A group of seated people wearing lanyards watch and listen to a speaker, who is only partially visible to the camera. The speaker is wearing a blue jacket and facing away from the camera.
Employee training can take place in many settings and cover any topic that fits your company. — Getty Images/izusek

LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report found that 94% of employees surveyed would stay at a company longer if it invested in new training and development opportunities. Workers want to join organizations that provide education and professional growth, yet few companies regularly offer employee training programs.

For small merchants, employee training can be a win-win for your team and for your business. Training is usually directly tied to anticipated business results: For instance, a company seeking to win more sales leads may offer training in the latest CRM technology. Other employee training focuses on general capacity building in areas like customer service or technical skills. If you’re interested in investing in your workers and your business, these steps can help you start to create an employee training program.

Identify a business need

Employee training seeks to fulfill a specific business purpose as well as to provide team members with new skills to further their careers. Start by performing a skills gap analysis or surveying managers and employees to see what skills they think are missing. This analysis will answer two key questions:

  • What skills will help the company achieve its goals?
  • What skills do employees need to do their jobs well now and during the next five years?

Rank each skill you identify according to how important it is to your organization’s priorities, as well as the level of expertise needed. For instance, you may identify “web design” as a key capability needed to expand your e-commerce presence over the next year. But you may also recognize that you will need someone with a high level of expertise — in which case, it may be better to hire a contract worker instead of providing training.

[Read more: Are There Skills Gaps On Your Team? How to Identify and Address Them]

Design the training program

There are many different ways to deliver employee training. Some businesses use formal, instructor-led classroom sessions; others use e-learning. Informal options like mentorship programs and case studies can also be great, affordable ways to develop the capabilities you need. Here are a few other formats through which you can deliver an employee training program:

  • Group training activities: For collaboration, team-building and brainstorming, group training can be useful. It brings together employees to learn together in an environment that benefits the team at large.
  • Hands-on training: Hands-on practical training focuses on skills needed for a specific role, such as using a new POS system at checkout or learning a new carpentry skill.
  • Management-specific training: Leadership training for your managers might focus on high-level tasks like creating a budget, providing feedback and mentorship to employees or brainstorming better ways to improve business operations.
  • Events and conferences: Events offer an easy way to help employees stay up-to-date on industry trends and changes in regulations that may impact your business.

Training programs work best in smaller, routine chunks, as opposed to one-time educational blips.

Workable

These different types of training can be combined in different ways depending on how your team prefers to learn. For instance, you may wish to have someone complete an e-learning course on the latest changes to the tax code before attending a conference for CPAs, which would reinforce the course objectives.

Create KPIs

Before you deliver the training, make sure you’re clear on the learning objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will show if the training was effective. Some experts recommend that you wait a few weeks or a month following the training to give employees a chance to test their skills. Plan to solicit employee feedback following the training with questions such as:

  • What new tool or skill did you learn from the program?
  • How have you applied this knowledge in your daily work?
  • What did you like about the program, and what could be improved?

Learning is a process, so you may wish to schedule multiple employee training sessions throughout the year. “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,” wrote the experts at Workable.

[Read more: 4 Expert Strategies for Training Your Sales Team]

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CO— is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Published July 27, 2021