Employee Training Program
Training & Learning

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Successful Employee Training Program

If your company doesn’t have an employee training program yet, there’s never been a better time to start one.

Technology is evolving fast, and companies are struggling to maintain their foothold in an increasingly competitive landscape. Digital transformation means that some skills are becoming permanently obsolete, while others are more in demand than ever. These factors make training employees efficiently and effectively more crucial than ever for companies that want to maintain a competitive edge.

A worldwide survey of CEOs found that 80% are worried about the availability of key skills, and more than half struggle to find competent new hires. Employee training programs and, by extension, Learning and Development departments are powerful tools in hiring, retaining, and retraining employees.

Launching a new training program isn’t as simple as ordering some courses and mandating employee attendance. Companies that enthusiastically barrel forward without the proper planning often suffer from misaligned business goals, overwhelmed L&D departments, and a lack of C-suite buy-in. Any of these could sink your training program as soon as it starts.

Instead, proceed thoughtfully. Create a collaborative, democratic learning process to quickly and efficiently launch a useful employee training program. When everyone in the organization plays a part in the learning process, everybody benefits.

Here’s what you need to know to get started—and while you're at it, you can check out our survey of 600 U.S. employees, to better understand the challenges, aspirations, and expectations of today's workforce when it comes to L&D:

employee engagement survey

We surveyed 600 learners. This is what they said.


Align training with business goals

An employee training program must further the company’s larger goals to be considered successful. Learning for the sake of learning is admirable, but it’s unlikely to earn executive buy-in or justify your program’s budget.

The first thing you need to do before you launch a single training course is to speak with upper management. Find out the company’s short- and long-term goals and create a training plan that will help bolster those objectives. After that, set up a system for identifying and prioritizing training needs that support these goals, and use those findings to drive content production.

Training should help build a stronger company

Training is about more than just creating smarter employees. A well-deployed training program leads to a stronger, more competitive company.

Here are some of the goals of training that can tie into larger company objectives:

1. Boost productivity or profit
Give employees the resources they need to become more effective and efficient at their jobs and boost the company’s bottom line.

The sales team is ground zero for boosting company profits. Studies show that companies with practical sales training close more deals. It’s easy to measure the ROI of sales training to prove the impact of your programs directly.

Training’s effects on overall company productivity don’t stop with sales, though. The benefits extend to every department in the company. According to HR Magazine, companies that invest at least $1,500 in training per employee see a 24% increase in profits compared to companies that don’t. According to that same article, a 10% increase in development programs led to a 6% increase in productivity company-wide.

2. Enhance onboarding
A good onboarding program helps new employees learn about the company and the skills they need to do their job. More effective onboarding helps employees ramp up quicker and encourages productivity. Companies with robust onboarding programs experience a 70% increase in new hire productivity.

But that’s not all. It's essential to form a healthy employee relationship during a new hire's first few weeks. A good onboarding program can boost new-hire retention by 82%, saving the company thousands in employee replacement costs.

3. Close the skills gap
Digital transformation is a huge issue right now. As technology evolves, many companies can’t keep up with the demand for skilled employees who can work with new technology. Seventy-nine percent of CEOS are concerned that a lack of essential skills will jeopardize their organization’s growth.

Upskilling programs that build on employees’ existing skills and reskilling programs that train employees in entirely new areas help you leverage the employees you already have to meet digital age demands.

4. Hire and retain better employees
Companies are increasingly leveraging training programs as a benefit to potential employees. Strong L&D programs are very attractive to candidates who view each new position as an opportunity to learn and grow their skills. Fifty-nine percent of millennials say that growth opportunities are extremely important to them when considering a new job.

Likewise, development programs help retain valuable employees by allowing them to grow and stretch their abilities within the organization. Ninety-four percent of employees said they would stay longer at a company that invested in their development.

Identify training needs

Before you can create training programs that support the goals outline above, you’ll beed to identify the knowledge gaps inside your company. To do that, you’ll conduct a training needs analysis.

There are two approaches to training needs analysis.

The first approach is the traditional top-down approach that you’ll see outlined in most articles on the web. This process is very centralized: L&D departments or training managers are the sole investigators and decision-makers on what employees need to learn. They set learning needs based on their understanding of employee knowledge gaps and prioritize those needs and set out course recommendations.

Not only is it a lot of work for managers, but it’s also not very accurate. Top-down analysis typically involves a lot of guesswork as managers try to assess what employees know and what they need to learn to do their jobs more effectively. Courses created without the context of team member input are bound to miss the mark.

training needs analysis

The second approach is a decentralized, bottom-up approach. In this approach, anyone in the company can submit a training need. Employees can directly tell you what they want or need to learn about. Instead of dictating training needs, L&D manages the system, correctly prioritizing needs and organizing their fulfillment.

This approach makes employees an active part of the training conception process. Training needs analysis isn’t a one-off activity but an ongoing process that evolves alongside the company and its employees. It’s faster, more efficient, and, most importantly, more accurate.

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Prioritize training needs

You can’t tackle every potential training need at once. You’ll wear yourself out and quickly deplete your training budget. Instead, prioritize training needs that will help you accomplish the training goals you laid out at the beginning of this process.

