A company’s training program is crucial to the success of the organization as a whole. It lays the foundation for employee development and success while setting the tone for the employee experience and culture.
There are multiple different types of company training programs. The most common happens in the onboarding phase of a new hire’s journey, where they become a part of the company for the first time and learn job-specific skills. Other types of training can happen at any point throughout an employee’s term, whether it’s for personal career development or company-wide initiatives and administrative changes.
Employees want to learn. The most important value drivers for employee retention have proven to be learning and development opportunities, coupled with the desire for inclusivity, belonging, or purpose within the organization.
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Employees, regardless of tenure, need to be recognized as some of the most crucial voices. As businessman and SAS CEO Jim Goodnight says:
“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.”
Employees should be able to grow and develop themselves, and to offer their direct advice and feedback through their journey. While management and leadership should be eager and active listeners and follow through with employees post-training to understand how they’ve been able to grow.
Putting the Process into Perspective
The first thing employees can do to improve their training programs is offer their direct feedback that takes into account the perspective only they can provide as a result of how directly affected they are. The ones being taught are the first to feel the impact of the program and will know very quickly if it’s productive. The ones teaching can’t quite as quickly or easily understand how that impact is landing. The standard form of employee training feedback is an employee survey given at the end of training. Surveys are just one medium to obtain feedback.
Try also giving employees the opportunity for continuous feedback throughout the process; offered in smaller doses, opposed to one single, conclusive evaluation.
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to training and development. Everybody learns differently, and the more diverse and personalized perspectives employees bring, the more open and authentic conversations can happen to bring about success. Employees should be encouraged to look introspectively at their own experiences to provide the most unique and valuable insight. Opening up a two-way dialogue like this helps promote change for the future. It’s not cluttered with past influences of what should or should not have occurred but recognizes the reality of the program’s effectiveness and the forward trajectory it’s set on.
Continuous Feedback in Action
Asking employees to keep a critical eye demonstrates your willingness to adapt and evolve when needed, and shows respect for your employee’s ideas and values. The best feedback that an employee can give is a combination of both technical and emotional feedback. Here are different types of helpful insights an employee can provide about their training:
Employees should consider goals they have for themselves, their current skill set, and what skills they feel they need to learn to be successful. This initial thinking puts them in the mindset to think critically about themselves and any program they enter into. It helps encourage forward-thinking and has the potential to spark an opportunity to innovate a learning process but overall contribute to self-development.
Before an employee heads into any training program they should begin by managing their expectations. Thinking along the lines of what they expect to get out of training, as well as what they feel they are going to need to be successful. Using information gathered in all stages of their job, including the interview process and current understanding of the position they can start to piece together their initial impressions. Recognizing any nerves or apprehensiveness heading into it will also be helpful in the long term because those are concerns that will need to be addressed.
During training, employees should keep track of numerous things. First, are there any aspects that are leaving them unclear, or are bringing about further questions and explanations? From there, consider why it is taking more effort to explain. Was it an issue of delivery, was the concept itself more convoluted? This critical thinking can hopefully lead to answers that will streamline the process in the future.
It’s also important to consider the positives and take a look at what left them feeling prepared and inspired to head into their work. Employees should talk about what processes worked well. When asking questions, make sure to take note of who was available to help. A final important note to consider is: was there an opportunity to put the skills learned into practice? If so, what kind of impact did that have on the learning experience?
Immediately after training is the most common time to evaluate an employee’s feelings and preparedness for the job. However, it’s not uncommon that employees aren’t able to recognize gaps in training and performance until they are in the thick of their daily tasks, left to their own devices. If they were aware of their thoughts, concerns, and comments throughout the entire process, hopefully, they have a much clearer picture of the effectiveness of the program.
After some time on the job, they should be able to answer one of the most important questions: how big was the gap between what they learned and what they need to perform successfully in their day-to-day job? Did it prepare them for real-life experience? On top of any verbal feedback, consider how many questions they need answered after being on their own in the role, and more importantly what is the nature of those questions. If the questions are refreshers or more specific and detail-oriented, then the training program probably did well, compared to if the questions require further training or new explanation of old concepts.
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Ultimately, an employee’s perspective is valuable no matter what. It doesn’t have to be completely innovative thinking to be effective. Any thought, question, comment, or concern matters, regardless of how small.
Turning Feedback into Change
Employees can only make a significant difference if their voices are heard and recognized. Management should encourage this thinking early on in the process, making it a point to ask employees how they’re feeling each step of the way.
Management and leadership can compare resulting KPI’s regarding employee training, with any feedback or conversation for a fuller picture of a program’s effectiveness. A holistic approach that takes into account performance, satisfaction, passion, excitement, and commitment to the job is going to be a much more telling measure of the power of the company’s training and the future of the organization.
The next step is to take the employee feedback and turn it into an actionable, prescriptive plan that transforms the workforce. As Jack Welch, former CEO of American Company General Electric, said:
“[…] an organization’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
Employees need to be an active voice in their learning and development. Taking the time to open a dialogue, listen to their feedback, evaluate their progress, and ultimately, invest in them from their perspective, will have a long-term positive impact on employee retention, engagement, and overall satisfaction.