What Is a Training Program? How to Develop It

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Edited by Ben Jacklin
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Whether a startup or an established company, businesses need training programs as part of comprehensive human resources development. This article answers the question “What is a training program?” and provides a guide on how to develop one for your organization.

Type of training program

Best for

Instructor-led

Groups/multi-person training

Mentoring/coaching

High-level, or niche-specific positions

Hands‑on/on‑the‑job

Kinetic learners

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What is a training program?

So, what is a training program? A key element for human resources, training programs allow businesses to develop specific skills and set standards and expectations for a position. They provide the guidance, information, and practice that future employees need to perform their role.

It doesn’t matter whether a company has been in business for a hundred years or just getting its start. Training programs create an arena where businesses can discover fresh approaches to various roles and update their processes. It can also help to create new opportunities for employees to develop their skills and move up the ranks, which can increase retention in businesses who take advantage.

But before moving on, it’s important to distinguish between employee training and employee development. Employee training programs train your staff on specific skill sets and provide knowledge that will help them enhance their performance. Employee development focuses on helping employees grow within a company and provides the information they need to advance to future roles.

Characteristics of a successful training program

Training managers provide high-quality sessions

Successful training programs need leadership from individuals who can rigorously plan and effectively execute the initiatives of the program. This individual should be highly motivated and keep an open mind about their approach to helping employees reach their full potential.

Understands the needs of the company

Before building a training program, an organization must identify what it needs to convey in the program that will both help the employee succeed in the role and enhance the business.

Trains for the audience

For the great majority of businesses, your training program will be for adults who may have previous training or education in the role. Take this into consideration when creating your program.

Trains with specific objectives

Successful training programs come from companies who take the time to identify their training objectives and evaluate them regularly to update their program.

Ease of access

Employees must be able to access training when and where they need to access it with no hurdles in the way.

Utilizes multimedia

Effective training programs integrate the latest technology to get positive results in shorter time frames. They also use multimedia to teach within different learning styles, so a wider range of employees can learn.

Training program styles

To provide your staff with the knowledge and skills they need to perform their best, you’ll need proper employee training. We looked at the characteristics of a successful program in the previous section. Now we’ll look at a variety of training styles you can use to integrate with those tips.

Every business has different requirements, so don’t consider one style as superior to another. Instead, be open to each style and consider how you could adapt it to fit the needs of your business and workforce.

Instructor-led

This method is a go-to for many business owners as it's modeled after their experiences from grade school and university. It’s the classic method where one or two people teach a variety of preset learning materials to a group of students. You can do this in a live or virtual classroom to provide better access.

Mentoring or Coaching

This approach involves guided learning sessions where a mentor or coach supervises one employee and shares specific knowledge and experiences about a position. Note that coaching is functional teaching, whereas mentoring is developmental for a career.

On-the-job

Trainees pair with an experienced team member or lead and learn through a mix of observation and actual job engagement. And this is the two-step process that drives the methodology. It’s perfect for kinetic learners, but can be a time-intensive process for the trainer. Only use this method if you have the resources to devote.

eLearning

eLearning or remote learning goes through a digital channel that can include many other learning styles on this list. You can incorporate lectures, quizzes, games, and more using eLearning. It also adapts to many learning styles. eLearning is easy to implement. However, it requires a lot of strategy and planning, and you must keep the program updated.

Simulation

Simulation sessions are often the final training steps in a program after you’ve taught the base information and want to simulate its implementation. It’s expensive and requires technology to implement (VR device, computer, tablets, etc.). But they’re great for jobs that require a repeated task that must be completed with a specific process.

Lectures

Lectures are a subcategory of instructor-led training styles, except that it’s all on the trainer to present the information to an even larger group of individuals with less interaction. It’s a great way to present information to lots of people and is cost-effective. But it’s highly impersonal and can get boring quickly.

Case studies

This method is highly effective for presenting a high-volume of information with detail and focus.

