliferate into other types of businesses.

Throughout the 20th century, workplace training became more and more common, until it eventually became standard practice in most organizations.

Over the past several decades, computers, mobile devices, and digital training tools have become more prominent, resulting in blended training programs that make use of both human trainers and computers.

Did you know...

Animals are also capable of teaching and training. Take the meerkat, a feisty little mongoose commonly found in southern Africa. They hunt and eat scorpions (interesting food choice) and due to the poisonous nature of a scorpion, can’t simply eat them carefree. Adult meerkats provide a learning curve for their young in which they first remove the stinger of a dead scorpion, then give the young meerkat a dead scorpion with the stinger intact. Meerkats finally graduate to eating live and lethal scorpions, but only after they have successfully gone through all the stages. 

What Is Employee Training?

Employee training programs provide workers with education and skills training directly related to their jobs. 

Training typically begins early on in the career, usually on the very first day, then continues throughout an employee’s journey. 

The emphasis of those training efforts will, however, change as workers gain more experience. For instance:

  • Competency is the top priority when training new hires
  • Productivity and performance become the main focus after employees achieve base levels of competency
  • Leadership training, managerial skills training, and other career development opportunities may open up for candidates who show promise

Developing an effective training program can be a challenge, especially since today’s workplace is evolving so rapidly, but there are benefits to successfully implementing a training program.

Why Is Employee Training Important?

Employees must be competent at their jobs in order to add value to an organization, which is the most fundamental reason why training is important.

Besides maintaining employee competency, training also offers benefits such as:

  • Higher employee engagement, retention, and productivity. More skills invariably improve both the quality and quantity of employees’ work. Yet training also increases employee engagement levels and reduces turnover. One report by Udemy, for instance, claimed that 80% of employees felt they would be more engaged in their jobs if they had opportunities to learn new skills. The same report also found that disengaged workers were 2.5 times more likely to quit.
  • Reduced inefficiencies and risk. Skilled workers make fewer mistakes than those who lack the proper skills. Not only can this improve organizational efficiency, it can also reduce the risk of errors, workplace accidents, miscommunications, and other costly mistakes.
  • Ensuring the workforce can support an organization’s performance goals. Employee performance directly impacts an organization’s performance. Without the right skills, employees will not be able to meet those performance objectives. The success of an organizational change project, for instance, depends on employees’ ability to learn new skills, adopt new tools, and implement new workflows.

Though there are also challenges and disadvantages to training, such as costs, the benefits usually outweigh the disadvantages and have a positive impact on the organization as a whole.

There are only two ways in which a manager can impact an employee’s output: motivation and training. If you are not training, then you are basically neglecting half the job.”

- Andy Grove

Types of Employee Training

One way to categorize employee training is by defining training methods, which include:

  • One-on-one training and guidance. Managers or experienced employees can provide guidance to less experienced employees in the form of mentorship, advice, or skills training. A software super-user, for instance, can act as a go-to resource for information or education on a given software platform.
  • Classroom training. Classroom training, typical in schools, also has its place in the modern enterprise. According to Statista, for example, employees felt that instructor-led or classroom training was among the top three most effective learning methods, topped by coaching and hands-on learning.
  • Online courses. Online education, such as on-demand video courses, has skyrocketed in popularity over the past several years, a trend which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Economic Forum, for example, predicts that education technology investments will grow from $18.66 billion in 2019 to over $350 billion by 2025, investments that are partly being driven by the pandemic.
  • In-app digital training solutions. Software walkthroughs, chatbots, and context-based guidance can all be delivered automatically inside an application. Digital training solutions that offer this type of training allow employees to receive hands-on, personalized training, without the need for human oversight.

Each of these training methods has its advantages, disadvantages, and use cases, which is why most employee training programs rely on several methods, rather than just one.

Employee Training Trends

History has shown that employee training is not a static industry, and it will continue to evolve rapidly in the coming years.

Several trends indicate the direction that employee training is headed, such as:

  • Personalized learning. Personalization, as Gartner puts it, “detects behavior patterns and discovers correlations in behavior among employees.” By personalizing training and communications to suit an individual employee’s needs, training managers can boost engagement, learning potential, productivity, and much more.
  • The need for soft skills. Recently, many business professionals have begun to realize the value of soft skills, such as communication skills and emotional intelligence. According to Pinnacle Placements CEO David Lammert, soft skills not only improve someone’s chances of getting hired, they also improve that employee’s performance and longevity.
  • Continuous training. The technology revolution continues to fuel change in the workplace, which requires that employees continually learn new skills. According to The Future of Jobs Report 2018, from the World Economic Forum, everyone will need an extra 101 days of learning by 2022. 

The technology revolution is perhaps the biggest trend influencing the modern workplace and employee training. 

Did you know...

Virtual reality is already becoming incorporated into employee training, in an effort to make training more playful and gain “hands on” experience. Kentucky Fried Chicken developed a virtual training escape room to teach trainees how to make the original fried chicken…!

How has employee training changed?

Today’s workplace has become a fast-paced digital environment, which has led to changes in the way employers train and in the way that employees learn.

Digitally-powered training programs are common features in the modern workplace, which introduce new possibilities for employee training, such as:

  • Micro-training, or just-in-time training, which delivers practical information as it is needed
  • Software tutorials that provide automated instruction directly inside the application
  • The ability to personalize training content to meet an employee’s individual needs
  • Training that can be conducted remotely, either by people or from an automated training platform

Digital training tools will never fully replace humans, but they are growing in popularity and they will continue to see more use in the years ahead.

Best Practices and Strategies for Improving Employee Training

Every organization is unique and every workforce has different learning needs, so training programs will also differ from company to company.

However, there are several best practices and principles that hold true when designing training programs, regardless of the circumstances:

  • Focus on improving the employee experience, which will increase engagement, motivation, and morale
  • To further boost engagement and morale, personalize the training’s content and format to suit the needs of the individual 
  • Take advantage of digital training solutions, such as digital adoption platforms, which can dramatically improve training outcomes and improve the digital employee experience
  • Set measurable training goals that extend beyond productivity to include other key goals, such as employee satisfaction, workplace safety, and organizational communication
  • To make the most of the program over the long term, track its performance and continually make adjustments

Employee training is an investment that comes with its own risks and rewards. Viewing it through that lens can help managers and business leaders make the most appropriate decisions when designing and implementing their programs.

Employee Training Visualized

A useful infographic that illustrates the importance of employee training comes from TTI Success Staffing:

Summary

Employee training has evolved considerably in recent history, in large part due to the introduction of new technological paradigms. The industrial revolution fueled the growth of standardized employee training programs, and the digital revolution drove the adoption of new modes of digital training.

Today, training has become the norm for many companies around the world. Many key performance metrics, such as employee performance and even organizational performance, are influenced heavily by the quality of the training program.

In the coming years, digital technology will continue to advance and propel change within the workplace. On the one hand, these changes will require employees to commit more time and energy to learning. On the other, those same advances will offer up new training solutions that are more efficient and effective.

Further Reading

Here are a few resources that offer more in-depth information on employee training, learning, and development:

Join the industry leaders in digital adoption