Employee training is one of the most critical parts of the employee experience. When a new employee starts, they’re a sponge, ready to absorb information about your company, your policies and procedures, and their role and responsibilities. Existing employees also need ongoing training to learn new skills, improve existing ones and continue to grow over time. But what’s the best way to facilitate the training process?
Technological advancements have revolutionised the training industry, giving managers more training method options than ever. Companies now have access to all kinds of digital tools like training videos and computer-based training, and can still leverage tried-and-true methods like traditional classroom training. But with so many different options, it’s hard to know what’s right for your company and employees. As you’re considering how to best train your team, review these 6 popular employee training methods to see what’s right for you.
1. Instructor-led classroom training
Classroom-style training is the most traditional and widely used training method, accounting for 42% of a company’s training hours on average and used exclusively or mostly (90% to 100% of the time) by 13% of organisations. This method mimics other educational environments like a college course. A subject matter expert or training manager prepares a classroom experience – usually a lecture-style presentation with a PowerPoint as a visual accompaniment – and presents in front of a group of trainees.
This method has been around for a long time, and for good reason. It comes with plenty of benefits. Namely, classroom-style training allows for personal interaction. It gives trainees the right environment and resources to interact with instructors to ask questions that might go unanswered in a non-interactive forum. It also empowers relationship building between the trainer and trainee, and fellow trainees who are learning and growing together.
The biggest disadvantage to instructor-led classroom training is its lack of scalability. This method requires an instructor to be present at all times, and can get complicated when class sizes get too big for one-on-one interactions. Another major disadvantage of this method is its rigidity. If one trainee is outpacing others, ready to learn more and feeling unchallenged, he or she isn’t able to create a personalised learning path.
If you decide instructor-led classroom training is right for your company, be sure to keep the energy high; these sessions can run long, and without breaks, discussions and time to move around, trainees can lose interest quickly.
One company that’s taking lecture-style training to the next level is men’s clothing brand Bonobos. Their People Team – a recruitment, employee experience, HR mashup – is constantly experimenting with new training techniques. One of the most successful experiences was Learn.Know.Bos, a week-long classroom-style training that featured lectures on emotional intelligence, public speaking, retail and more from industry leaders. The company said TED-style training environment not only sharpened employees’ skills but also increased transparency and cross-functional awareness across the company.
2. Interactive methods
This training method takes classroom-style lectures to a new level by adding interactive and group activities to the training experience. Popular interactive methods include small group discussions, case study reviews, role playing, quizzes and demonstrations. Since 1 in 3 employees say training is often uninspiring and prohibits learning, this approach is a great way to add fun, engaging experiences to the training process.
Interactive training can be highly effective because it combats the one-directional transfer of knowledge that comes with lecture-style training; by empowering conversation and group interaction, you not only keep the energy high, but allow participants to all learn from each other.
Unfortunately, however, some people can get lost in the shuffle. This method is great for outgoing people who are more extroverted, but quieter employees might not feel as comfortable speaking up and interacting, and may get less out of this type of training. If you are going to use interactive training methods, consider incorporating activities that get everyone equally involved to ensure all your trainees reap the benefits of your time together.
One company that’s recognised for having a leading interactive training program is Pixar. Their in-house training program, Pixar University, hosts about 14 social and interactive classes per week. In an effort to build morale and empower collaboration, the company allows all employees to skip work and attend these group classes, which cover topics like fine arts, skills training and even improv. This video is a little old now, but does a great job of explaining the concept:
3. Hands-on training
Hands-on training skips the conceptual and dives right into the practical, allowing trainees to quickly get their hands on whatever they’re learning. This approach is widely preferred by employees; 52% of adults say the best way to learn is through active participation. On top of being well-received by trainees, hands-on learning also has several other advantages. It’s often a quicker process because you dive in on day one. It can also boost knowledge recollection; long days in a training lecture may leave some trainees fried, but hands-on training requires focus, which can improve information retention.
For some people, however, this can pose a challenge. Many people struggle to understand the intricacies of their role without first having the right context. If you are going to offer hands-on training, you should first get to know your trainee to understand whether this method will be effective for him or her. Hands-on training can work, but only if that’s how a person learns. You can overcome this obstacle by incorporating a job shadowing experience into the process. Giving a trainee time to see how a pro does something can help provide the context and expectations they need to succeed.
One company that uses a hands-on approach to training is Seattle Genetics, a global oncology pharmaceutical and tech company. The cancer-fighting giant offers unique one-year fellowships that immerse employees in hands-on trainings. Through the program, fellows pair up with experienced trainers to complete hands-on projects like marketing strategies, data analyses and risk management plans, foregoing traditional classroom training to accelerate the learning process from day one.
4. Computer-based and e-learning training
If you’re looking for a training method that removes the need for an in-person facilitator, computer-based or e-learning trainings may be right for you. While sometimes used interchangeably, these two approaches have one distinct difference: computer-based training (CBT) encompasses any type of training that takes place on a computer, while e-learning training is specifically training that’s hosted online via a website or web app. These digital trainings usually mimic classroom-style trainings, displaying visual content on screen that supports a lecturer’s voiceover. They can also include resources like videos and reading material to accompany coursework, similar to what you might find in a classroom environment.
This training style is widely adopted by modern employers; one study found that 77% of American companies offer some kind of online training as a professional development tool. Many companies choose CBT or e-learning courses because they easily scale; one person or 500 people can take CBT courses at one time, starting and stopping at their own pace. This helps empower a range of learners as people who want to take their time and dive deeper have the freedom to do so, while quick learners who are more easily bored can move through coursework more rapidly.
