Making sure your workers have top-notch skills isn’t cheap: According to the Training Industry Report, U.S. training expenditures rose 32 percent year over year, reaching $90.6 billion. The report broke this figure down into the following categories: Outside training products and services accounted for $7.5 billion, while other expenditures such as travel, equipment, and facilities represented $44 billion, and payroll for in-house educators accounted for $41.6 billion. If you’re going to spend a pile of money on your employee training and development, how do you get the biggest ROI? Below are a few key directions to guide your strategy on this topic.

Training and development shouldn’t be limited to job skills

Of course, you want your employees to be as expert as possible at their job tasks, but that’s not the only purpose of training and development. To create a unified company culture, you have to reinforce the staff’s awareness of your organization’s core values. Failure to communicate the big picture can result in a kind of short-sightedness where your workers just feel like small, unimportant cogs in an impersonal machine. Whether it’s from a “Fast Start” training for new hires that outlines the company’s history and mission or from an ongoing development approach, your development program must be aimed at integrating workers into the overall values of the company. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) underlines this point: They say that HR departments should develop training programs that “outline and reinforce the organization’s core values and makes sure that appropriate rewards and recognition go to employees who truly embody the values.”

training and development session

Check outside reference points

“Before agreeing to support a new initiative, company leaders always want to know what the competition is doing and whether you’re doing more or less.” That useful advice from SHRM provides a beginning point for HR professionals looking to upgrade their company’s training programs. SHRM is a great networking tool for this purpose because it allows you to keep in touch with your colleagues and learn what training resources have worked best for them.

It’s also useful to keep in mind that your company will be judged on the basis of how well it provides a career path for employees. Deloitte’s Josh Bersin urges companies to keep track of their ratings on Glassdoor because its statistics show that employees place twice as much emphasis on career opportunities as they do on compensation. Bersin notes, “our employment brand and ability to attract and engage people is now directly related to learning.” Keep that goal of employee engagement in your mind; we’ll come back to it again.

Plan for obsolescence

In this era of rapid technological evolution, training your employees is not a one-and-done event. You need to look at ways to improve ongoing training and development for employees. Even if your company isn’t in the midst of changing any internal processes, your workers are constantly adapting to updated expectations from customers and company partners. In response to this shifting environment, training is most effective when it’s integrated into an ongoing program, rather than being confined within certain limited dates.

Ask your team what they want

Sounds obvious, right? While you undoubtedly have your own agenda of what your staff needs to learn, you should include them in the final training and development decisions. After all, they’re the ones who have to put their learning into action, so they have a strong vested interest in it. When SHRM held focus groups to help shape future development sessions, a few key points rose to the surface: Employees not only wanted better skills for accomplishing their job tasks — they also wanted to know WHY those job tasks are important to the company. Furthermore, they strongly stated that they wanted trainers who are good at teaching. By seeking employee feedback, you’ll already be ahead of the game, because employee engagement increases when people feel that their company listens and responds to feedback.

Take advantage of the amazing new training and development options

If you’ve looked away for a minute or two from the cutting edge of augmented and virtual reality, you may have missed the fact that these technologies are the new giants in the workplace training and development field. Police forces around the world are now being prepared for their jobs by 360-degree virtual environments, as are employees in the transportation, retail and healthcare industries. Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, says that he is “exhilarated by the possibilities inherent in augmented reality (AR) workplace training.” He goes on to explain, “Not only does AR open the doors for limitless creativity and innovation, it also enables enterprises to speed up the training process and make it more beneficial to employees.” Digital options for training and development in every industry are multiplying rapidly, and they promise to save your company money while improving productivity. Plus the technology is new enough to have some flash and dazzle, simply making it fun for everyone involved.

training and development

You can come up with plenty of solid numbers to justify the expense of workforce training and development programs, but it’s really all about employee engagement. A well-executed training and development program will result in workers who care more about today’s tasks and are more hopeful about tomorrow’s opportunities. To learn more about focusing on what’s essential, download our e-book, “Engage or Die: How Companies that Act Fast on Engagement Outpace the Competition.

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