Create a training program that will deliver value for your business and employees for years to come.
The first time I spoke with someone about the term "evergreen" in the business sense, she thought I was talking about greenwashing. When I refer to something being evergreen, I'm not talking about strategically placing succulents throughout your office (although that seems in vogue these days).
What I mean by evergreen is something that is self-renewing, up to date and helpful. Evergreen plants retain leaves around the year; evergreen business operations are always relevant and don't require constant updates.
Many company leaders fail to fully understand employee training and how it can be an evergreen business activity. Most training programs quickly become outdated; however, organizations can craft a program that stays interesting and useful for employees for years to come.
Before jumping into building an evergreen employee training program, it's important to assess if you need an evergreen employee training program in the first place.
If you do not train your employees effectively, 40% will abandon their positions within the first year. Year after year, employees from various generations say that job-related training greatly influences their decision to stay in their current position.
There's a lot more information than what's listed above that explains why every company – regardless of size, industry, etc.– can greatly benefit from establishing an evergreen employee training program.
Without further ado, here's how you make it happen.
1. Assess the message you're transmitting.
Take a step back and examine the bigger picture. You need to come up with answers to the following questions:
- Who are you speaking to?
- What information do you want to convey?
- When will milestones take place?
- When will employees have future training?
- Where can employees go to have their questions answered?
- Why does this training matter to the employees and the business?
Answering these six questions may seem silly, but it's a really good way to begin.
The questions surrounding the 'why' are especially key. Employees want to understand why you're having them do something. They also want to know how the activity will allow them to contribute to the overall goals of the company.
Communicate to your employees that good training programs are useful for their personal development, happiness and growth. Explain that from a business perspective, you want to invest in their growth because it's good for them and good for the business. Be open about the fact that the program is beneficial for all parties involved.
During the planning phase, it's also smart to ask current and future employees about their interests. You might already know what subject you need to provide training on, but what about your employees' thoughts?
The people doing the work every day can help you understand what skills and tools they need to improve their job performance and what they want to learn to become a more productive employee.
Similarly, potential employees can tell you what development programs and trainings are of interest to them. You can then take this information to better attract and hire future employees.
2. Consider the psychology of adult learning.
There are three types of learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual learners thrive when they can see and watch information. A visual learner may study nonverbal or other visual happenings to better absorb information. Auditory learners like to listen and speak. Lectures and discussions are the bread and butter of auditory learning. Kinesthetic learners are tactile learners; they learn by doing.
Chances are you will have a combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners in your employment base. Therefore, you need to create a training program that incorporates elements of all three learning styles so everyone can get the most out of the content.
Planning a training program that implements the three types of learning is somewhat stressful. It may seem like you'll never communicate your key points. Luckily, adult learners share some characteristics.
First, adults like to learn new concepts by seeing how they relate to things they already know. Since they have years of experience, they know many academic and social things. Teaching them something that seems completely new may seem scary or threatening. Humans don't like things that are foreign or unknown. We are slow to accept new things. Make sure your trainings relate to their life experiences to avoid frustration and improve chances of success.
In addition, if you have good employees, they want to learn. Unlike with kids, you shouldn't have to spend much time convincing your adult employees to pay attention, do their homework or otherwise be involved.
Most adults are open to learning, so don't treat them as if they're not. Give them useful information, help them succeed, don't talk down to them or make them feel like they aren't ready to tackle additional information.
3. Create a plan, then implement it.
With steps one and two in mind, you're ready to create your training program. As you develop your plan, it's helpful to think of the acronym SMART. I use SMART goals in both my personal and professional endeavors, and training programs greatly benefit from this structure. SMART stands for "specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound."
As you create your program or evaluate prepackaged learning solutions, make sure they meet the criteria above. Training needs to be specific to clearly explain what will be taught. It also needs to convey information clearly. A good program has internal and external measurements built into its foundation.
If you have no way to measure the results, you can't develop an evergreen program. Of course, the goals and objects outlined in the training program need to be achievable. Setting goals or learning objectives that are too lofty is only going to overwhelm employees.
Think about relevance too. Don't train your engineers on marketing and vice versa. Stay within an employee's scope.
Finally, things need to be timebound. Here, I'm not saying they need a specific date, but a general guideline is fine. For example, don't say that someone needs to hit a specific sales metric by XX/XX/XXXX. Instead, tell them they should achieve the desired result X months after starting.
4. Put pen to paper.
At this step in the process, you should already have some ideas and concepts on paper.
Now, you must build out the program. If you're like me, the last sentence made you feel like there is a pit in your stomach. Starting something this important from scratch is stressful, but it can be done well and pay off in the long run.
There are lots of available programs that can aid you in your training program creation. For companies who don't want to create all, or any, materials, this is the step where you will need to find and secure an e-learning or other training platform.
5. Test, test, test.
A chef doesn't create an award-winning recipe on the first attempt, and your employee training program won't be evergreen to start. Unless you're inordinately lucky or a genius, you can't create an evergreen program on your first try. Creating a training program that withstands the test of time requires a lot of planning and even more revision.
If the above paragraph spiked your blood pressure again, know this: You can start with an imperfect program. Although it might feel uncomfortable at first, start with a prototype. Once you have a good, not perfect, program, roll it out.
After employees interact with your materials, ask them about their initial impressions. See what they liked and didn't like. Create quizzes that your employees can take so you can gauge how much information from your training they gained, retained and can use.
To go above and beyond, you can administer pre- and post-training assessments, so you have a better grasp of the true effectiveness of your program.
Look outside the training itself. Has employee involvement improved? Are workers more engaged? Have your business results changed? Real training progress is sometimes seen in metrics that appear to be unrelated to the untrained eye.
Dive in headfirst!
You can spend hours more researching and looking up information on how to start an employee training program, but why would you? Knowledge is power, but too much information can be crippling.
As someone who's created employee training programs in the past, I can tell you that the information above represents a comprehensive guide that can help you create, launch and test a program. The information in this article isn't exhaustive, but it's absolutely what you need to get started today.