Building an Employee Training and Development Plan

Company owners and executives love to say that employees are their greatest asset, or some variation of the saying. No company or business would grow and find success without the people that make it move.

However, as another popular saying goes, “seeing is believing.” Although some businesses may say that their employees are their greatest asset, their actions may not reflect this statement.

If you genuinely believe that employees are your company’s greatest asset, it makes sense that you should be committed to furthering their improvement. If you want your company to improve, it is important to nurture the talents of your employees — as well as address any employee skills gaps.

Investing in employee training and development should be a key component in your business growth strategies. Building a robust employee learning or employee development program is one of the best ways to support their continued growth.

Overall, employee training programs are an effective way to strengthen one of the foundations of your business and help ensure its long-term success.

Importance of Employee Training and Development

Building an employee training and development program offers many benefits, not only to individual employees but also to the company. Training and workshops are fantastic opportunities for employees to expand their knowledge, hone their skills, and rise to better positions within the company.

Some of the top benefits of employee training and development include:

Strengthening Current Hard Skills

Training programs are prime opportunities for employees to enhance their current technical abilities. This not only helps them become more proficient and productive in their roles but also helps ensure they stay updated on the latest industry trends and practical knowledge.

Developing Soft Skills

Employee training and development also help with soft skills. With a good program, employees can further hone their current skills as well as develop new ones that may help streamline their current workflow or prepare them for higher positions in the future.

Help Employees with Weaknesses

All employees, no matter how perfect the job is on paper, still have their individual shortcomings. A development program allows managers and employees to identify these weaknesses. More importantly, it can help address these weaknesses, such as by teaching them the necessary skills to overcome these obstacles.

Addressing Performance Review Results

One of the main uses of training and development programs is to allow the company to address the results of regular performance reviews. This falls in line with the previous benefit of helping employees shore up weaknesses while also leveraging their strengths.

Boosting Worker Morale

Offering useful training and development opportunities shows employees how much their company is invested in their growth. It shows their commitment to employees, not just their customers. This helps foster positive sentiments in the workplace and raise engagement. Seeing the improvement in their work also helps boost self-esteem, job satisfaction, and morale.

Improving Talent Retention

A positive workplace environment, higher job satisfaction and self-esteem, and better growth opportunities are all essential to retaining top talents and reducing overall turnover rates. Investing in training opportunities shows workers that their company is interested in a longer, more fruitful relationship — which, in turn, makes them more likely to also invest their time and effort into staying with the company.

Clarifying Job Expectations and Goals

Development programs are also an effective way to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding job expectations and business goals. It helps companies clarify the level of abilities and commitment they need from employees. Workers relearn the limits and responsibilities of their position, as well as what they can expect if they plan to move up.

Emphasizing Company Culture

Employee training endeavors help improve overall company culture. Like clarifying job expectations, it helps instill the values the company holds in its employees. Additionally, it can help reinforce those values and teachings. This may also help with protecting the company’s reputation or brand identity.

These are only some of the many benefits companies and employees may gain from planning an employee training and development program.

Having the Right Tools for the Job

Take note, though, that these benefits do not come automatically simply because your company started an employee development program. At the end of the day, employee learning and the success of such endeavors primarily depend on two factors: commitment and competency — both on your part and your employees.’

For companies, this means carefully planning and instituting an employee training program. This also means having realistic employee development goals and clear training success metrics. It is equally important to use the right tools to further raise employees’ chances of success and improvement.

This is where Learning Management Systems come into the picture. A learning management system or LMS (Learning Management System) is a software program or online application that is used to plan, implement, and assess employees’ training and learning processes.

In general, an LMS provides managers or instructors with an easy and efficient way to deliver content, gather data, monitor participation, and track learning progress. It allows for better course management, certification, and even social media integration.

On the part of employees, an LMS is a convenient tool or system for managing their continuing education.

An LMS usually features a variety of ways to administer, deliver, and track development programs. Many include online courses, tailored assessments, certifications, and much more.

Such programs are a boon to business owners and company executives in managing various elements surrounding their development program and adjusting them as necessary to improve employee training and learning processes.

