An adage is defined as “a traditional saying expressing a common experience or observation.” One of my favorite adages is “practice makes perfect.” As a coach, I can vouch for the truth of that aphorism. Over the past few years my youth rec league girls under 12 soccer team has racked up an impressive record, at one point going undefeated for three straight seasons.
Practice makes perfect isn’t just for the cut-throat sport of girls’ soccer, however — it also applies to the workforce, and nowhere more so than the rapidly evolving field of information technology (IT). Practice is just another word for training, whereas perfect is just another word for my Golden State Warrio — wait, where was I? Ah, yes, training. Successful businesses need on-the-job training programs for all employees. Such training should never be considered a waste of time or money. It’s an investment in your most important asset: your employees.
Every business wants employees it can depend on, and with the cost of replacing a front-line employee hovering around $2,500, there is even more reason for keeping employees on board. One employee satisfaction survey found that up to 40 percent of employees who received poor job training left their positions within the first year. Their biggest reason for leaving: lack of skills training and development.
In spite of the need to regularly train employees, many employers and supervisors are unsure of how to implement a program that is both cost-efficient and effective. Here are seven tips to help you build an IT training program that pays off for you and your employees:
- Designate a training space: Just as my soccer players have a practice field, so too should your employees have an established training location. Set aside a room where training is scheduled for several hours a day, then let your employees sign up for a time that fits their schedules. The room should be conducive to studying, with comfortable seating and lighting, and an appropriate atmosphere. Knowing where to train will enable employees to make training a scheduled part of their week.
- Communicate training expectations: Just like my soccer players, employees need to know what they will study and how much study time is expected of them weekly. Knowing what and how much is a great way to help employees plan training time. And it adds up quickly: 1 hour a week is more than 50 hours of training annually.
- Measure and report: A great way to communicate training expectations is to make them a part of regular employee evaluations. If employees know that their annual review includes training targets, then they are more likely to complete the required training.
- Supervisor involvement: Just as a coach knows the strength and weaknesses of his players, and what they need to do to improve, supervisors need an simple way to track an employee’s training progress. Tracking can be very simple with the right courseware. Take TestOut Continuing Education's Pro courseware. Inside each Pro course, instructors have access to LabSim’s Admin Tools. With just a few clicks, a supervisor can pull up an easy-to-read report that shows what each participant is studying, how well they are progressing and how much time they are spending.
- Cross-train: The military teaches that soldiers need to know how to do the job of the person above and below them. This helps them appreciate their roles and responsibilities, increases communication and teamwork, and enables them to help out in an emergency.
Just like I would teach my forwards to be flexible and play defense when necessary, IT employees can be trained in customer service, sales, marketing, and even accounting. Cross-training will help them understand company challenges and strategies, and better appreciate their roles in meeting company objectives.
- Incentivize training: Making training a line-item on annual reviews isn’t enough. You have to reward your employees for their dedication and accomplishments in training. Using incentives shows you value employee development and training, improves team attitudes, and, when properly structured, increases employee performance by as much as 44 percent.
For example, in 2016, TestOut organized a six-month activity to increase employee health and wellness. We were encouraged to walk, run or bike to improve our overall well-being. We reported our distance covered weekly doing each activity and cash prizes were awarded to employees who achieved or exceeded a set distance. It was a great success. The majority of employees participated, improved their health and were more productive at work. A large number of employees earned hundreds of dollars — a few actually earned more than $1,000.
Money is just one of many incentives. You can award time off, tech gadgets and gear, and even travel for high-end training.
- Celebrate success: It’s crucial that you recognize successful completion of all training. Companies with a “culture of recognition” have a 31 percent lower rate of voluntary turnover. Celebration should be done in such a way that your entire team sees it and can congratulate one another. Everyone likes their accomplishments acknowledged. Recognizing employees at a company meeting for completing training is a great way to celebrate their achievement. Remember, it can be done with large incentives, or even just a certificate.
An established training program brings significant benefits including as a recruiting and retention tool — employees like to improve their skills and want to work for an employer that gives them that opportunity. There is also the added prestige of employees with certifications. Customers do take comfort in knowing that the company they are considering hiring has “x-number” of certified employees on staff.
Most importantly, a well-run training program shows employees that the company is invested in them. As renowned writer and business consultant Simon Sinek says, "When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute."
Trained employees are contributing employees. Start your training program today. It’s not throwing your money away — it’s an investment in your future.
About the Author — Kyle Orton is a sales manager for TestOut Corporation. He has a business management degree with an emphasis in marketing from Brigham Young University. He is married to Jill Orton, the love of his life, and they have five children. Kyle's players affectionately call him Coach K. Really. It was totally spontaneous. They didn't have to be prompted at all.