How to build a Training Culture that develops skills, stimulates thinking, and improves performance.
SGEi is a training and communications company that works with companies across multiple industries and in over 30 countries around the world. Our team designs and delivers customized learning experiences at all levels of an organization. As a result of our experience, we wish to offer some advice when developing your own comprehensive internal training program. It all begins at orientation, the first day for your new employee.
Orientation is the foundation for a comprehensive training program. Companies must develop an engaging, interactive, and fun experience for an employee’s first one or two days on the job. The first day of an employee’s new job establishes the priorities of the company in their mind. Too many companies focus on paperwork, policies and procedures, or getting straight to work, ignoring the importance of orienting and integrating new staff in the company’s brand, culture, and knowledge.
Consider your orientation the first and most important part of a new employee’s onboarding process. Orientation should be in person and include an overview of the company history, brand elements, company values and expectations, and an introduction to the customer. It is the most important day of training an employee within your company experiences because it not only establishes the company priorities, but it also sets the stage for how valuable and fun learning will be in the future.
After the first one or two days in orientation, the new hire is handed over to their respective departments to begin their onboarding process in earnest. Research shows that onboarding is a critical part of the employee experience affecting retention, performance, and productivity. The focus of the next 30 – 60 days is to train and certify that the new employee can complete the job responsibilities and meet customer expectations. Every role is different, therefore it is important to map out by position exactly what tasks, processes, and knowledge need to be mastered. Throughout the onboarding experience, new employees are given tests and tasks to assess their fit in their job and the culture of the new company.
The purpose of the onboarding process is to enable employees to do the required tasks well and immerse them in values, defining the right way to do things. This process should be a composition of live training in a safe environment away from customers, online training to reinforce key concepts via videos and activities, job shadowing with a seasoned team member in the role who exemplifies the company values, and on-the-job practice. New hires are provided with journals to take notes and complete tasks. These journals are a key coaching tool for managers to sit and discuss with their new hires, what they have learned and are focused on.
A key aspect of a successful onboarding program is to pair up a new hire with their first mentor in the company. Many successful companies, such as Netflix, use mentoring to provide a peer who can work alongside the new hire, guide them around their new environment, and provide a great example of how to be successful in the company.
Once onboarding is completed, employees should continue their learning and development by completing courses online and in person on how to develop coping mechanisms when dealing with stressful situations or customers. It is important to get staff comfortable and confident to make good decisions when presented with opportunities or challenges. The focus on empowering employees is ongoing but must be mapped out through a series of informal and formal training opportunities. The process of empowering employees should take around 90 days.
Empowering employees to make decisions smartly and independently is a way to develop their first leadership habits within those team members. The goal within your company is to develop a sense of leadership at all levels of the organization. Do not wait to teach leadership courses to your team once they earn their first supervisor or manager title. The ongoing process of developing and challenging employees continues with a focus on enhancing early leadership habits around concepts like feedback, communicating across generations in-person and in meetings, and how to make process improvements. Courses should be provided online with employees completing activities and engaging in conversations with their managers. At this time, these employees are asked to mentor new hires so their leadership styles can start to be assessed by their manager.
In this stage, employees have access to various personality testing where they start to become aware of possible strengths and weaknesses in their own leadership style. They are asked to reflect on their efforts with new hires and how they inspired and supported them through their initial time on the job. This phase in the development process can take up to 180 days and is generally completed about a year after they started with the company.
At the end of the first year, each employee can elect to continue their leadership education or to specialize in a specific task to attain additional certifications, experience, and expertise. If a person wants to master a specific task or skill, they should be offered opportunities for continued education and time to practice. They are offered opportunities in and out of the company to develop these necessary skills.
Those that seek further leadership development are provided opportunities to grow their skills around leading of others and themselves, emphasizing the development of coping mechanisms around the difficult team members and work stress. This is particularly important for millennial employees as only 28% feel as though their skills are being fully utilized and 93% want development opportunities.
Companies should offer access to a library of learning resources both inside and outside of the company. A library of articles, books, and business cases offer access to a broad selection of business and leadership ideas. Online courses should be scheduled throughout the year to assess the understanding and application of ideas in real company scenarios. Assignments and ideas are kept in leader journals for review. Employees, supervisors, and managers have access to attend workshops and hear speakers who provide both inspiration and perspectives that may be new or needed in the company.
During this year, the focus is on understanding the business and brand, how to elevate performance, how to have tough conversations, and how to communicate more effectively across multiple mediums. This second year sees new managers given a mentor who is a manager outside of their direct supervisor. The mentor acts as a support system for young managers as they are challenged with making tough decisions and balancing personal and professional goals.
While leadership development is ongoing, this emphasis on new supervisors or managers should last at least a year. This means any company can offer a two-year learning program for all new employees. It is not necessary that all employees find a managerial position in your company and it is important to realize that while you invest in the skills of your people, they will probably leave anyway. And while I speak to many owners who hate this likely outcome, the reality is if you do not invest in your employees and they are still sticking around after two years, what is the state of their attitude, skill level, and ability to contribute to your company?
Continuing education is the catalyst for progression, which is a key reason why employees stay with an organization. As employees and managers continue to grow as specialists or managers, they are asked to contribute to the organization in a number of meaningful ways. They are asked to be mentors for new supervisors or young managers. They are asked to lead work improvement groups and achieve business objectives. They are asked to write and submit their own articles, blogs, business cases, or training modules so that others in the organization can learn from them. They are asked to co-facilitate workshops and training modules to formalize their own thinking while helping others. They are constantly provided access to the library of information and ideas, speakers, and workshops to continually evolve their own thinking. The bottom line is, people with more than two years of tenure should be expected to contribute to your business in a meaningful way.
It is important that company executives are exposed to ongoing learning opportunities in addition to their leadership development. Outside consultants and speakers can be engaged to provide thought leadership on a regular basis. While they are often concerned with the status quo of their company and those below them, one of the real threats to any organization is a stagnant and comfortable executive team. It is also important that the executive team has the opportunity to get offsite and develop their teamwork, understanding of each other, and to discuss higher order strategies and tasks. You must invest in your executives.
These are the various elements we see in high performing organizations that understand and invest in the learning and development of their teams. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to email@example.com and learn more about how we can help design and deliver your internal training program.