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How to Make Employee Training Suck Less

Cornerstone Editors

Employee training tends to fall into a few familiar buckets at most companies: completely nonexistent, mind-numbingly boring, or entirely ineffective. When employees find out they can skip a mandatory training session, a collective sigh usually passes over the room.

On the other hand, on-the-job learning, training and re-training are absolutely essential to long-term success: it keeps employees up-to-date and informed, and is critical not only for many job functions, but to maintain a cohesive, high-performing staff. How do you implement training programs that not only stick but help employees succeed at their jobs?

Employers are often slow to mandate new training -- often because tackling a new means of doing it requires immense effort with no guarantees. In fact, with the current state of employee training, it’s no surprise that there’s a looming skills gap, which 39% of employers blame for their inability to find solid candidates for entry-level jobs, according to a recent McKinsey report.

Yet new technology and methodologies have brought training a long way -- it can even be fun. Here are tips to create informative, engaging training sessions that employees will benefit from.

Wake Up to the 21st Century

Requiring employees to take an hour or two out of their days to watch a training video on safety protocol or harassment in the workplace is the bane of most employees’ existence. Often characterized by '80s haircuts and shoulder pads galore, these old-school training tools have no place in a 21st-century office.

Don't force everyone to sit through training together. People learn at different paces and a TV screen at the front of a room is just invitation to take a nap or talk to the person next to you. Instead, ramp up training engagement by allowing employees to pace themselves through a blend of quizzes and videos, accessible to the employee whether he or she is in the office, working remotely or waiting to board a flight.

Ask - Dont' Tell - Your Employees What They Need to Learn

Today's employee cares about career development, taking on new responsibilities and advancement more than ever before. If the only thing standing between an employee and her next promotion – and raise – is an in-depth training session and a couple months of hands-on experience, you bet she’s going to dive right in. According to a 2012 Deloitte survey on the "talent paradox," 42% of respondents seeking new employment said their job does not make the best use of their skills and abilities. In addition, 37% say they lack career progress and 27% lack challenge. If only those talented folks were being used to the best of their ability.

Our own recent survey found that only 32% of respondents had received training and development to better perform their job in the past six months. That’s a gap worth filling.

By regularly checking in with employees about their workload, career aspirations and interests, managers can connect skills that are being lost. Investing even an hour or two of training or job shadowing can help that employee take the next step in his career. Even a short one-on-one training session can go a long way. Of course, there are software tools out there to help track employee training preferences and career paths within the organization.

Turn Everyone Into Teachers

Any decent manager didn’t get there straight out of college -- they worked for it. If you have great experience, war stories, tips, and tricks of the trade, don’t keep them bottled up: share that valuable knowledge! This, of course, can be one of the benefits of deploying a social learning strategy within you organization. Through social discussions, internal blogs and wikis and other types of expertise location, you can create a kind of "institutional memory" that is available to new employees over time. In the old training model, if you didn’t sit through the ILT session, that information was essentially lost to the sands of time. That doesn’t have to be the case any longer.

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