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How to build your first employee training program

An employee training program is a strategic plan aimed at enhancing employees' skills and knowledge for their current roles or future advancement. It's part of a broader Learning & Development strategy, aiming to boost performance, foster a productive culture, and facilitate career progression.

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

This guide shares practical tips on how to build employee training programs to develop your employees’ skills, improve their performance and increase retention.

Employee training and development programs, when thoughtfully implemented, are the cornerstone of a company’s success.

Here’s a guide on how to build your first employee training program:

Where to start with employee training programs

Identify your training needs

Before designing your learning and development program, assess your needs. You could start with a skills gap analysis. Here’s how to structure your analysis:

employee training program: skills gap analysis examples

Once you’ve identified your needs and desired skills, begin planning your employee training program. Your program should aim to develop the skills you deem most important.

Set your objectives

Training just for the sake of it costs money and time. Define the goals of your programs before you commit. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How will employee performance improve after this program?

    • For example, “Our accountants will learn how to use X tool to handle transactions faster.”
  • How will employees better achieve business goals after this program?

    • For example, “Our sales team will use new negotiation skills to increase sales quotas by X% in Y months.”
  • How will this training program better prepare employees to take on managerial roles?

    • For example, “X employee will be able to implement constructive performance reviews for his/her team.”
  • How will this program improve our employee retention rates?

    • For example, “Our turnover rate next year will decrease by X% after we plan team-building activities that boost employee morale and retention.”

Include your employees

Ask your staff what they would like to learn more about, and get them involved in designing a training program. Employee training and development programs work best when employees shape them.

Before launching a program, ask employees:

  • What would make you feel more confident at work?

    • A salesperson might say: “I would feel more confident at work if I participated in a sales role-playing exercise with a senior coworker for difficult sales scenarios.
  • What learning methods work for you?

    • Some people find live sessions more interesting, while others prefer training at their own pace through online courses.
  • What would improve your team’s performance?

    • Some employees might want training on communication techniques and time-management methods.
  • What are your interests outside of work?

    • The kinds of conferences employees like to attend or the books they like to read can provide insight into how to build better employee retention programs.
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Types of employee training programs

Before you pick a training program, consider your options. Different training programs address varying needs, budgets and desirable outcomes. Here’s an overview of training program types to help you choose the most suitable one.

Internal vs. Outsourced

Decide whether you want to design internal training programs, or hire a professional company to help train your employees. There are benefits and drawbacks to both in-house and outsourced training program types:

employee training program: in-house vs outsourced

If you want to outsource your employees’ training, you could start by checking out these companies:

Classroom-style vs. Workshop-style

Classroom-style training works best for storytelling sessions and presentations. Host workshop-style programs for brainstorming, simulation and role-playing games. Here’s a breakdown of both classroom-style and workshop programs:

employee training program: classroom-style vs workshops

In-house seminars vs. Industry conferences

Train more employees at the same time by hosting an in-house seminar. Paying for industry conferences allows you to offer custom learning opportunities to your employees. Here’s an overview of the qualities of both training types:

employee training program: in-house seminar vs conference

Individual vs. Group training

Group training will go a long way for departments that benefit from cross-team training, (e.g. communication skills training may benefit both sales and marketing teams.) Build individualized learning programs into your training plans to give employees more freedom to shape their own learning.

employee training program: team vs individualized programs

Skills-based training vs. Management training

Hone your skills-based training programs to help employees perform their every-day job duties better (e.g. technical training, like how to use Salesforce). Use management training to help individuals develop leadership qualities.

employee training program: skills-based vs management training

On-the-job training vs. External resources training

On-the-job training involves coaching and works well for new hires. You could also consider giving your employees access to educational resources (like physical or digital libraries and e-learning tools) which are easy to use and cost-effective.

employee training program: on-the-job vs external resources

Other types of training that may apply to your organization include:

  • Professional training, where employees are required to update their knowledge and/or get industry certifications. For example, accountants may obtain CPAs to advance their careers.
  • Safety training, which aims to protect employees from accidents. For example, first aid, fire drills and hazardous materials training.
  • Quality training, to certify workers conform to standards. For example, eliminating product flaws or complying with environmental laws.

Assess employee training programs

No training program is complete until you measure its results. Review and redesign your educational programs if they don’t meet your intended objectives. Use employee feedback to inform the process. Ask employees:

  • What new (e.g. task, tool, skill) did you learn from the program?
  • How will (or did) you apply this newly-acquired knowledge on the job?
  • What did you like about the program and what should we improve (e.g. topic, methodology, instructor, material)?

Over time, you can gauge the effectiveness of your training programs by tracking improvements in employee performance.

Training programs work best in smaller, routine chunks, as opposed to one-time educational blips. Adopt a learning and development culture at your company to prompt all employees to seek personal and professional advancement.

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