Strategies to Improve Workplace Training

I know. I know. The Star Wars saga has been twisted for so many different purposes that it is fraying at the seams of its space pajamas.

One could argue, though, that Star Wars is obsessed with training: the dynamics between learners and teachers, the universal benefits of excellent training, and the unfortunate consequences (to put it mildly) when training goes off-course.

These are relevant issues in a culture where continuous learning has become crucial to the success of individuals and businesses. Studies by industry and government organizations have demonstrated that ongoing training can improve employee performance, boost job satisfaction, improve production efficiency, and lower operating costs.

These may not translate into blowing up the Death Star, but they are substantial motivations, nonetheless.

Although in order to bring about these benefits, training needs to create the right conditions for comprehension, retention, and application. Since we are more likely to retain information that is related to concepts with which we are already familiar, I provide below some practical tips for creating an effective workplace training plan, with illustrative quotations from a story that many of us know.

“But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters…”

Tip 1: Design Training Programs for Employees with Varying Agendas

Training strategies may engage a variety of learners, some of whom will be open to new information, as well as others who may prefer to spend their time elsewhere. When employees have a clear sense of what they will gain, however, they are more receptive learners, and more likely to remember new information.

Make sure your own intentions are clearly communicated when you develop a new training program. Forbes magazine suggests, for example, that when you are implementing a new technology, “Sell it hard” to employees and promote early successes directly and often.

Additionally, how employees will be trained is just as important as what they will learn. In my experiences teaching, I have observed that not everyone receives and expresses information in the same way. Some trainees will want to talk through learning topics, while others may crave hands-on practice.

If you do not know what training styles your employees respond to, aim for a variety of strategies (visual aids, independent study, group discussions, computer work, and so on) where possible, or consult an experienced trainer to help you assess what will work best.

“Pass on what you have learned.”

Tip 2: Combine External and Internal Expertisepass on

“Train the trainer” methods can be highly effective in leveraging internal talent. In this method, a group of individuals learn from the equipment vendor about a new product or system—the company’s new CRM, for example—and passes that information on to other employees.

According to a blog post by training organization Eagle’s Flight, such internal trainers are well-equipped to contextualize new information for co-workers: they know your company well, and can highlight the most relevant points for each department and each employee’s role.

Additionally, this method creates a trainer base within the company for any future training, as when the organization hires new employees, or updates its currently used systems.

“An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”

Tip 3: Train to Support Technological Advancement

civilized weaponA study at MIT demonstrated that most managers feel that companies’ adoption of advanced technologies is key to raising
revenues and expanding export potential. However, companies cannot receive the full benefits of these new technologies if their workforce cannot use them effectively due to lack of training.

Keep in mind, whether you are implementing a new CRM system, an automated packaging line, or a 6-axis CNC machine, not everyone is tech-savvy. In fact, some employees may actively resist technological change.

Ben Kenobi can tell you about fear and hate being antithetical to training, but to engage even mildly resistant employees, try these two strategies from the Harvard Business Review:

Design training to meet employees where they are at. Tech-savvy employees probably won’t need a week-long course on your new ERP, while other employees may benefit from slow-paced, one-on-one sessions with experts from within your organization. Whenever possible, choose technologies that are user-friendly. Intuitive devices will reduce training time and costs, and technological bells and whistles mean little if no one actually uses them.

“Always in motion, the future is.”

Tip 4: Train to Support Long-term Economic Sustainabilityalways in motion

According to ABC Life Literacy Canada, organizations that actively offer education opportunities are more likely to retain their employees, and training improves employees’ understanding of job demands and procedures, substantially enhancing workplace efficiencies.

If you are looking to grow your share of the market, increase exports, or gain a technological edge over your competitors, think of training not as a one-time investment, but a continuous process that can be vital to a company’s long-term success.

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”
– Yoda

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Sunnie has worked as a professor, editor, and writer, and recently joined Mentor Works as a Business Funding Analyst. She considers herself a recovering academic, but she can tell you a lot about obscure nineteenth-century Canadian historical novels, if you want.

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