Instructional Design

How do I even start? 5 first steps to building your first employee training program

5 steps to creating your first employee training program - TalentLMS

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” These are the words of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, and they’ve never been truer than they are today.

You don’t need convincing, though. You already know that learning is the key to happier employees and better business results. What you don’t know is how to get started on developing a training program for the first time.

Luckily, we have a ton of experience in training, and we’re big on sharing, too. So keep your eyes peeled for the five basic steps to use in developing a training program in an organization.

How to create your first training program (successfully!)

Let’s imagine that it’s three months from now. You’re heading to the office, and you’re smiling. Your first employee training program isn’t just up and running, it’s actually working. Employees are enthusiastically engaging with the course content, their new skills are making them better performers, and management’s impressed.

Sound like a fantasy? Well, it doesn’t need to be. Learn how to develop your first training program for employees by following the steps below, and you’ll be smiling on your way to work in no time!

Step 1: Capture your audience

Why do we train employees? This might sound like a silly question. But many beginners get so excited by the fancy features and fun content available online, that they forget the most important thing: training needs to help employees improve their performance.

The only way to set up a training program that really makes a difference to employee performance is by starting with the audience in mind. What do employees need to know, or be able to do, that will make them better at their jobs? The answer could be technical abilities, like product knowledge or IT skills, or soft skills like time management and communication.

If you’re not sure, just ask them! Employees will know exactly what they need to make them feel more confident in their work. And managers might have some good ideas about the skills that could improve their team’s performance, too.

It’s also important to think about the factors that will make your audience more likely to engage with training. Do they travel a lot? How comfortable are they with technology? And what kind of media would they find most exciting as a learning medium? Again, a simple employee interview or survey could give you all the answers you need.

Step 2: Set your destination

Now that you know what your audience wants to learn, and how they’d like to learn it, it’s time to set the objectives of employee training. This is often listed as the first step in a training needs analysis, which is the process of aligning your training goals with your business goals.

To begin, review business results like sales, quality, and efficiency to figure out what the business needs to improve on. For example, if sales are low, it’ll have a negative impact on company revenue (and nobody wants that). This means that the business goal is to increase the number of sales, and the training goal is to develop sales skills in the sales department.

So, designing a training program that develops skills like communication and persuasion would help sales reps close more deals – and, in turn, revenue would increase. This way, training goals support business goals.

But wait – it gets better. Let’s look at the types of training you might need depending on your business goals.

Select the best type of training for your business goals

Browse the business goals below to find the best corporate training programs for your needs.

Goal: Improve customer satisfaction ratings (or reduce the number of customer complaints)
Types of training: Product knowledge, communication and listening, problem-solving, empathy.

Goal: Increase productivity or efficiency
Types of training: Process knowledge, time management, software-user training, teamwork.

Goal: Foster innovation
Types of training: Creative thinking course, problem-solving, ideation training, collaboration.

Goal: Improve quality
Types of training: Process knowledge, job-specific training, attention to detail.

Step 3: Choose training software

You’ve hit the jackpot! Why? Because creating a training program for the first time is so much more fun and exciting today than it was 20 years ago. And it’s all because of what we call LMS.

A learning management system (or LMS for short) is an online training software that opens up a world of features for building a training program – that’s if you choose the right one! Now, the best LMS for you might not be the best LMS for the next company. The important thing is finding the right fit for your specific training needs.

Here are some of the criteria you can use to make your choice.

  • Is the interface user-friendly and scalable across different screens (for example, mobile and desktop)?
  • Is it compatible with Android and iOS, so that you can offer mobile learning to employees?
  • Can you white-label the LMS to reflect your company’s branding?
  • Does it have single sign-on (SSO) and other security features that keep your learners’ information safe from phishers and other cybersecurity threats?
  • Does it offer reliable support (after all, as a beginner you’ll probably have some questions about how to build a training program on the LMS)?
  • Does it support multimedia so that you can create videos and graphics that will engage learners?
  • Can you include gamification elements like certificates and badges that will motivate employees to complete their training?
  • Can quizzes be automatically graded (to save you time)?
  • How good is the reporting? Will it give you enough information to evaluate the success of your employee development program?

5 steps to creating your first employee training program - TalentLMS

Step 4: Map your path

By now you understand your audience, you know what your training program needs to achieve, and you’ve chosen the perfect LMS to help you do it. Your training plan for employees is almost complete, but there’s one more step: to map out the details of your training course.

This is where you decide which training topics to assign to each audience. For example, managers might need to learn skills in project management and leadership, whereas employees might need product training. How will you know? Look back to your training goals in Step 2!

You also need to decide on your employee training methods. In other words, what are the best ways for employees to learn about a topic? For example, learning sales skills might require a blended approach. Product knowledge could be learned in an online course, and persuasion skills might be learned through role-playing exercises.

With a powerful LMS, you can create online courses for most training topics (even soft skills). This is a cost-effective and convenient way to give great numbers of employees access to engaging learning content like videos, notes, and graphics. But if you’re training employees for high-risk jobs, like aviation or surgery, then real-life practice and simulations are a must!

Finally, decide whether to create, buy, or curate content. If you’re scratching your head, don’t. Because there’s an easy way to make this choice.

Decide whether to create, curate, or purchase training content

With the help of content authoring tools like Adobe Captivate, and template-based tools like TalentCards, you can easily create unique content that specifically meets your training needs. Or you can source freely available online resources, like videos on YouTube.

Here are some questions to help you decide:

  • Is your training topic or industry unique?
    If you’re training employees on a topic or skill that’s very niche, then you’re unlikely to find off-the-shelf or free online content. In this case, you’ll probably need to create it yourself.
  • What resources do you have available?
    Creating content can be super affordable or pretty expensive, depending on what you want. For example, high-quality videos and animation can be costly if you’re not using template tools like Powtoon or Canva. So, if you’re working with a small budget, curating some of your content is probably a good idea.
  • Do you need consistently high quality?
    If your course content needs to have a consistent look and feel, and every content piece needs to be high-quality, then you’ll struggle to find the right open-source content. You’ll be better off creating or buying content that you know you’ll be happy with.

It’s probably important to mention that free online content (or open-source content) might be accessible, but it still belongs to someone. So if you do include any existing videos or articles in your course, make sure to reference where they came from.

Step 5: Measure your success

Perfection is tough to achieve, especially the first time around. So this step is all about learning (not for employees, but for you), and how you can improve your training program development.

When you reach this step, you’ll already be implementing your training program, or it might even be complete. Once enough employees have finished their course, start evaluating the results. You can do this in a couple of simple ways.

First, have a look at your LMS reports to find out how many employees engaged with the content, what their quiz scores were, and how quickly they completed their training. This will tell you whether the training was engaging enough to keep employees hooked, and whether the tests were set at the right difficulty level.

Next, conduct a post-training evaluation survey. This should be a concise survey with a combination of short-answer and multiple-choice questions that ask employees what they thought of the learning experience. Ask them what they liked, what they struggled with, whether the content was useful, how easy the platform was to navigate, and what would make the training better.

Finally, give employees some practical tests and assignments to see whether or not their skills and knowledge have improved (i.e., if they have achieved the training objectives). It’s also valuable to ask managers if they see an improvement in their teams’ performance after training is finished.

Next steps

Now that you know how to develop your first training program, it’s time to turn that knowledge into practice! Learn more about some of the best employee training tools to help you as you go.


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