Employee Training: An A To Z Guide

Chris Ronzio

October 29, 2021

Every employee training program aims to get team members aligned, so they can be held accountable. But few companies actually have high-impact programs that drive these results. 

The ones that do enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those with low-impact training. But contrary to popular belief, most of these companies didn’t spend more to get these results.

Instead, they designed their training courses around business goals and the people who would help reach them. That way, the right information was communicated and actually stuck.

So, here’s everything you need to know to build an effective employee training program that drives the results you expect: 

What is employee training?

Employee training (also known as corporate training) is the ongoing process of providing staff with the critical knowledge and skills needed to fulfill their job duties. By training your employees, you align individuals with company goals, improve performance, and hold people accountable. As a result, you set people up to be successful in their roles. 

For example, sending your social media specialist through Trainual, so they can learn your company’s branding, voice, and best practices. As is having that person job shadow other people on the marketing team so they can better understand how the team collaborates.

This way, they don’t have to ask how to get their job done. Instead, they can work confidently and independently in their sphere. 

But if this training isn’t provided, chances are good your social media specialist will miss expectations, unknowingly make mistakes, and grow frustrated with their feedback. And, in worst-case scenarios, will quit, leaving small businesses to spend upwards of $4,000 hiring and onboarding their replacement. 

🔥 Tip: The average small businesses spend $1,678 per employee on training annually. Trainual gets the same results and starts at $588 per year for your entire team. Try for free.

Employee training vs. employee development

Employee training programs teach individual employees what they need to know for their current role. Whereas employee development programs teach them what they need to know for future career development opportunities. 

Because of this, training tends to focus on the technical skills and knowledge that will immediately improve the employee’s job performance. Development instead focuses on the soft skills and knowledge needed for career advancement. 

Pixar's Monsters Inc morning training montage gif

Types of employee training

There are three main types of employee training: onboarding training, ongoing training, and transitional training. And each of these methods can be delivered remotely (asynchronously or synchronously), in person, or as blended learning. 

Here’s what all that means: 

Onboarding training

Onboarding training (also known as new hire training) is any instructions designed to get a new hire fully productive. For example, learning about the company mission and values, general company policies, and role-specific how-tos are all considered part of the onboarding training. 

Typically, onboarding training takes place immediately after new employee orientation. And it will use a combination of training methods, including reading the employee handbook, job shadowing, one-on-one training, cross-training, hands-on learning, and more. These methods will usually go on for about 90 days until the new team member transitions out of onboarding. 

Continuous training

Continuous training is any training efforts that keep your team aligned and up to date on best practices. And this training can be designed at the individual, team, department, or company-wide level. 

Usually, ongoing training happens whenever companies release new products, update key policies, or implement more efficient standard operating procedures. And it is the more frequent training type than onboarding or transitional training. That’s because it can happen formally (such as in a scheduled training course) or informally (such as in a weekly one-on-one). 

Transitional training

Transitional training is any training efforts that follow a promotion, team change, or role redesign. And it occupies the middle ground between onboarding and ongoing employee training.

Unlike onboarding training, an employee has a deep understanding of the company goals and how to achieve them. So, transitional training provides only the skills or knowledge that the employee lacks related to their new role or team. That way, they’re set up for success when they make the transition. 

Remote training

Remote training refers to any training conducted where the trainer and the trainee are in different spaces. For example, face-to-face online webinars, e-courses, and any other self-directed learning methods all count as remote training. 

Remote training is just as effective as in-person training (if not more) because everyone gets the same content delivered the same way. And delivering the information can be done cheaper. That’s because an online training tool like Trainual is a flat cost, where in-person training costs upwards of  $2k annually per employee. 

But the greatest advantage of remote training is the flexibility it provides. Meaning, you can send remote employees and local employees alike through remote training. And they’ll get it done independently and usually get it done faster than if they waited for an in-person training alternative.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs computer typing gif

Synchronous training

Synchronous training (also referred to as instructor-led training) refers to all types of workplace learning where the training manager and the trainee are in the same space simultaneously. Such as, if your training session takes place in a specific room at a designated time.

