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Enhance Your Workforce with Employee Training and Development

Why is training and development so important? Because the demands of the workplace are constantly changing. Employee training programs keep your staff current with today's top workplace issues — everything from harassment prevention and corporate diversity training to on-the-job safety and forklift training. And with the wide variety of low cost training and development materials now available, you can choose the right corporate training supplies for your budget and your workforce.

Get the most from your training dollars

The success of your training depends largely on the forethought and preparation you put into it. The following suggestions will help you get more bang for your employee training buck.

Choose trainees wisely — Some managers believe the “best” candidates for training are whichever employees they can afford to part with for a while. That approach virtually guarantees the training will be a waste of time and money. To pick the best candidates for any training session, ask yourself, “Which of my people stands to gain the most from this experience?” Answer that question by reviewing recent performance evaluations, career development plans and impressions you’ve formed by working with them day to day.  Or consider employee skills testing to identify those in need of additional training.

If your choice seems to be a toss-up between two equally deserving people, and job skills testing hasn’t identified a clear difference in need, break the tie by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Which person has voiced the most interest in mastering or improving the skills this training session covers? You can reward those who have spoken up.
  • Which one has shown the most enthusiasm, ambition and motivation to advance? You can acknowledge those qualities.
  • Which person’s role is such that their productivity or performance is most likely to benefit the group’s performance as a whole after the training? If one person’s weak skills are handicapping the whole group, provide training ASAP.

Set the stage — Give attendees all relevant materials, including program handouts, an agenda, and job-related documents or other information they’ll need in advance. That way, they’ll be familiar with the topics, and ready to get the most from each training session.

Be sure, too, to clarify the benefits to be gained from the training experience. Set clear objectives for training and development, so our employees understand your expectations. Finally, be upbeat about their attendance. You can’t expect them to feel excited unless you’re enthusiastic, too.

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What works in the classroom

How you conduct classroom-based training courses can have as much impact on the employees’ success as the material itself. Here are some ways to build rapport and deliver employee training in a meaningful way.

Break the ice

To learn more about the group and to get the ball rolling:

  • Have all employees introduce themselves. Ask students to summarize their job responsibilities, experience and what they hope to learn from the class.
  • Have them introduce a classmate. As an alternative to the above, ask the employees to pair off, exchange information about themselves for five minutes, then introduce their partners. This helps everyone get acquainted.
  • Request a self-critique. After introductions, ask each person to complete a personal statement that connects them with the course topic. Use this information to tailor your content to specific class members. Examples: “My way of dealing with coworker conflicts is to… “I believe I could communicate more clearly with others if I…or “My biggest difficulty when setting goals is…

Change the pace

How can you bust through the stereotype of a boring lecturer and capture the class’s attention?

  • Do something flamboyant. Pound the lectern; kick the wastebasket; slam a book on the floor; whistle. Showmanship keeps all eyes on you. Many ‘train the trainer’ guides provide practical suggestions for presenting material in the most compelling manner possible.
  • Change your speech pattern. Speaking loudly? Drop to a whisper, so they’ll have to listen closely. Speaking softly? Crank up the volume. Rattling off facts? Throw out a few rhetorical questions, and preface your answers with a long pause.
  • Use attention-grabbing visual aids. Some possibilities:
    • Inspiring or thought-provoking quotations on transparencies or slides. Allow a moment’s silence for the meaning to sink in.
    • Enlarged excerpts from newspapers or the Internet that illustrate your point with real-world examples.
    • Utilize a corporate training video that illustrates concepts you’re going to explain or problems that the training course will help solve.

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Obtain feedback and monitor performance improvement

After your employee training programs, ask attendees to condense the most important information they got from each session in a memo or report, along with suggestions for applying the material in their own work or departments.

Knowing that you expect this type of response should motivate them to pay attention, take notes, ask questions, relate training materials and techniques to their specific jobs, and bring back literature both for their own use and to share with others.

Besides the summary report, you might ask attendees to distribute tips, checklists or other helpful handouts to coworkers who didn’t attend and to discuss their experience in a group meeting. This would broaden the training’s value base to include everyone in your department and improve the cost/benefit ratio accordingly.

Also, ask attendees how they’d rate the training in light of the skills or abilities they needed to improve. Was the information too elementary? Too advanced? Did the trainers emphasize theory over application or fail to relate the information to practical workplace issues and concerns? These questions can help you decide whether to send more staff members in the future or opt for a different program or training provider.

Improvement is, of course, training’s litmus test. What tangible evidence do you see that the employee’s skills or productivity actually improved after the experience? If they did, you’ve verified that your training dollars paid off and that the benefits did, in fact, outweigh the cost.

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