Assessing Employee Skill Gaps and Needs

Before any company can plan its employee training and development program, it first needs to conduct assessments.

Assessing employee skill gaps and needs is crucial for creating properly informed and effective development programs. Skills assessments not only help identify critical employee skills gaps but also reduce biases in choosing the right candidates for the position. In turn, this can bolster the organization’s transparency, diversity, and inclusion efforts.

Employee skills assessments can also help companies identify and set better benchmarks for consistency and better progress tracking.

Assessments are not solely on the side of the employees. It is also essential to conduct regular organizational or company needs assessments. Having a clear idea of what your company needs helps you identify the qualities, skills, and people necessary to achieve your goals.

Needs assessments also help organizations identify the gaps in their knowledge, structure, and projects. It shows what works and what does not — which allows you to address these promptly.

Effective and well-targeted training programs benefit from a higher understanding of both employees’ knowledge, skills, and competencies, as well as the specific needs of the organization. Skills gaps and needs assessments will help you match the company’s needs with what your employees can do or identify individuals that can be nurtured to develop the qualities crucial for your business growth.

Like how employee training and development needs to be planned well, the same is true for skills assessments. Conducting skills assessments requires proper preparation, particularly if you have a lot of employees.

Below is a general guide for how to conduct an employee skill gap and needs assessment smoothly.

1. Start with Existing Data

Companies continuously gather data on employees and their performance. This includes data provided by employees about themselves and their competencies when applying for the position, work evaluations based on key performance indicators, and feedback from managers.

Information on social media, particularly LinkedIn, may also offer added insight regarding employees’ knowledge and abilities. It also helps to review job descriptions and compare these with current employee responsibilities and any feedback regarding the workload from employees themselves.

2. Determine What to Assess

The data gathered from existing sources will come in handy when determining what skills to assess. This allows for a more targeted skills assessment, rather than a broad one that may not provide as much help.

Aside from deciding what skills to assess, companies may also use this time to determine what job positions, departments, or projects to assess. These can also decide the direction of the training program, such as who needs training or what type of competencies to focus on to help ensure the success of current business endeavors.

Taking stock of the situation, both on the side of employees and the company, is necessary to identify the people or roles that may need help the most.

3. Communicate Intentions with Employees

It is best to communicate positive intentions and objectives with employees early on — and to do so clearly and concisely. Springing assessments onto employees may cause undue anxiety about their position in the company.

Make sure to clearly state that the skills gaps assessments are not for weeding out the weakest links but for helping them grow stronger, fit in with the company better, and close any skills or needs gaps within the organization.

4. Start Collecting Data

Once that is clear and there are no misunderstandings regarding your intentions and your employees’ job security, you can move forward with collecting data.

There is no singular best way to tackle this step. The best way to collect data will depend on the needs and goals of the company. The nature of your business may also play a part in this.

There are several ways you can collect data and measure your employees’ skills. These include:

  • Self-assessment surveys. Ask employees about their expertise: what skills do they excel in, what do they want to learn, what are their weaknesses, and more. This will help you have a better idea not only of employees’ capabilities but also their self-awareness.
  • Workplace simulations. These will help test workers’ hard skills and company values. Simulations can be as simple as posing hypothetical situations and questions or as complex as assigning mock projects.
  • Online skills assessment tests. The internet has a wealth of free and paid online skills assessments. Make sure to choose tests focusing on measuring skills related to the department, project, or skill you want to assess. For example, there are specific online skills assessments for coding skills, business skills, speaking skills, and more.
  • One-on-one performance reviews. These include yearly performance reviews but should not be limited to just that. One-on-one reviews can be done regularly, such as every trimester, quarter, month, or project. Not only will this help identify skill gaps, but it will also give insight into training effectiveness once the program starts.
  • Manager and team feedback. Team feedback is essential for both data gathering and for helping build camaraderie or teamwork. As these can be done more frequently than one-on-one reviews, they can offer more up-to-date information. Once training starts, it will help in measuring performance against training success metrics.
  • 360-degree review system. These reviews are anonymous feedback from everyone and everything — hence 360 degrees. In general, it includes peers, managers, and other higher-ups. The information is not limited to technical competencies or hard skills but also soft skills, overall behavior, working relationships, and anything else that may impact career development.
  • Customer feedback. Asking for customer feedback is crucial for many businesses. Timely customer feedback helps identify pain points and areas for improvement for employees and the organization. This means it is effective in identifying employee strengths and skill gaps, and company needs.
  • Using an LMS can make this step significantly easier. Having a centralized platform makes it simpler to deploy, manage, and track the diverse ways you choose to collect data. It may also help with the next step, data analysis.

