Training employees in 2018 is much different than it was in 1998. Yet, even though technological advances have completely changed the way that people learn and interact with new information, some companies are still training the same way they were 20 years ago. In 1998, you were able to just put a stack of papers in a binder with a cover sheet that read “Training Manual.” Today, however, those same papers would have your newbies running for the exit. The good and bad news (two for one!) is that many companies have at least moved past binder training...However, taking that exact binder information and squeezing it into multiple slides in an online module so you can call it "digital" doesn't make it better. The effect that poor training has on an employee is equally as damaging whether it is an old binder, out-of-date e-learning modules, or unclear in-person training.
Sadly, we have all likely had an experience where we started a new job, got through the training, and then didn’t know what the heck we were doing because the trainer was incompetent or inaccurate, the training was not job-specific, or the e-learning was boring and easy to click and guess through. If you have had an experience like this, did you stay at that job long? Did you enjoy the job? If you haven’t experienced this, do you imagine that you would stay at this job or enjoy it? The answer to at least one of these questions is likely no. And, if you can admit that, then what makes you think that your employees feel differently? If employees don’t feel prepared after training, it’s not likely that they will be satisfied with their job and, in turn, is also unlikely that they will stay (or that you would want them to at that point. Unhappy employees are bad for business). Companies with high turnover rates generally attempt to reflect on how to increase retention but usually fail to consider their training as a culprit.
The goal for training content should be to have it as relevant as possible. The content itself should closely mimic (as much as possible) the work environment. Simulations and real-life scenarios are the best route to take. If you have a system that the employees need to learn, then provide a working simulation of the system. If you’re a small business owner and you’re thinking “yeah right, like I can afford that,” then create a video tutorial of the system instead. After the simulation/video, provide opportunities for the employee to shadow a coworker as they use the system, then provide them with a hands-on learning experience before they’re actually on the job. To sum that up: online tutorial, live demonstration, trial run, live run. This sounds like a long process, but remember that this one thing will be paired with several others that you’ll be teaching the employee. They will learn multiple systems, processes, and procedures at the same time within a short span of time. This doesn’t mean that you need longer training, per say, it just means that the training time that you do have should be used in a way that is most beneficial to the employee.
If an e-learning module only has buttons to click through each slide, that’s what your employees are going to do. Make the content engaging and interactive for them by taking key moments and turning them into an interaction (like drag-and-drop options) rather than just providing a screen with a big text box and a next button. If you don’t consciously engage them, they won’t be engaged. And, let me reassure you that skimming information and clicking the next button does not count as “being engaged.”
If your business is struggling to retain employees, continue to evaluate your managers (which are often the top reason for low retention rates) and your overall business model, but don’t forget to look at how your employees are being trained. Losing good candidates is obviously troublesome, but it also costs money to hire and onboard each new candidate. If they quit within a short span of time, that’s not a good investment–it’s a waste of money...and time (so, more money).
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