Employee training and development programs contribute to a company’s success and those of its workers. They allow companies to remain capable and relevant when skills are needed, offering them an effective way of filling roles without looking to job markets. In addition, training can boost employee morale and productivity by allowing opportunities for growth and advancement. Small wonder that companies are spending more on employee training programs than ever before.

In 2013, employers in the U.S. spent over $1,200 per head on employee development, training costs that increased by another 10 percent in 2014, according to Deloitte. Despite the increase, it appears that many companies could be finding better ways of improving their training programs:  A 2010 survey by McKinsey showed that only 25 percent of employees believed their company training programs were effective at imparting useful skills.

Here are a few training considerations businesses should keep in mind to help them thrive:

Define the Training

The best employee training programs give careful thought to the real needs of the company, the skills of its teams, and its short and long-term goals. When these are known, training programs can be tailored to a specific purpose, such as:

  • Gaining Necessary Skills: Whether because of the loss of an experienced employee or the need for new talent, skills-based trainings allow companies to cultivate from within in order to shore up spots where skill gaps exist.
  • Achieving Company Goals: Goals-based training gives employees insight into a company’s vision. An innovation-driven company will have different priorities than one that focuses mostly on customer service or process improvement.
  • Creating the Culture: Shared learning experiences can bring people together, especially when that training is meant to create a sense of shared interests and values. Great cultural training starts from the top and works its way down through an organization, focuses on real-world work scenarios, and creates a framework of shared professionalism for all employees to follow.

Track Success

In order to gauge whether training programs are effective, companies should track metrics tied to the goals they hope to achieve.

A training designed to improve sales conversion, therefore, should track conversion rates before and after the training is given to measure performance improvement. On the other hand, if the training seminar was on software troubleshooting, then the company might check to see if the number of IT department inquiries decreased after training.

Improving the Training

Training loses its relevance if not refined over time. Companies should welcome feedback on training and continually make updates to address both internal and external changes. Making program review a part of training itself can help companies gain immediate feedback while the experience is fresh in employees’ minds. Companies should encourage employees to be frank with their comments.

Quick Suggestions for Creating Great Company Training Programs

  • Training and performance reviews aren’t the same thing. Training increases an employee’s knowledge, skills and usefulness. Performance reviews, on the other hand, attempt to align an employee’s current work product with ongoing productivity benchmarks and team goals.
  • Make coaching a regular activity. Learning new skills requires the development of new habits; and consistent coaching will help these new habits to develop.
  • Use dedicated trainers. Employees who specialize in providing corporate training are in the best position run and review training programs. If none are available, however, use staff knowledgeable in the areas being trained. A common recourse for companies without dedicated training staff is to divide training coursework among experienced employees.
  • Vary the training format. Training doesn’t always have to be a slideshow; participatory presentations, lunch-and-learns, online modules, live webinars, and employee engagement exercises all have their place in building an effective skills development program.

Progressing Company Culture

When employees participate in creating a healthy learning environment, the end result is a culture of progress, an environment where learning is an integral part of day-to-day operations. A company that doesn’t learn and change with the times will eventually become irrelevant, and the same is true of employees.

When both business and worker share the goal of improving their knowledge, skills and adaptability, learning ceases to be a odd job and becomes part of the company experience. Employees are happier and more productive with less turnover, and companies are richer and more agile. Today’s businesses have already bought into this lesson; now they just need to learn it by heart.