Training and learning new skills are topics that employees often communicate as things they want more of from their employers. Unfortunately, those are very general terms and can be applied in many ways. What exactly is training, and how can it be implemented?
It is important to take a 360-degree approach to developing employees. Companies that are dedicated to growing their own people internally should offer programs addressing both technical and professional skills. A good practice is to use a blended learning approach by focusing 10 percent on formal training, 20 percent on coaching/feedback and 70 percent on work experience.
This is put into practice differently for each employee depending on his or her specific job tasks and capabilities, but generally follows a basic approach:
Formal training is typically done in a classroom situation or online where employees learn any number of topics, from how to create customer proposals and documentation using our internal mechanisms to writing programs for a new controller platform. These are nuts-and-bolts issues and things that employees need to master in order to carry out their basic job functions.
Experience is the process of learning from day to day work activities. A new engineer learns how to design a control system or configure a pump skid automation system. After each project, new things learned become part of that individual’s skill set. Some information is technical, and that is very important for any company that is a technical services provider.
But other parts are the soft skills—the elements of working with people and how to get along effectively in the workplace. Elements like, “How do I engage my clients and coworkers so they will be willing to work with me in a way that leaves everyone with a positive experience when the project is done?”
I left the coaching/feedback element to last because it is, in many respects, the most important. You can get formal training and experience anywhere, but a company that is truly effective at developing its people will include a coaching program where more experienced employees and managers mentor others. While a project is in progress or in a review when it’s done, the newer employee will review what has happened and think about experiences gained in that context.
Discussions may address, “You did a good job writing the proposal, but why do you think you still got push-back from the customer?” “The project got behind schedule during the electrical design phase. Why do you think that happened?” These kinds of review sessions are critical to getting the most from experiences and understanding the takeaways from each job.
As part of the training process, it is important to set personal goals for employees aligned with the business goals to help them have a clear line of sight to gauge their impact to the business. Using the blended learning approach for development to help meet stretch goals provides every employee with the tools to be successful, and the opportunity to expand their skills through experience.
Communicating this plan with employees allows them to see the company’s investment in their continued development. What does your company do to foster growth and development for your new employees?