Asynchronous training

Asynchronous training (also known as self-led online learning) is the opposite of synchronous training. Meaning, it’s when trainees access their training without the training manager and get up to speed independently. And as a result, they can go through the information at any time and from anywhere.

In-person training

In-person training is, just as it sounds, any training conducted with the trainer and trainee in the same space simultaneously. For example, job rotation, shadowing, and traditional classroom-based training are all types of in-person training. 

 While less flexible, in-person training can be adjusted for the individual. Namely, it provides space for employees to ask real-time questions, where most types of remote training do not. As a result, in-person training tends to be more collaborative and personalized, increasing knowledge retention. 

However, no matter how effective the training is, the average person will forget roughly 50% of what they learned within an hour. And more than 70% within 24 hours. So, if and when they lose any reference materials handed out, they end up back at square one when they can’t remember it all. 

Blended learning

Blended learning combines various aspects of asynchronous and synchronous, remote and in-person training. And it requires the trainer and student to be synchronous for some portions of the training, but not all. 

For example, blended learning might look like sending a new hire through Trainual to learn your sales best practices. Then, asking them to shadow a long-term sales representative take a few calls. 

And typically, blended learning provides a deeper understanding of a subject and increases retention. That’s because it caters to a variety of learning styles and preferences. That’s because it allows employees to go through the information at their own speed without sacrificing the opportunity to ask questions or practice the concepts first-hand. 

How to build your employee training program

Regardless of the type of training you’re looking to deliver, these six steps guarantee you’ll build an effective training program. 

1. Determine your learning objective

Before you can build a training program, you need a clear learning objective. AKA what should your employees know or be able to do after this specific training? That’s your learning objective! 

For example, your learning objective might be to standardize your hiring process, refresh outdated knowledge about the market, or fill knowledge gaps around your health insurance plans.

This learning objective informs what information needs to be included in the training – and which information might not be necessary. Not to mention, this objective provides clear parameters for measuring the effectiveness of your training once it’s rolled out. (More on that in a bit.)

2. Identify the trainee persona

Your trainee persona is a general profile for who will go through this training program. And it will determine what knowledge base they have and what gaps still need to be filled. In other words, your trainee persona informs what information needs to go in your training. 

For example, new hires will need more context than someone who’s been at your company for 10 years. And if this training is part of your onboarding program, you’ll need to provide a lot more context than, say, if you were rolling out an updated version of your diversity and inclusion policy

To figure out your trainee’s persona, consider the individuals you’ll send through this training program and identify what they have in common related to: 

  • Tenure (how long they’ve been with the company)
  • Location (where they log in from most days)
  • Department (where they sit in the company) 
  • Hierarchy (what level their title is)
  • Roles (what responsibilities they own)

3. Build the employee training plan

An employee training plan is your roadmap for getting everyone at your company the information they need for their jobs. That way, everyone is aligned and can be held accountable. 

So, what does an employee training plan need to include to be comprehensive? Bare minimum, what the employees will learn, in what order, and when. Let’s break that down.

What they’ll learn

Looking at your learning objective, list out all the skills and knowledge someone would need to know to achieve that objective.

For example, say you want to standardize your content strategy.

Bare minimum, your training should include:

  • Your brand’s voice.
  • The types of content you create.
  • Cadence for publishing each type.
  • The process for publishing.
Spongebob Squarepants pencil on paper writing gif

Write those down. Then, looking at your persona, what else do the people going through this content need to know? Try not to cross anything off your list – just add to it. The general rule for building your team’s training is to assume more information is (almost) always better. 

The exception is if you already have this information documented elsewhere. If this is the case, still mention it and link to the existing documentation or describe where to find it to accommodate all knowledge bases.

In what order

Now, put all the skills and knowledge on your list into a sequence that makes sense. This should consider what someone would need to know first to learn the next thing easier or faster – kind of like learning to walk before you learn to run.

