Employee training and development has greatly evolved over the past few decades. From the restraints of the classroom to the immense expanse of the internet, training methods have definitely adapted to the unique needs of different generations of learners.
Let’s have a quick look at the most common training techniques that can be applied in the workplace and how each can be beneficial to both the employee and the company.
The Instructor-led Training Approach
For learners, the best benefit of instructor-led training is that they get first-hand information from the subject matter expert. For companies, on the other hand, this approach makes a lot of sense, resource-wise. It is relatively easy to design courses, and all you need is a resource speaker and a “venue”.
1. Face-to-face training
For a long time, face-to-face training has been the well-established approach among all the different types of training methods for employees. Most of employee training and development programs include this type of approach. Lectures, seminars, and conferences are also examples of this type of training.
The best situation to use these training methods is when you’re planning to train people located in the same geographical area.
This is another instructor-led approach. Instead of taking a self-paced eLearning course or attending a classroom session, learners use a virtual classroom and participate in an online class.
Unlike the usual classroom training, though, here a long lecture won’t do, since participants are located in different locations and the facilitator won’t be able to actively manage attendees. Trainees are also more easily distracted, so the challenge in this approach is to keep learners focused.
Contrary to classroom training, webinars are best used to train employees in different geographical locations.
The Active Training Approach
The Active learning approach builds upon instructor-centric methods. Although active training methods and techniques still require the mediation of an instructor, they do involve the learners more.
In Active training, engagement is the best benefit for the learners. Here, learners are in charge of their own learning. Companies, on the other hand, benefit from employee empowerment and motivation.
In the active training approach, in contrast, each lesson is always open to the interpretation and each session different. So, the best situations for active training methods are the ones that would need the active contribution of the participants.
Workshops are sessions composed of different activities that encourage discussions, introspection, and contribution among learners. These activities are usually facilitator-led, meaning that you don’t really need a subject matter expert to lead a session. You would, however, need a facilitator who really knows how to manage the learners and process the activities well. Workshops are best used for personal development and skills building.
2. Case Studies
Case studies are actual or hypothetical scenarios that depict real-life work situations. Learners are given different cases that will require some analysis. Either on their own or in a group, they are then asked to come up with the best possible solutions for the scenario. The case study approach works best when you want to develop analytical and problem-solving skills.
Brainstorming sessions are usually employed when trying to draw ideas from participants. Their main goal is for the participants to come up with a list of viable solutions or suggestions that can be used to address a work crisis or in the creation of a new process/product.
The Experiential Training Approach
Experiential training methods expose the learners to the skills and processes needed in the real work environment. The theory behind this methodology is that you learn best when you practice the skill you’re required to learn.
The benefit of implementing experiential training techniques in the workplace is that they give employees a higher chance to ‘hit the ground running.’ Having been exposed to the actual (or simulated) work environment, learners get to experience the required skills firsthand.
As a result, this experience makes the training more relevant and the developed competencies more useful to the employee. Experiential training methods for employees work best in situations that require learning and developing very specific skills.
1. On-the-job training
On-the-job training is very self-explanatory. It involves having an employee – usually a new hire – ‘learn by doing.’ Of course, on-the-job training cannot be employed on its own. There also needs to be supplemental training like coaching for this training method to be successful. On-the-job training is best used for onboarding new hire employees.
2. Mentoring/ Shadowing/ Coaching
These training methods assign an employee, usually a junior or a new hire, with a mentor, a more experienced colleague. The mentor’s job is to show the junior employee the ins and outs of the job.
Training is done by letting the mentee either observe (shadow) the mentor, or by having the mentor discuss experiences at work, or give feedback and advice (coach).
These training methods are best used when developing employees who are being groomed to take on a leadership role. Moreover, implementing an approach like mentoring is also great means of promoting the sharing of best practices among employees.
Role-playing activities are usually carried out with a facilitator or a subject matter expert taking on the role of someone who the learner will interact with at work. Both parties will act out work scenarios during the activity – like the learner trying to solve a customer issue, for example.
The key to an effective role-play is to draw scenarios from real and common situations at work. Role-playing works best for industries or jobs that require a lot of interaction with customers or clients.
Simulation is another experiential learning method. Like role-plays, the key to successful simulations is the how the scenarios are grounded in actual work situations. Simulations work best for industries that require the use of complex machinery like the medical and aviation industries.
The Tech-Enabled Training Approach
These types of training methods for employees utilize technology to train and develop staff.
Tech-based training gives numerous benefits to the company. The most significant one is the ability to train a large number of staff located in different geographical regions and time zones. Also, technology-based training methods make course creation, compliance tracking, grading, and certifications easier, with the use of a learning management system (LMS).
The biggest benefit of tech-enabled training methods is that learners get to learn at their own pace. Online training courses can be taken anytime, anywhere, allowing the employees to be in control of their own learning. This empowerment, in turn, results in better skill development and knowledge retention.
2. Gamified Learning / Gamification
Gamification’s goal is to make learning fun through the use of gaming concepts, such as the elements of achievement, competition, and fun.
A great example of gamified learning is the use of badges or unlocking new rewards for every attained milestone. Another example of gamification is the use of ‘serious games’ – games (usually video games) designed for a bigger purpose than just entertainment. Medical simulations and language learning apps are examples of such.
Technology has also brought about another approach called microlearning. The concept of microlearning evolves around the idea of on-demand learning. Technology allows the learner to access courses and learn when needed. Courses also designed to be taken in short, ‘bite-sized’ bits – only about a couple of minutes long – and the only thing needed is an easy-to-use mircolearning platform to take training on the go.
Field sales personnel need to access new updates on a product for a client presentation. They just need to go online on their mobile and take the quick course. This approach works best for employees who spend very limited time in front of a computer.
What are the best training methods for employees, after all?
Actually, it all depends on different factors and constraints. Each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks, and everything will depend on your learners’ needs and your company’s available resources.
One way that you can make your training program more effective is by taking on a blended approach. You can capitalize on a certain method’s benefits while using a different one to compensate for any disadvantages. There is no set rule that you only need to stick to one type of approach, so you can mix and match different methods for every situation. The challenge is for you to see which mix works best for your company and employees!