To prioritize training needs, we recommend our unique approach to skills gap analysis, where you use Boston Consulting Group’s Growth-Share Matrix to categorize training needs based on their cost and organizational impact.

skill share matrix

This will give you a roadmap for which training to tackle first. Prioritize “stars” — needs with the lowest cost but the highest impact. Deprioritize training that costs a lot of money and doesn’t help you reach your organizational goals.

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Choose the right employee training method

As you’re considering how to best train your team, identifying the best training method can be overwhelming. Review these five popular employee training methods to see what’s right for you.

1. In-person training

In-person training refers to any method that relies on employees to be physically present in the office. Activities include classroom-based training, seminars and workshops, hands-on training, and requiring employees to watch videos or read manuals at their desks.

Typically in-person training programs are more expensive and logistically challenging to organize. They require businesses to spend money on in-person trainers, physical training materials, and sometimes travel expenses and venue costs. They can be a scheduling nightmare as you need everyone to be available at the same time and in the same place. If an employee is absent on training day, you’ll need to rerun the entire training or risk them falling behind. When Covid-19 shut down offices across the world, many companies were left scrambling for e-learning solutions.

2. Online training

Over the past decade, more and more companies are gravitating from in-person to online training. This shift is because traditional in-person methods have severe limitations compared to modern online training methods, which make it easier to learn anywhere, at any time.

Online employee training, sometimes called e-learning, takes place entirely over the internet. Online training includes activities like online courses, simulations, webinars, mobile learning, and collaborative learning experiences.

Online training is much more elastic than in-person training. Employees can learn at their own pace, at their computers, whenever it is convenient for them. Instead of learning as a special occasion, it becomes an integral part of daily life and company culture. Training can be done from anywhere, which is more convenient for remote companies or companies that become temporarily remote due to world events.

Not only is online training less expensive and more convenient, but employees also like it better. A survey by Vyond found that 51% of employees prefer self-guided online training.

3. Blended learning

Blended learning, sometimes called hybrid learning, combines online training methods with in-person training. For non-remote companies, blended learning can be a bridge between legacy programs and 100% online learning.

A blended learning program can help L&D departments scale up their training efforts without spending vast amounts of money on in-person training. For example, you can supplement a seminar with an online webinar or follow-up an in-person training session with virtual practice. With teams working from home and remotely, companies are increasingly seeing the benefit of complementing face-to-face training with online learning.

4. Microlearning

Many employee training programs have low course completion rates because the courses are too long. It’s hard for employees to commit an hour or more out of their busy day to training. The solution is microlearning.

Microlearning courses are small learning experiences that take 10 or 20 minutes to complete, rather than hours. They cover smaller, more digestible, chunks of material than a typical e-learning course. Microlearning is easier to produce than longer courses and easier for employees to work in their daily life. Studies show that microlearning leads to high knowledge retention than traditional e-learning.

5. Peer training

Peer training happens when employees work together to learn with, and from, one another. Peer learning, or collaborative learning, is a more active, engaging style of learning than passive solo learning.

There are many different ways to incorporate peer training into your programs. At 360Learning, we encourage a culture of peer learning through collaborative learning, prioritizing training based on employees' requests, and by making everyone at the company a subject matter expert in one topic or another. Company-wide peer-learning helps us share institutional knowledge and rapidly spread ideas.

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Employee training tools

If you decide to create an online learning program, and we think you should, you’ll need the right learning tools to support it. While there is an array of learning platforms on the market today, we recommend a collaborative learning system because it’s easier and faster to set up and maintain than a traditional learning management system (LMS).

Learning platforms are the software you use to create, distribute, and monitor online courses. Most of the tools out there bill themselves as learning management systems. While an LMS is the most popular type of learning platform, it has some serious drawbacks for modern L&D departments.

LMS tools centralize the learning process: only admins can create and distribute courses. They typically involve a lengthy and expensive course-creation process that requires special tools and extensive experience to master. Most important, LMS systems are not employee-centric. Managers can’t set learning paths, employees can’t browse courses, and team members can’t work together to create learning content.

LMS vs collaborative learning platform

In contrast, a collaborative learning system encourages everyone in the company to play a part in the learning process. Collaborative editing features mean that you have all the tools you need to create a course right in front of you. Employees identify training needs and make course requests. Other employees create courses to meet those needs. L&D’s role is to prioritize learning needs and oversee course quality.

This more democratic approach to course creation gets information to employees faster. It also allows for more feedback and easier editing, so courses are always relevant and up to date. Employees learn quicker and more efficiently. Engagement is higher, and course completion rates are nearly five times that of a traditional LMS.

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Understand the different types of employee training

Not all training is the same. Each type of employee training has unique considerations and requirements. For each kind of training, you will need to adjust your training techniques to meet the needs of learners.

New employee training

New employee training, or onboarding, encompasses all the training that new employees need to understand the company, the office and tools, and their specific job. This is your new hire’s first interaction with the company, so it’s essential that your onboarding process is smooth, kind, and helpful. Make the onboarding process collaborative so that new employees don’t just learn about what’s expected of them; they feel like part of the team.