5. Analyze Gathered Data

After conducting the assessments, it is time to analyze all the collected data. Thorough analysis is necessary to get maximum benefits from the assessments. Proper data analysis will also help you apply the data effectively to create realistic employee training goals and plan strategically sound and competitive development programs.

Setting Employee Development Goals and Training Program Objectives

If you want to improve employee training and development results, it is crucial to set clear goals and objectives. This goes for both professional development goals and overall company training goals. Doing so ensures your organizational needs, business goals, and employee skills gaps are all aligned.

Goals will serve as your program roadmap for both the employees taking part in continuing education initiatives and the organization’s development efforts.

One of the most important things to clarify when setting employee development goals and training program objectives is the “why.” Why develops such programs? Why should employees care?

Well-defined goals help employees better understand what you expect of them and what they stand to gain from joining. It can also help them better track their progress, which in turn typically helps drive participation, engagement, and performance results.

Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time) Goals and Objectives

SMART is a well-known acronym in business. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

The SMART framework is a practical and effective approach to setting effective, powerful, and realistic goals. It is also a fantastic way to ensure your goals can be accomplished within a certain timeline.

More importantly, setting SMART goals and objectives makes it much easier to keep track of progress and identify potential issues or areas of improvement for your training and development program.

Here are some tips to help you ensure you set SMART employee training and development program goals:

  • Specific. Ideally, your goals should be defined and unambiguous. Some questions to guide you are: What concrete objectives do you want the program to accomplish? Who are you counting on accomplishing these goals? What skills are you targeting to improve? How do you want these skills to improve?
  • Measurable. What criteria will you use to measure the progress of your team? How do you intend to measure it? Establishing quantifiable training success metrics, such as statistics, completion rates, test scores, or key performance indicators, allows you to easily measure the effectiveness of the training program and track employee progress.
  • Achievable. Goals should be realistic or attainable — in other words, do not set goals that are not humanly possible, especially within a given time limit. Ask yourself, “Do my employees have the right tools to achieve the goals we have set?” Another good guiding question to answer is whether they are given enough time to improve, considering their workload and capabilities.
  • Relevant. Make sure the goals you set align with the employees’ roles, responsibilities, as well as your organization’s objectives. The goals you set should directly contribute to employee growth, job performance, department goals, and if possible, any current projects.
  • Time-Bound. This ties in with ensuring goals are attainable. The goals you set should have a specific time or deadline for completion. This adds a sense of urgency, which can encourage focus and help with task prioritization. Moreover, deadlines are also highly effective in tracking and evaluating progress.

What Effective Employee Training and Development Goals Look Like

Below are a few examples of effective employee training and development goals and objectives:

  • Improve customer feedback rates by 20% by the end of the quarter.
  • Ensure all team members master how to use the new data analytics software in two months.
  • Develop leadership competencies and nominate five new project team leaders for the following quarter’s round of campaigns.
  • Respond to customer inquiries 25% faster using the new web portal by the end of the quarter.
  • Improve the customer service’s active listening and problem-solving skills based on their assessment scores by the end of the month.
  • Reduce the time it takes to resolve customer complaints by 60% by the end of the second quarter.
  • Boost the project management abilities of sales teams 1 and 2 by 50% before the start of the next trimester.

Designing and Implementing a Training Program

Successful implementation of an employee training program starts with ensuring it is well-designed. Some of the key elements to consider when designing employee training and development programs were already mentioned or discussed in earlier sections.