Let’s go back to our content strategy example. In this case, it might make the most sense to introduce the high-level information, like what kinds of content your company publishes and what the cadence for that is, first. Then, dive into the more nitty-gritty details, like voice or process.

This ordered list works like an outline for the training program, whether in-person or remote. For example, say you’re hosing the training in Trainual. In that case, this will be the order you present the smaller topics within your larger subject. 

When

When you have the sequence set, it’s time to create a loose timeline, such as over three 30-minute sessions or two weeks from assigning the content out. 

To determine this timeline, focus on how long it will take to cover the information and for the employee to digest and retain it. If you go too fast, you risk information overload. On the flip side, if you go too slow, you risk losing your employees. 

So, how do you know the right speed? Honestly, this depends on who you are teaching and what they are trying to learn. And it’s where self-led training can really shine because no two employees will learn at the exact same speed. So, self-led training puts your team in the driver’s seat of their training. 

If you have synchronous training methods to infuse into the documented training resources, mark it. Meaning, write in the training content, “stop here and reach out to Sam, asking to shadow how they manage users in WordPress.”

Then, if you’re using Trainual, add a mandatory one-question quiz that asks, “did you shadow Sam?” If the answer is no, they can’t go on – and you know to follow up about it.

4. Build the related training content

Here comes the fun part. With your high-level training plan in hand, it’s time to build the training content. This means documenting the processes, policies, and best practices that the trainees need to know when they’ve finished training. 

And ideally, you want to put all this training content in one place for easy finding – during and after the training session. That’s because even if your training goes off perfectly, people are still going to forget pieces of information. (The average person forgets 50% of the information within an hour of learning it.)

So, why not plan for this and house the content in an online training software (we’re biased and love Trainual for this)? That way, your team can look back at the processes and policies whenever they need a refresh instead of waiting for the next scheduled training. 

👉 Trainual is the #1 tool for employee training on G2. Try for free.

5. Run the training program

You invested the time to plan and create your team’s training content, now put it to the test. If you’re running the person synchronously, put it on people’s calendars. Or, if you’re running the training asynchronously with a tool like Trainual, assign the content out (don’t forget to set a due date, so people get it done ASAP). 

Ceelo Green on The Voice, chair rotating after pushing button gif

6. Measure the training’s impact

Measuring your training’s effectiveness might seem like a no-brainer. But most companies don’t do it. Only about 50% of companies bother tracking what their employees have to say about the training. And even less track the impact their training made.

But to gauge effectiveness, you need to (at the very least) ask for a self-reflection from everyone who went through the training. And it should include questions to gauge what they knew before the training program and after, such as: 

  • As a percentage, roughly how much of this information was new?
  • What is the most important thing you learned today?
  • Starting tomorrow, how will you apply this new knowledge in your role?
  • What questions do you still have?

Ideally, however, you’ll also track if you’ve met your learning objective. For example, you might track employee comprehension, understanding, and retention over time via Trainual quizzes. With just a few quick questions, managers can confirm whether the employee learned the material before going back into the field. 

Once they’re in the field, it’s time to really put that new knowledge to the test. Choose a hard business metric that directly reflects the objective of the training. For example, if the training was about closing sales, you might measure that team member’s close rate. 

When this isn’t possible, opt for related metrics to provide insight on how impactful the training really was, such as consistency of behavior changes. 

If individual employee performance didn’t improve, that’s a sign that they need to go back through the training again. If the training group’s performance didn’t improve, chances are good you’ll need to revamp your training program. 

Just remember that employee training isn’t a one-and-done thing. As long as you’re in business, you’ll need to revamp your training program, update your training content, and refresh people’s knowledge from time to time. And this up-front effort of keeping everyone aligned and accountable always pays off big in the back-end! 

Become a better business leader in 5 minutes a week

Get all the news small business leaders need to know - straight to your inbox.

Related Stories

Make employee training easier

See why thousands of companies in 170+ countries train their people with Trainual.

Try for free Already a user? Sign in