A welcoming onboarding process starts as soon as the candidate accepts the job. Create a preboarding program that keeps them emotionally involved before they arrive on their first day of work. A preboarding program should make new hires feel welcome and give them an idea of what to expect on their first day.

preboarding program checklist

Tailor an employer’s onboarding training towards their unique role in the company. Assign each new hire an onboarding coach, or buddy, who guides them through the onboarding process and answers their questions. Create role-specific tracks of courses that help the new hire acclimate themselves with the tools they need and their job responsibilities.

Throughout the process, keep collecting feedback from your new hire so that you can continue to perfect the onboarding process for future employees.

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Compliance training

Compliance training is any training that is mandated by law, professional organizations, or the company itself. It encompasses everything, from data safety to anti-bias and diversity training. Compliance training gets a bad rap for being mandatory and boring, but much of the information is extremely important.

Compliance training is one of L&D’s most important yet least glamorous functions. Make training more interesting and impactful by incorporating active learning and peer learning techniques.

Keep employees interested by using active learning techniques like quizzes, games, and simulations. Use employee voices to amplify the message of interpersonal trainings.

It’s very important that compliance training is kept up to date, so collect real-time employee feedback so you can continue to iterate course materials.

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Customer service training

Customer service training encompasses all the training that customer-facing employees need to represent the company comfortably and knowledgeably. This includes product familiarization, troubleshooting, conflict resolution, and communication skills.

Customer service reps have to constantly learn new skills so they can stay ahead of user questions. Collaborative learning features can help make these frequent trainings more palatable.

It’s important for customer service reps to understand new product features and updates. Harness the knowledge of internal experts by having product managers or engineers create familiarization courses.

Incorporate active learning into the process through role-playing interactions and critiques that let reps practice their skills and new knowledge.

Sales training

Sales training, or sales enablement training, encompasses all the training that sales representatives need to effectively make and close deals. Great sales training has a direct effect on the company’s bottom line and is a great way to illustrate the ROI of your training programs. Salespeople are usually very busy and encouraging them to take time out to learn can be a challenge. Encourage continuous training by offering microlearning courses. They are a short and easy way for salespeople to sneak some learning time into their busy day. We recommend using collaborative learning to create more effective and faster sales training.

Here's an example of a tailored sales training course on a tool that will help our sales reps prove our platform's ROI to their prospective clients:

sales training on ROI

Manager training

Anyone who manages other employees needs training to effectively lead their direct reports. Managerial training is a frequently overlooked but essential program for creating more effective managers and a better company culture for everyone. As more companies go partially or completely distributed, it’s more important than ever for managers to hone their people management skills.

The major challenge of manager training is finding a way to teach the soft skills that make a successful supervisor: communication skills, bias training, conflict resolution, and goal-setting. Remote managers, in particular, need impeccable communication and organization skills to stay on top of their reports.

A collaborative learning system is uniquely suited to help train managers in these softer skills. Use functions like role-playing, peer feedback, and firsthand experiences from other managers.

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Improve training programs and measure ROI

Creating great training programs is only half of L&D’s job. The other half is measuring the efficacy of those programs, collecting feedback, and updating course materials to make them as useful as possible. These follow-up tasks are crucial for securing bigger budgets and c-suite level buy-in for your programs.

Iterate frequently

Most courses require frequent revisiting. The shelf life for most employee training content is just five years, and it may be even less in fast-evolving industries. You need a system where you can quickly revisit and update old content to ensure it’s still accurate and useful.

Collect analytics data to measure engagement, program completion, and other metrics, like relevance scores, that show how employees interact with your courses. This will help highlight courses that are due for an upgrade: perhaps they are difficult to get through, too long, or uninteresting.

With a collaborative learning platform, users can give feedback or make corrections as they go through the course, so you can continually keep content up to date.

Prove ROI

LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report states that evaluating the impact of training programs is one of most L&D programs’ top strategic priorities. It’s vital to prove the return on investment for your training programs to justify your budget and secure executive buy-in and promotion. To do this, you’ll need to call back to the goals you outlined at the beginning of the program and demonstrate the impact training has had on meeting those objectives.

Speak to the C-suite in the language they know and appreciate. There are several different methods for measuring training ROI (including an ROI calculator that we developed). Some are quantitative; others rely on personal stories and experiences. You may want to use a mix of both.

Read more:

A successful employee training program requires C-suite buy-in

Training works best when you have buy-in on every level, from the c-suite down to individual employees. Unfortunately, only 27% of L&D pros report that their CEOs are active champions of learning. Without C-suite support, it isn’t easy to grow your L&D department and get the resources you need to champion learning fully.

A collaborative learning approach to training can help you get that buy-in by allowing you to ship courses quickly, boost engagement rates, and encourage peer involvement across the company. You can prove the importance of your learning programs by aligning them with company goals, involving employees across the company, and proving ROI. Show the impact of learning activities across the company, and you’ll win them over.

Looking for a surefire way of launching or revamping your employee training program? Our Collaborative Learning platform will make your life a lot easier. Book a demo now:

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