Tips for Training Your Employees More Effectively

No matter what skill you’re teaching, use these tricks to help the knowledge stick.
Business strategist Nicholas Webb stresses the importance of making sure employees see the point of training by creating specific goals. (Photo: Nicholas Webb)

Unless you hire employees with exactly the skills you need, training is a must. (And even if the employee has done a similar job elsewhere, chances are you want it done differently.)

Training not only helps people do their job more effectively and efficiently, it also helps with employee retention, since people who receive training are less likely to leave to work elsewhere.

“Job skill and workplace training is an investment in people, productivity and profitability,” said Phil Stella, a workplace training and development consultant. “It should be the highest priority for investing time and money and the last item to be reduced when times are bad.”

No matter what your business or what you’re trying to teach, these tips can help make training more effective.

Explain why it’s important — to you and to them

One of the main mistakes employers make is not linking the training to specific and important goals, according to business strategist and trainer Nicholas Webb. According to Webb, a main reason training initiatives fail is that employees don’t see the point.

Take the time to explain why the new skill is important to you and to the business.

Also make clear how the training will benefit the employee. For example, will the software or equipment or process they are learning save time or make their job easier or less frustrating?

“Communicate what’s in it for them,” Webb suggested. “Most enterprise training initiatives fail for very basic reasons — they don’t engage the employee by making the connection between what the company wants and what the employee really cares about.”

Show what it looks like at the end

Let’s say you’re training someone how to use the frozen yogurt machine to produce frozen yogurt at just the right temperature and consistency, or the new espresso machine to create your café’s signature espresso-based beverage, or the POS system to create a distribution list for your email newsletter. Show what the final product looks like to put the work in context, advised Stella.

Break it down, demonstrate, and stop for questions


“Job skill and workplace training is an investment in people, productivity and profitability.” – Phil Stella (Photo: Phil Stella)

Figure out each step in the process you need to teach, then explain each one. Use words the employees will understand — if your business involves jargon, make sure everyone knows what it means.

Before moving on to the next step, pause and give your trainees time to absorb what they just saw and ask questions so you don’t lose someone on step three and not realize it until step seven, Stella suggested.

Note that some people learn best by demonstration; others want a process in writing to follow, especially if the process is complicated. Cover your bases and provide both.

Have them do it

Once you have explained and demonstrated each step, have the employee perform the task while you watch. Don’t worry about speed. Now is the time to be sure they understand the steps involved and to address any misunderstandings or correct their process or technique.

Make it fun

“Most organizations are afraid of the ‘F word’ — fun,” said Webb. “Make it fun and your employees will remember it, adopt it and you will benefit from it.”

A few simple ways to make your training more fun include creating opportunities for group work or learning and turning training into a game or competition. “As humans we love to compete, and when we are given the opportunity to compete with friends and colleagues we do it with great gusto,” Webb said.

Follow up

Periodically check in with employees to make sure they understand what you taught and that they are improving in accuracy and speed. Employees who are struggling can be paired with more experienced staff until they have mastered the skill.

Also: Ask for feedback on the training. This step can save you time and money in the future. Once employees master the new skill, they can offer ways to streamline the training process or share parts that may have been confusing or ineffective.

Recognize good work

Especially when training new customer service tasks, link training to small rewards, such as a gift card or even employee of the month plaque. “Study show that employees care more about recognition than pay. Recognize them for their compliance to the training initiative and they will deliver every time,” Webb said.

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