Long gone are the days when employee "training" meant showing workers how to log in to their computer and pointing out where they can find the coffee machine. In today's competitive and increasingly complex business environment, training objectives and corporate learning programs are expected to be mapped out to improve worker productivity, boost company ROI, increase morale and retention and, of course, equip employees with the most up-to-date technical skills and knowledge in their industry.
Training industry experts emphasize setting training objectives aimed at enabling your employees to achieve optimal training results. And a corporate training best practice is to start by being S.M.A.R.T.
The S.M.A.R.T. acronym was hatched some thirty years ago as a means of better defining and planning business goals, yet it remains as relevant as ever.
What is a S.M.A.R.T. goal? It is an objective that can be defined as specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.
- Specific: Target specific areas for improvement.
- Measurable: Quantify indicators of progress.
- Attainable: Ensure that goals are possible with the given circumstances and resources.
- Realistic: State what results can realistically be achieved.
- Time-bound: Specify when results can be achieved.
In the context of training employees — and even third-party workers — you can apply these concepts to your employee training by following the following four tips:
1. Target Specific Training Goals
Focus most of your resources on a primary objective that will make your training more effective. Ask yourself exactly what you are hoping to accomplish and what (if any) issues need to be addressed. Then, narrow down your answers to goals that are as tangible and specific as possible.
Avoid the use of overly broad goals such as "help employees understand new HR requirements." Instead, identify precise goals such as "explain HR's policy on sick leave and new rules on requesting time off without advance notice."
2. Use Metrics to Define Success
It is imperative to develop clear metrics that help you measure the success of your training. Use benchmarks that will help you evaluate whether employees are able to understand and synthesize what they are learning.
Ideally, you should evaluate employees before, during, and after training to develop a clear picture of their progression — through surveys, quizzes, discussion, or asking them to perform training-related tasks.
2. Keep Learners Engaged
To avoid frustration or boredom during training, provide opportunities for your employees to demonstrate their newfound knowledge or skills through tools such as:
- Group discussion
- Quizzes or worksheets
- Individual or group presentations
- Technology, such as virtual learning or gaming
- Hands-on application of training in a project or task
Moreover, the use of basic rewards such as verbal praise or small prizes can help provide positive reinforcement.
3. Keep Your Training Content Relevant
It is key to avoid generalizing the content or application in employee training. The more relevant and useful your employees feel their training is, the more they may be inclined to give their full attention.
At the beginning of each learning period, outline the exact topics that will be covered and identify ways that your employees can benefit from applying their training in the workplace. During any Q&A sessions, work to steer employees toward relevant discussion specific to the training and its implications.
4. Work Towards Timely Results
There are few things more frustrating to employees than seemingly endless training sessions. These are often the result of poor planning or ill-defined goals. Ideally, trainers should have ample time to assess the necessary areas of training, the existing knowledge of your employees, and the best channels of learning for your organization's needs.
Ensuring that everyone feels their time is being respected can create a more positive learning atmosphere and help employees be more receptive to training content. By adequately preparing in advance, each training session should be as concise and time-efficient as possible.
According to a study in 2011, those who used S.M.A.R.T. techniques became able to complete tasks more quickly and with more ease. They were also able to revise their goals in keeping with evolving information, saw better results in team members' performance and produced higher quality work.
Improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of your employee training is goal, then S.M.A.R.T. techniques can help you achieve these results.
For the ultimate source of tips and tricks to planning a training program, download our Complete Training Program Planning Guide.