From teaching employees the basics of your technology infrastructure to helping them develop new insight and skill sets, training is a necessity in many companies. And while stand-and-deliver instructors in classroom settings make up 46% of training hours, according to a 2015 report by Training magazine, managers are increasingly adopting new formats and methods of training to both improve employee satisfaction and increase effectiveness.
"What is changing, but albeit much too slowly, is thinking much more about the whole learning ecosystem and what has to happen before people go to training, what has to happen after training," says Roy V.H. Pollock, PhD, chief learning officer at corporate training firm The 6Ds Company and author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results.
As more companies seek to create blended training approaches that employees love and also deliver return on investment, they’re focusing on four areas.
Technology's use in corporate training was up in 2015, the Training report found. Forward-thinking companies are looking at what needs to be learned, focusing in on those skills or concepts, and then using tailored content in a variety of formats, depending on what will most effectively help the person learn, says Leslie D. Ciborowski, founder and CEO of TrainSmart, Inc.
Training formats may include video modules, podcasts, online simulators, games, print materials and books, and in-person training. The key is to not approach training with a one-delivery-system-fits-all mind-set, she says.
If busy employees feel like they’re not learning anything, or that they’re wasting their time, they’re not going to be happy, Pollock says. Learning and development leaders have responded by creating short online modules—microlearning—that are focused on particular skills. Give employees access to such modules through an online interface that allows them to access training when they want it, he suggests. In addition, for appropriate topics, such short, focused modules help employees avoid cognitive overload, which can decrease training effectiveness and employee satisfaction.
"When you learn something new, there's a process that needs to take place to connect it up in your brain, and that process is easily overwhelmed. Most corporate learning contains more content than any human being can process," he says. "These long chunks of really information-dense training overload the ability to process it." Some training still requires more than a brief module, of course, but he says microlearning can be an effective way to train employees in basic skills.
Weaving instruction with experience or interaction reinforces learning in a powerful way, says Alan Guinn, managing director and CEO of training and consulting firm The Guinn Consultancy Group, Inc. For example, if you teach a skill, give the employee a chance to practice it during and after the training to ensure that the concept "sticks," he says.
Gamification has become popular as well. From designing interfaces that are more fun and interactive, to creating actual online games that teach skills like negotiation and strategy—such as a military commander making decisions to reach a specific outcome—corporate learning and development professionals are integrating more fun into training. By creating interactive experiences, trainees are more focused on the training session, he says.
Manager input and support has a big impact on how employees prioritize training, Pollock says. When managers actively encourage training and reinforcing what employees learn, employee engagement and training effectiveness both increase, he says.
"My manager signals to me how much attention I should pay to this. We've got to get managers actively engaged in supporting the training before people go, or it will be less effective, no matter how well it's designed and what cool technology they use," he adds.
Pollock says companies can have training programs that are both effective and popular with employees. The key focus areas include tailoring training formats to the information and skills that need to be delivered, and ensuring that employees feel that the training is effective, convenient, and a good use of their time.