Employers Need Excellence; Employees Need Skills – How to Develop a Training Program to Achieve Both

Michelle Benjamin – CEO of Benjamin Enterprises


Small and midsize businesses face challenges unparalleled in the memories of most owners. Current staffing levels are at a record low. Nonetheless, customers continue to demand superior workforce performance. An employer’s challenge is to bring the team’s skills up to the required levels of excellence with the least disruptive impact on business operations and cost. While all this seems obvious, very few companies use the opportunity to train employees where and when needed to discover opportunities for process improvement.

An efficient yet simple system, called on-demand training, breaks down the job into a series of discrete process steps so that remedial training can be presented when and where needed. One distinct advantage that on-demand training offers is the flexibility to meet the requirements of any work environment. By breaking down a job into its smaller parts, a company can gain a complete view of all the points at which a worker might desire more help or training. With a carefully designed on-demand skills training program, a company can analyze the process that workers currently use and make corrections to an employee’s actions, as required.

With the explosive growth of eLearning coursework on smartphones and tablets, managers can empower employees to take online training during openings in their schedules or before and after work hours. In fact, managers and training supervisors can receive testing results and certifications instantaneously once training is finished. This immediate feedback ensures that training goals are met, and employees receive proof of their improved skills and abilities.

Training for improved work performance to address errors and delays is the most common reason why training programs begin. On-demand training is most effective when training takes place immediately when the worker’s underperformance occurs. It is during these times that the training is best received as necessary by the worker, creating a setting that safeguards the return on the training investment. While problems, such as low productivity, system errors or safety violations, are reasons for ondemand training, there is an equally important purpose that is not as obvious.

Recent employment forecast reveal that staffing levels will remain low for the foreseeable future. Yet, smaller teams mean that there is little or no experience inside the company to cover the skill deficit. Too often, the dislocated worker lacks the relevance of similar work skills to match customer expected results. Successful hiring will require an onboarding program that includes on-demand skills training.

What kind of program makes sense?

In a nutshell, there are three fundamental principles about jobs training.
1. Jobs can be divided into steps.
Every job, from unloading trucks to making hospital beds, can be broken down into teachable parts. The starting point is to involve the worker so that you will understand the steps involved in executing a particular job. Once the steps are defined, a company can create training which will add value in a number of ways – by improving the execution of specific job steps; eliminating the need for particular input or outputs; removing an entire step from the responsibility of the worker; addressing an overlooked step; rearranging the steps; or enabling steps to be completed at different points in the process. To get good cooking results, you need a recipe that clearly outlines the necessary steps.

2. Every job has a common structure.
This common structure, while independent of the worker, includes the following steps: defining the expected job results; identifying the necessary input; preparing the work environment; executing the job; evaluating the results; making adjustments to achieve the expected results; and finishing the job. Most jobs also require a process exception step since problems can occur at any point along the way. Some steps are more critical in execution than others, but each step is required to complete a job successfully. For example, a security guard might prepare for her shift by reading the prior shift notes. Opportunities to create on-demand skills training reside within each step.

3. Jobs are different from the solution.
Too often companies are focused on the end result of a job, yet lose sight of the steps that are required to yield the desired outcome. When the steps that lead to the outcome are the focus,
companies can add improvements into the process, thus honing their present offerings. When a major utility company required parking coordination in an urban environment, the focus was on training directional orienteering to the workers and workflow process management to achieve the sought-after results.

What are the key essentials and watch outs?
Typically, a blend of planned training during the business week and the use of online coursework with feedback are used to create an ondemand skills training program.

The training can either be provided by a committed company mentor who is expert in the skills being taught, or by company employees that have undergone a formal “train-the-trainer” program at a training institute. A well-crafted program should include a dedication to ongoing training as a way to reinforce the worker’s skills and as a tool to decrease employee turnover while improving confidence and satisfaction. Training results should be measured to uncover opportunities for product or service innovation.

How to track the effectiveness of the training program
At the end of the training, you will want to gauge the effectiveness of the program. So how do you do that in a meaningful yet accurate way? Focus on the individual steps to a job to then track the employee’s performance. This will enable you to create opportunities for further improvement and skill building. Seek employee opinions so workers are actively involved in their training. And remember, a skilled workforce requires ongoing training and commitment to learning.