However, that advantage comes with a disadvantage; because CBT courses are unmonitored, it’s hard to know whether trainees are truly engaged with the material. A tip to overcome this obstacle is to incorporate quizzes and interactive modules throughout the digital experience. This helps you assess a trainee’s grasp of the material and whether he or she retained the most important information.
There are many examples of CBT learning platforms you may already be familiar with. For example, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com is a continuing education platform where professionals can buy and take classes on design, programming, business development, career development, leadership and more. Many companies choose to leverage existing e-learning platforms like Lynda.com to grow their employees; it prevents the costs associated with designing a custom curriculum and building a web or software tool for your team.
5. Video training
Over the past few years, video has emerged as a game-changing media both for external use (like marketing and sales) and internal use, like training. 44% of executives strongly agree that video will be the “de facto” form of internal communication in the next five years, and 96% of businesses say video helps them train employees better and faster. Employees are also onboard with video training; 75% say they’re more likely to watch a video than they are to read emails, articles or documents.
There are lots of different approaches you can take when it comes to video training. The most common styles include:
- Animation: This style of training video is best for explaining complex topics that don’t have an easily-recorded visual.
- Live action: These demonstration-style videos are great for showing role-play scenarios, like interactions between employees and customers.
- To-camera: Through this method, a narrator explains the information being covered in an interview-style format, speaking directly to the viewer.
- Screen recorded: This method records the actions taken on a computer, making it great for walking employees through how to use new digital tools.
No matter which option you choose, training videos can replace long documentation and dry onboarding handbooks with interactive, engaging content. They also come with several key benefits, including:
They’re always accessible
Unlike in-person training that requires a meeting room, a facilitator and a schedule, video is always ready to go. Your team can watch training videos anytime on any device, and revisit them down the road.
They can be affordable to produce
Online learning platforms can be very expensive to build, and in-person trainings take your smartest subject matter experts away from their most important role – doing what they were hired to do. On the other hand, video cuts the need for those time and financial resources.
They make learning easy
Showing information on a static PowerPoint slide isn’t the most engaging way to share information, and it also isn’t the most effective. Video animation can help explain complex subjects using graphics, motion and voiceover.
It’s easy to change content
When you build a custom e-learning platform, it can be difficult to go into the program to input and update content. You’ll also likely have to work with a system administrator or IT professional to access your platform’s content management system. On the other hand, video – especially animated video – can easily be updated to reflect changes in your company’s trainings.
Like all the other options on our list, video training comes with a few disadvantages. Specifically, video learning is an individual experience, while some other training methods involve group learning and relationship building. This approach can work for people who learn best when alone, but it might not be as effective for people who learn best in a team setting. Overcome this disadvantage by coupling your video training with more interactive training methods like coaching and mentoring – coming up in the next section.
A few great examples of training videos are found in Airbus’s corporate training series. Airbus walks pilots and flight attendants through the ins and outs of their planes via a video tour, overviewing features and safety procedures in a real-world situational video. This is a great example of how and when to use live action video training.
IBM also uses video trainings, but in a more robust way. They have an entire YouTube channel dedicated to their training arm where they share training videos, messages from executive leadership, internal HR updates and more. The company fluctuates between animated, screen-recorded and live-action videos depending on the material being taught.
If you’re going to use video training methods as you onboard and develop employees, consider partnering with a training video agency. While video can be affordable, it can be time consuming if you’re not a video pro. Partnering with an agency that specialises in training videos will save you time and frustration when you don’t have the internal resources to handle the work yourself.
6. Coaching and mentoring
Training doesn’t always have to come from a curriculum; sometimes the best learning opportunities happen in human interactions. Consider implementing a coaching or mentoring program to supplement your more structured employee training methods. Having a mentor not only creates growth opportunities for employees, but it builds relationships that help them feel more connected to and supported by your company. Mentoring can also impact your company’s bottom line; 77% of companies say their mentoring program improves employee retention and job performance. However, mentorship programs require your most high-performing people to step away from their primary roles to grow newer team members. While that will pay off in the long run, consider whether you’re willing to make that tradeoff.
A great example of a company with a successful mentorship program is Boeing. They offer new hires and interns the opportunity to learn from established executives who help them set career goals and develop their leadership skills. As you think about your company’s training needs, consider whether you have senior leaders or staff who could help nurture newer employees; those leaders might be your most underutilised training resource.
Having a successful training program is critical to the growth of any business. If your employees aren’t continually learning and growing with industry trends, they’re falling behind – and so are you. Lucky for you, your employees are already eager to learn. 31% of employees say training and education opportunities would increase their loyalty and engagement with their employer, and a staggering 74% of employees said they weren’t achieving their full potential at work.
As you feed their hunger for growth and maximise the human resources you already have on staff, consider all the employee training methods available to you:
- Instructor-led classroom training: A personal approach that mimics a traditional classroom environment, leveraging presentation material and a facilitator
- Interactive methods: An amplified classroom experience that includes interactive elements like demonstrations, role playing and small group discussions
- Hands-on training: A learn-through-doing approach that gets employees involved in real work on day one
- Computer-based and e-learning training: A digital classroom that allows employees to move through material at their own pace from anywhere in the world
- Video training: A highly engaging, accessible training method that can be modified to fit your company’s exact needs
- Coaching and mentoring: A program that supplements educational curriculum with meaningful human relationships
If you’re considering adding video to your company training program, read How to Use Video to Train Your Team. It includes tips and best practices for creating videos your employees will learn from, engage with and even have fun watching.