Employee Training, Learning and Development Tips, Trends and More

December 4, 2023
Employee Training

In your efforts to ensure that your business succeeds and your best employees stay to help it happen, what’s your leverage? For many organizations and their HR departments, a comprehensive employee training and development program is a key advantage. It’s about enhancing skills and integrating continuous learning for individuals who are goal-oriented, seek to grow and advance, and value the learning experience. And it ranks high among today’s workforce and career development trends. Organizations find the practice essential to remaining competitive within their markets, developing leadership within and retaining their top talent.

Continuous learning programs can be used for employee, manager and corporate training within any type of work environment. Of course, workforce training and development is always evolving — to meet today’s business needs and tomorrow’s. Here’s a deeper look at employee training and development, including trends that are gaining traction within hybrid working environments. Read on with an eye toward the future, as most are likely here to stay.

What is employee learning, development and training in HR?

Employee training, learning and development programs are crucial to an organization's HR functions and talent management strategy. The goal of learning and development is to align individual employee goals and performance with the company’s overall mission and goals. Here’s the high-level view of how it works.

  1. The HR manager in charge of learning and development curates a list of skills necessary to achieve the company’s mission.
  2. The manager meets with individual employees or teams for interviews and performance appraisals.
  3. He or she identifies which skills are already present and well-honed, and also where skill and knowledge gaps exist.
  4. At that point, HR seeks to find or establish training programs to fill those gaps.

Ideally, the training will be cost-effective and well-matched to the company’s and employees’ needs.

What's the difference between training and learning and development?

Learning and development sounds like the essence of a training program. Is there really a difference?

Good question. Learning and development is not just a fancy new name for an old idea. The main difference between a training program and learning and development is that the latter is more personalized and targeted. Whereas traditional training programs might offer classes and seminars to an entire department at once, a learning and development program matches training to the specific employees who need it.

The traditional training program also focuses primarily on skills training. But the person-centered learning and development approach is not necessarily directly linked to employee performance. It's based on the idea that capable people make capable workers. While the terms are not definitively interchangeable, they do naturally interrelate.

For example, a learning and development program may prescribe training that enables employees to improve general performance skills. Those training efforts might target such things as goal setting, time management, emotional intelligence, leadership and soft skills. They may not invoke an immediate boost in technical performance, but they can pay off in increased productivity long term.

Essentially, learning and development programs seek to improve an employee’s career trajectory in terms of leadership and areas that align with their own values. They help support their personal and professional growth and relationships. Employee training programs are effective tools for supporting staff as they build the entire range of hard, soft and technical skills they need and desire. For the purpose of this article, we will use the terms more freely, nuances aside, as though they're interchangeable.

The importance and benefits of ongoing learning, development and training

Recruiting, hiring, orienting and training employees is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking for any organization. Providing ongoing training and development helps companies attract talent, increase employee engagement and job satisfaction, and reduce turnover rates. Today, entire generations rank opportunities for professional development second only to salary when investigating which career paths and employers to pursue. Hence, many employers consider workplace training and professional development key to shaping and maintaining a positive company culture.

Top reasons why employers prioritize a training, learning and development program include employee retention and return on investment. Here's a deeper look.

Employee retention

When you invest in your employees and their career development, you're investing in better retention.

As part of an effective retention strategy, employee training often begins with the new-hire onboarding process. Doing this right paves the way for short- and long-term employee satisfaction and success, which are primary drivers of employee retention. The decreased employee turnover saves companies time, money and productivity loss. So equipping new employees for success from the start warrants attention.

Throughout the employee life cycle, development programs focus on every employee at all times. This is not a five-year plan that expects employees to wait their turn for leadership training or advanced skills development. It is targeted, personalized and constant, reducing the need for employees to go elsewhere for the career development they seek.

Return on investment

The second major benefit of learning and development programs is its great ROI. Remember, these programs specifically target skills development that aligns with goals. It is much more cost-effective to train only those employees who need a particular skill than it is to provide blanket training to an entire department.

Moreover, employees who recognize their employers' investments in them tend to return the investment with hard work, loyalty and commitment. This is especially true for younger workers who appreciate employers allowing them to learn from others with expertise in their field.

Finally, as learning and development programs boost employee engagement, performance and morale, this typically leads to increased productivity.

Employee training and development types and trends

Employee learning and education are a normal part of corporate life. But with so many jobs relocated from the workplace to the home office, employee training and development isn’t what it used to be. Remote staff can’t always take advantage of in-person mentoring and coaching and on-the-job training programs with coworkers and managers. But as technology rapidly advances, solutions abound. Today employees can actually learn more than ever, no matter their schedules or physical location.

Types of employee training, learning and development

Depending on your industry, different types of training may be mandatory or optional for your employees. Job- or skills-specific examples include:

  • Onboarding and orientation training.
  • Compliance training.
  • Technical training.
  • Security and cybersecurity training.
  • Health and safety training.
  • Customer service training and sales training.
  • Other types of training and development include:
  • Training for growth, promotion and advancement.
  • Soft skills training.
  • Diversity training.
  • Refresher and renewal training.
  • Leadership development.

