Training your employees is an essential part of developing a skilled and motivated workforce. Whether you’re a small business owner or a manager at a large organization, investing in employee training can have a significant impact on the success of your business.
In this blog post, I’ll share 10 tips for training employees that I’ve developed after years as a classroom teacher as well as training employees at the manager, director, and VP level. These items apply to any lesson or presentation you plan to administer, whatever your particular training program might be.
Some of the benefits of a well-trained staff include:
- Increased productivity / output
- Improved deliverables / client retention
- Increased innovation
- Reduced turnover
It’s one of the best investments you can make, and this list will help you get the most out of your team and build the next generation of all-stars.
1. Start with the outcome
At the end of this training session, what do you want the employee to understand and/or be able to do? Here, it’s important to be realistic – give yourself a reasonable target and then write out the path to hitting the bullseye.
I’ve failed at this by trying to cover too much in one training session.
I solved it by going for 1-3 desired outcomes for each session. For example, one concept and one tactic within a tool makes for a great, easily digestible 30-minute lesson.
2. Keep it relevant
Once you’ve chosen your outcomes, make sure everything you cover is relevant to those outcomes.
I’ve failed at this by going too far off topic and meandering into territory that wasn’t as useful to the lesson.
I solved it by first determining what information is foundational to the lesson. Then, I map concepts that reach further out. Anything that isn’t critical – that would require too much explanation – is removed. This is typically more suitable for a separate session.
3. Use empathy
We often plan a training “in one direction,” which means we only think about what we want to teach the attendees. That’s great – it shows you care – but it’s very important to take a moment to perceive things from their seat and consider how the training will be received.
I’ve failed at this by forgetting to cross-check each part of my lesson with the question “how will the person receive this?”
I solved it by ensuring, to the best of my ability, that each part is:
- engaging or
- enjoyable or
- interactive or
- appropriately challenging or
- all of the above
4. Make it impossible to fail
This may be the single most important tip in this post.
I love jiu jitsu, and long ago I found this video that contains, among others, one of the most useful lessons on teaching I have ever encountered – make it impossible for your student to fail.
The first half of the video is critical, the second half contains an interesting story. If you want to improve as a teacher, I implore you to watch at least the first part!
I’ve failed at this by prioritizing detail over clarity, and forgetting to ask “is there any opportunity for the employee to fail?”
I solved it by eliminating, as much as possible, the failure points within my lessons, through things like clearer explanations and in-lesson assessments / checkpoints to ensure we’re getting the desired outcome.
5. Use visuals
Visuals can be fun, impactful, and supportive. Any time I can make a lesson or presentation more visual, I do it. For certain learners, it can be crucial.
I’ve failed at this by missing opportunities to use effective visuals that could have enhanced a lesson. I’ve even committed the dreaded “slide filled with text that I read to the audience” sin.
I solved it by making lessons more visual, and asking “what are 1-3 images the audience will remember when the lesson is over?” Using memorable images can help participants better recall what they’ve learned.
6. Let them drive
Any chance you have to make a lesson more interactive, take it! You could take 100 cooking classes but if you only ever watch, you’ll never learn to cook.
I’ve failed at this by getting too focused on presenting all the right information and forgetting to give my subjects a chance to “do.”
I solved it by asking, at various points in lesson planning, “is there a chance to pause here and allow the subject to do an exercise?” Sometimes, I teach first and let them try. Other times, I let them drive while I explain and then recap when we’re done.
7. Say less
In teaching, saying less often allows for more: it creates space for subjects to engage, question, and explore ideas themselves, fostering a deeper, more personal understanding of the material. I’ve also found that there is far more recall if I trim down the word count.
I’ve failed at this by being too detailed, over-explaining, and covering too much material in one sitting.
I solved it by being very deliberate about explaining things in the fewest words possible, and by saying things only once (avoiding circling back to say something again).
8. Assign a follow-up exercise
Assigning a task after a lesson helps cement the concepts, gives students a chance to apply what they’ve learned, and lets us gauge how well the material has been understood.
I’ve failed at this by missing the opportunity to assign an immediate follow-up exercise after a lesson.
I solved it by doing so more regularly and making this a part of my lesson plan template.
9. Plan a review
Planning a review of previously taught material is crucial as it reinforces learning and aids long-term retention. This strategy combats the ‘forgetting curve,’ a phenomenon where information is lost over time when there’s no attempt to retain it.
Spaced repetition, the practice of reviewing information at increasing intervals over time, is particularly effective in this regard. It takes advantage of the brain’s natural processes for memory consolidation and strengthens the neural connections associated with the knowledge, making recall faster and learning more durable.
It’s akin to repeatedly tracing a path through a forest; over time, the path becomes clearer and easier to follow.
I’ve failed at this by creating long-term lesson plans that go on without end, continuously covering new material.
I solved it by baking in reviews of previously-learned material using spaced repetition.
10. Measure effectiveness
Measuring the effectiveness of lessons taught through 1-on-1 training is essential as it provides targeted feedback for both the instructor and learner, helping to identify strengths, address specific areas of improvement, and ensure that the training is truly enhancing the team member’s skills and understanding
Some of the ways you can measure effectiveness internally include:
- Successful reviews (material is retained)
- Quality of work (real-world application)
- Positive feedback (recognition from colleagues and managers)
- Promotions (team members are advancing their careers)
I’ve failed at this by not identifying relevant ways to measure how effective trainings have been.
I solved it by spotting opportunities within the training program where an assessment can be made (i.e., reviews) as well as thinking about the desired outcomes of the training program as a whole (beyond just the grasp of each lesson subject).
The Final Word on Training Employees
These ten tips provide a roadmap to create engaging and impactful employee training sessions that boost individual performance and fuel overall business growth.
The art of successful training hinges on pinpointing desired outcomes, fostering empathy, orchestrating interactive lessons, and continuously measuring progress. Embrace these strategies to unlock the full potential of your team, and invest in their skills as the ultimate asset for your organization.
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