These include:

  • Identifying skills gaps or training needs
  • Determining the people who need or would benefit from such training
  • Setting SMART goals or objectives
  • Aligning training goals with business goals and employee needs

Other key elements to consider when designing your training program are:

  • Choosing the right delivery methods. Examples include online courses, hands-on learning, instructor-led sessions, etc. Make sure that your training, and development program’s delivery method is accessible so there is no barrier to learning and participation. It should also be aligned with your employee’s needs, capabilities, and subject matter.
  • Creating engaging learning content. If you want your employees to continue participating in development programs and meet their professional development goals, the learning content needs to be engaging. Avoid long, drawn-out lectures — rather, focus on higher-quality learning materials and convenient, interactive learning methods.
  • Incorporating feedback. Transparency is always a great motivator for training and development. Include ways for your employees to provide feedback regarding training, instructors, and overall experience. On the other hand, make sure that employees also regularly get feedback regarding the results of their courses.

A fast and effortless way to make sure you incorporate all these when designing your development program is to use an LMS. Leverage pre-built, already-tested systems and platforms to provide a seamless learning experience. Many LMS already have the tools you need, from ways to provide training feedback and different training modules to robust data analysis tools and customizable materials.

Most importantly, utilizing an LMS makes it significantly easier and stress-free to implement the training and development program you designed. A few examples of training programs you can effectively implement using an LMS are:

  • New employee orientation and onboarding process
  • Management training
  • Technical skills training, like cybersecurity training
  • Soft skills development, such as time-management
  • Mentoring or coaching programs
  • Leadership programs or workshops

Measuring and Evaluating Program Results

The evaluation process is a crucial step in employee training and development. This is how you know whether you were able to achieve the goals or objectives you set when building your program. Skipping this step will make your training and development program stagnant and eventually render it ineffective.

To determine whether the development program had the desired impact and successfully helped address skills gaps and needs, you need to look at the before and after. Below are the basic steps in evaluating your employee training and development program.

  • Determine key performance indicators and other evaluation criteria or training success metrics, such as employee attendance, participant satisfaction, and performance improvements
  • Collect data from assessments, reviews, program activities or tests, surveys, and managers’ observations
  • Conduct a pretest and posttest regarding the training materials or development program
  • Analyze and compare results of the tests, as well as other assessments or observations before and after the training
  • Ask for feedback from employees regarding the program content, delivery methods, and other relevant factors

The Attendee Interactive toolset makes measuring and evaluating both the program and its participants painless. The system allows you to build intuitive, session-specific forms for easy collection of participant feedback. Additionally, it is easy to see what programs or courses the employees participate in, test result passing rates, and more.

Continuous Improvement of Employee Training and Development

Part of the effectiveness and usefulness of training programs lies in adapting to current trends, employee needs, and relevant feedback. Continuous improvements in technology and the digital scene influence businesses. As a result, companies are continuously adapting to modern technology, creating new practices, and innovating how they conduct their business.

Any worthwhile employee training and development program should do the same. It is essential for your program to also improve continuously and remain aligned with evolving employee needs, skill gaps, and current technology.

So, aside from seeking feedback or input from employees, it is important to keep up with industry trends, emerging technologies, and updates on industry best practices. Doing so helps any employee training and development program stay relevant, effective, and value-added.

Another key element to ensuring the continuous improvement of any development program is to encourage lifelong learning among your employees. A training or development program is only beneficial if employees find it helpful and support it or participate in it.

The Bottom Line

Building an effective employee training and development plan is not something we undertake on a whim. It requires a systematic approach, sufficient preparation, and continuous assessment and improvement.

Despite all the challenges that lie in this endeavor, it is a necessary investment for the continued growth and improvement of your employees — and therefore, the continued advancement and success of your business.

If you want to streamline your employee training and development program and encourage employees to participate and make it easier to meet their learning needs, invest in an LMS today.

Attendee Interactive’s continuing education management tools do all that and more.

Manage attendees, make certification easier, consolidate credentials, allow participants to evaluate sessions, and run robust reports for more valuable data!

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