A most effective training program factors the learning process into the training process. People tend to have natural tendencies toward how they learn best. For example, for some, early morning classroom training is ideal; for others, auditory learning while they jog works well. Therefore, methods vary within a few general categories:

Personalized training

Not everyone learns the same way, and not everyone needs to learn the same skills. Personalized training programs allow employees to enhance their knowledge based on what they and their performance evaluations determine they need to learn. It can afford real-time feedback pertaining to real-world scenarios.

Mobile learning

By creating an app to deliver your continuous learning objectives, like teaching power skills, soft skills and technical skills, you can train employees on a device they already use throughout the day. This lets them learn and grow their skills while they’re standing in line at the store, waiting to pick up their kids or even relaxing after hours.

Experiential learning

This means learning by experience, or by doing. Experiential learning can be accomplished in many forms, the most common being in-person training on the job.

Sometimes a virtual platform acts as a training assistant. For retail, this can mean learning the basics of cash register operation via an online module or simulator. Once that’s complete, the employee heads to the checkout lanes and practices ringing up orders with the help of a more experienced employee.

For a machine operator, the training would be similar. They’d learn basic operation and safety procedures via an online module. Then, they’d watch a more experienced employee operate the machinery while explaining how it worked. In time, the employee in training would begin operating the machinery under supervision.

The experiential learning model is popular for exposing employees to real-world situations and teaching specialized or nuanced on-the-job skills.

Trends in employee training

For a most effective employee learning, training and development program, count on a combination of live instructor-led training, online courses, and mixed-media content. Keep these points in mind as you plan your strategy:

  • Make training engaging. Use quizzes, polls, games, humor, certifications, rewards and incentives to make it more interesting, interactive, challenging and fun.
  • Focus on the technical skills your company needs, and hire experts to provide specific training in those areas.
  • Create personalized learning plans for each employee. Reward people who take the initiative to identify areas of need in their own learning plans. This is a great way to create a culture of learning and development.
  • Offer leadership development at all levels. Leadership skills shouldn’t be limited to managers and supervisors. Teach all of your employees to be leaders in their fields. Not only will this nurture their career development, but it will also set them up to be more successful in their current roles.
  • Invest in “whole person” development. Teach your employees about your organization’s mission and values, and help them discover, define and develop their own. Encourage them to apply those that align in their job-related roles.
  • Don't rehash the same old content. Be sure to continually update your training materials.

Here's a look at how today's technologies and trends can enhance your employee development strategy.

Artificial intelligence

When organizations apply AI to employee learning and development, it adds a new level of personalization.

For example, an AI training bot could analyze each employee’s education, skills background, experience, performance reports, current technology use and most-likely promotion scenario. Then it can recommend personalized learning opportunities to help them fill skill gaps and prepare for their next most-likely promotion.

Learning management systems

Using an LMS lets you create static and interactive training sessions that your staff can complete independently, at their own pace. This can also save all of you the time and money traditionally spent on off-site travel to meet with instructors.

An LMS can be integrated with your company website, where you can create assignments, test your trainees, and keep track of individual employees' progress and completion. You can incorporate a user forum and/or gamification for heightened engagement.

Gamification

Gamification and virtual reality can add a new level of fun and “reward” to your employee training. When you gamify training, you break down skills and learning into levels. For each level passed, participants can earn tokens or virtual dollars or appear on a leaderboard that ranks the top employees according to training points.

Gamification can be used to onboard new employees, teach new skills, and make sure that staff is up to date on the latest safety and compliance procedures. And it can be integrated with an LMS.

Online tutorials, articles and forums

The internet hosts a range of free adaptive learning opportunities for practical, on-demand application.

Let’s say an employee is having trouble creating a complex formula in a spreadsheet or finding the correct operand or function. This is a skills gap, and a quick YouTube search could provide the information the employee needs to finish the task.

Likewise, employees can discover articles, information and forums pertaining to new or emerging technologies, industry best practices and more.

Microlearning

Your training doesn’t have to be the multi-day, off-site mega-training type that was popular in recent decades. Those are expensive and time-consuming. You can supplement or even replace some formal training events with ongoing microlearning opportunities.

Microlearning features training and development material that is compressed into 2- to 5-minute segments. Typically the content is served on demand. It can take the form of short videos, articles, online training segments, brief mentoring meetings or audio files sized to consume during the commute.

Explore your options

The best developmental strategy for training programs is to determine what you need to teach and why, and be adaptive in how you present it. Think both near- and long-term, and consider your organization’s and employees’ ultimate goals. When you offer multiple options for continuous learning and training, you help employees see growth as an exciting opportunity.

Count on TriNet for ongoing HR and management news, tips and insights. For support along your journey, speak with a TriNet representative to learn about affordable HR and employee management solutions.

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