Oh, Thanksgiving dinner. There’s something for everyone — turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and – of course — pumpkin pie. It doesn’t matter if your guests are vegan, gluten-free, or have allergies. No matter their dietary needs, a good Thanksgiving dinner should offer something that meets their needs.
It’s a lot like your company’s training program, right?
Not following? Stay with me.
Just as a good pumpkin pie isn’t made only of pumpkin and Thanksgiving dinner is more than just turkey, a well-rounded training program isn’t made up of just one thing either. Your training program should offer different kinds of learning to serve different needs — or in this case, should we say "tastes" or "palates?" Puns aside, the program must meet both the organization's goals and the needs of learners.
What should be on the menu when you’re designing a training program? Here are five essential elements we recommend when cooking up a training program.
What goes into a well-rounded training program?
A good onboarding base
Every recipe needs a base — something that serves as the foundation on which you build with other ingredients. That’s what onboarding is. It sets the table for all forthcoming training by teaching new hires the company mission and brand promise, procedures, policies, systems and technologies they’ll need to use and know to do their jobs.
A healthy amount of skill-based training
This is the meat and potatoes of your training program because this training caters to your specific business needs. It may be product training, if you’re a sales organization. It may teach your employees a process that helps them do their jobs — how to fix something, how to store something, a new script for a sales calls, etc.
Whatever it is, this is the training you’ll likely develop in-house because it’s information that’s particular to your company. You may serve this training in different ways, depending on the needs of your workers. You might offer it as just-in-time training, for example. Or you might use a video assessment to see if salespeople have mastered a new pitch.
However you dish it up, it’s the main course of your training program.
A dollop of soft skills training
The training above teaches you how to do your job: product training or training about procedures and processes is what’s often referred to as “hard skills” training. "Soft skills" include things like good communication, being able to accept feedback, time management, and creative thinking. Many soft skills fall under the “people skills” umbrella; people with strong soft skills are often pleasant to deal with and easy to work with.
It's worth noting that the terms "soft" and "hard" skills have been under due scrutiny lately, as I recently reported. Because as Josh Bersin wisely points out: "Hard Skills are soft (they change all the time, are constantly being obsoleted, and are relatively easy to learn), and Soft Skills are hard (they are difficult to build, critical, and take extreme effort to obtain)."
Terminology aside, much has been written about the desirability of soft skills in the workplace. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)’s Job Outlook 2018 survey reports that managers are looking for problem-solving skills and an ability to work as a member of a team. Glassdoor says HR professionals are most often looking for communication skills in job candidates. LinkedIn lists the most important soft skills as leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management.
The focus on hiring people with good soft skills is important, but overlooks one thing: soft skills can be taught. Rather than seeking out people who are naturally good with people, do your best to add soft skill training to your existing training program. That way, you can train the skills that are most important to your organization.
A pinch of compliance
Compliance training is different for different companies and industries, and also often depends on the region a business is in.
For example, companies that may potentially do business with residents of the European Union must comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), while American Healthcare organizations are required to comply with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
Companies may also be required to provide state or federally-mandated training, such as sexual harassment or sensitivity training. Any good training program offers a side dish of up-to-date and mandated compliance training.
It might not be fun, but it does keep your company healthy.
A cup of off-the-shelf learning
Sometimes homemade isn’t always best, and sometimes it’s not practical.
According to a long-running study, for example, it takes between 42 and 130 hours to create one hour of e-learning. That’s a long time to spend on something and it’s also expensive. Training Magazine’s latest Training Industry Report found that in 2018, it cost an average of $986 to train each learner.
Fortunately you don’t have to make everything from scratch. Some skills — like sales skills, soft skills, and customer service skills — are universal enough that you’ll be able to purchase them, pre-made, for far less than it would cost you to make them. You can also purchase compliance courses off the shelf.
They offer another advantage as well — the makers of off-the-shelf courses will update their content if something in the market, or the regulatory environment, changes.
That’s a pretty good reason to buy pre-made.
How to mix up a balanced training program
Your training program’s menu might not look exactly like the one we’ve outlined above. Your own recipe will depend on the needs of your industry, your business’s training requirements, and your learners’ needs.
To figure out what they are, take a good look at the basic skills you absolutely need your learners to have so that they can do their jobs, and the compliance training you must legally offer. Those are your must-haves: the turkey and (let’s be real) the pie.
Then you can start to add your nice-to-haves: the training you would like your employees to have, like people skills, just-in-time learning, or anything else that would enrich your learning program. Those are your side dishes: the potatoes and the cranberry sauce.
Once you’ve put them all together, you’ll have a perfect feast of learning for your company and your learners.