You’ve made a new hire and added her to the payroll. Great! It may feel like you’re investing in your employee already. After all, you’ll be signing her paycheck from now on. However, employee training represents an invisible–but no less important–factor in your company’s bottom line. When it’s working well, you reap the benefits. When it’s not, you may be losing employees, or worse–losing customers.

Consider training your newest (and seasoned) staff using the right timing and methods an investment that you can make now for the future health of your staff and business. We’ll walk you through it.

Invest now to save money in the long run

There’s no way around the fact that training employees cuts into the day-to-day running of a business. For instance, you may need someone to cover the register while your cashier walks a new person through the inventory. It takes resources: you’ll need to assess your program’s effectiveness, and you may need to pony up for online or printed tools to streamline the process.

However, the costs of poorly trained employees are far greater. For one, thing, there are the costs of inefficiency when it takes an unprepared employee longer to get things done. Add that to the costs of work that contains errors and must be recreated–i.e. the new menus came back with a typo. That cost rises still higher when you factor in lost customers who have been on the receiving end of errors or not-quite-up-to-par customer service.

Quality training increases team morale

The experts at go2HR point out that good training promotes employee job satisfaction and retention. When you set up a training system that is consistent and beneficial, new staff are empowered to do their jobs better and foresee themselves performing well and growing with your company. As we’ve found, today’s workers–Millennials in particular–see workplaces as opportunities to learn and develop their skills. Provide them an avenue for growth, and other quality workers will take notice.

Poor training has a ripple effect for your workers–from feeling like they’re not making the grade to worsening attitudes to absenteeism to quitting.

“Dissatisfaction with some employee-development efforts appears to fuel many early exits,” observes the Harvard Business Review. “[T]hey’re not getting much in the way of formal development, such as training, mentoring, and coaching—things they also value highly.”

High turnover can cost you, too–the price of scrambling to replace a new hire could reach $2,500. Yikes!

On the other hand, good training allows you to run your business smoothly with employees who are capable of pivoting to answer questions and solve problems. It means that you are not the only source of knowledge at your shop, and others can step in as pinch hitters. Lastly, good training cultivates a culture of commitment from your staff. They’ll invest in your company as you invest in their growth and development. It’s really that simple.

Train early and often

Before you put a new and improved employee training plan in motion, consider conducting a training needs analysis. Gather feedback from employees and customers to get a handle on where the work flow seems to be stalling. Now you have a sense of where potential knowledge gaps need to be met.

From there, think about your newest employees. They’re fresh in the door, eager to please, and have high levels of motivation. This is a great time to capitalize on their enthusiasm with an engaging training program that displays a clear path to long-term development with your team.

“People are functionally like a bicycle,” says Signature Worldwide training account manager Floyd Adler. “Unless they are moving onward and upward (through training) toward an objective or goal, they are more likely to falter and fail.”

At the same time, your current staff has a lot to gain from continuous training. One survey found that the majority of office workers looked forward to training opportunities, and 63% expected that training would help them do their jobs better. From online courses to skill refreshers on new technology upgrades, there are always opportunities to up your employee knowledge base. This deepens your investment in employee engagement and allows you to cross-train your staff in customer service, administration, and the like–as they diversify skills, they’ll connect more to fellow teammates and be an even greater asset to the business.

Evaluate your approach before crafting a training plan

Business Gateway lines up some clear points to focus on as you consider how to train your employees. One question to ask is whether your employees are active or passive learners. Active learners prefer to get their hands dirty by exploring and testing new concepts. Passive learners, on the other hand, like to observe, take notes, and think through problems independently.

Neither approach is wrong. In fact, they both have benefits. One survey found that 33% preferred to learn by being hands-on, 19% liked a classroom approach, and 17% described themselves as visual learners who took in information by reading or watching demonstrations.

A great solution that accommodates all learners is a “blended approach” that combines real-time role playing, classroom-style lessons, and e-learning. Think about how this blended style might work with the unique needs of your business.

Protect your investment by creating a solid training plan and sticking to it

While only you are familiar with the intricacies of your company, following these 7 general tenets can guide you to smart employee training.

  1. Be sure that employees are clear on what you require of them during training and who will be training them. How long will training last? Is a designated team member taking the lead? Eliminate any confusion so new hires know they’re entering an orderly workplace.
  2. According to professional trainer Duane Sparks, teach skills, not traits. You can’t change an employee’s personality but you can teach him the skills he needs to perform the job. For example: He doesn’t have to be chatty to be great on the phone; he just needs to be a good listener who has the resources to point customers towards a solution.
  3. Don’t just teach a skill once. Circle back to see how the employee is doing and coach (or praise) as necessary.
  4. Measure results. When you qualitatively assess how an employee is performing a new skill, you not only communicate its importance to your team member, you also gain data on how well your training has worked. Go in and readjust if results are not where you’d like them to be.
  5. Embrace technology. As part of the blended approach, allowing employees to learn at home via mobile app or providing an online resource that collects training materials lets your employees interact with new information in diverse ways. One survey found that 48% of respondents indicated they’d like the option to review their training materials as a reference later on.
  6. Don’t rush it. Allowing employees to learn at their own pace ensures they really synthesize the material. A slower pace also encourages metacognition, i.e. a learner’s chance to reflect on her own learning. This step is crucial for mastering a task.
  7. Ask for feedback and create a welcoming atmosphere where employees feel comfortable sharing. “What skill did you not feel adequately prepared for? What tool or guidance might help you feel better prepared?” Asking these questions and being receptive to the answers will let you fine tune your training process as you go.

Take Aways

Think back to the first career steps you took to end up where you are now. You didn’t bridge the gap without mentors, motivation, and lots of learning. An excellent training program should communicate the same sense of hope and excitement to both your new and experienced employees. Even better, their excitement translates into the success of your investment in company morale and profit. That’s known as a win, win.

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