Group discussions

Group discussions and activities are excellent as a team building exercise while implementing your training. This method allows individuals to solve complex tasks with the help of their team and can provide insights into the perspectives of fellow employees. But if you’re not careful, this method has the potential to cause disagreements and discord.

Management specific activities

This is a manager-to-manager method that can implement other training styles from this list. It’s a supplemental training to address the training needs of a manager outside of lower-level positions.

Role-playing

Companies use role-playing sessions to help create empathy between employees and their co-workers or other customers. It can also help employees to think quickly and simulate elements of their job in multiple scenarios. While fun and useful, this method takes a lot of time.

Pros and cons of training programs

Pros:

  • Increase in efficiency and the overall quality of both work and staff
  • Recognition of potential in employees and the opportunity to develop them for career advancement
  • Decreases work process timelines between the planning and action stages
  • Gives employees the tools they need to handle issues
  • Maximizes retention and minimizes turnover
  • Lowers workforce costs
  • Helps build teams and puts employees on an equal playing field
  • When planned correctly, training programs are easy to implement
  • Lowers the need for micromanagement
  • Can help employees spot their weaknesses and address them
  • Gives employees the opportunity to learn new processes that keep your company modern and in alignment with industry trends
  • Motivates employees for when they actually start their job and increases morale
  • Training is an opportunity to expand and boost your brand
  • Can increase the revenue of your company

Cons:

  • Training can be costly and dig into your revenue
  • If employees are training, they’re not working
  • Training quality is more contingent on the abilities of your trainer than the training process you create.
  • An employee could use your training process and take them to another business
  • Bad training nets poor results and could hinder your company
  • If the training doesn’t go well, news could spread, which can affect your brand and cause resentment

Issues and challenges

It’s important to not go blind into creating a training program. There are several challenges and issues that can come up during the development and implementation. And business owners, managers, and/or HR teams must know how to address them. Here are some potential hurdles to be on the lookout for:

  • Your training process must be consistent. Even companies with multiple offices and/or locations must provide the same training experience across the board. This means you must overcome geography, language barriers, trainer abilities, and costs.
  • Disengagement. You may encounter employees or potential employees who simply don’t want to learn. While this is a good way to weed out poor job candidates, it can also ruin the training process for others who want to be there.
  • Sometimes employees are too busy for training. You may hear this excuse with current employees if you work in a busy or fast-paced environment. An excellent way to overcome this issue is to roll out your training program in small doses and implement technology wherever possible.
  • Lack of analytics. Even in training, it’s important to track and analyze the results of your program. This will help you refine your techniques and keep the program up-to-date.
  • Substandard feedback system. For higher morale and a better work environment, employees must be heard. This starts at the training program and sets the tone for how employees can interact with their company and address issues – especially before things get out of control.

How to create a training program

As we pointed out earlier, it’s important to personalize your training program to fit the needs of your organization and the position. Using the steps below, you’ll be able to accomplish this goal and complete your training sessions with efficiency and a positive impact.

1. Identify the needs of your organization and the training program

Before taking the time to design your training program, it’s important to take the time to assess its purpose and how that aligns with your company’s needs. You must understand what areas you want to focus on and how you can achieve learning goals with efficiency.

It’s important to get specific about your goals for the program. Do you want to lower cost and minimize waste? Then tailor your training program or session to do that and don’t mix it with another focus area. Creating a custom program like this requires the identification of performance gaps and presents ways to address those needs.

Once you have a specific goal in mind, you’ll identify which training style to best accomplish the goal. No matter what style you choose, select it with the needs of your employees in mind. And don’t work on the specifics within your model until it’s chosen.

2. Use the basic principles of learning

The basic principles of learning are built on interest. When creating your program, build something that will excite employees and make them interested in learning. This is also true for the trainers. When you create a program using these basic principles, everyone involved can see the value in the program.

3. Break down your objectives

The objectives of a training program exist for you and for your employees. Before designing and developing your program, you’ll need to list these out and then present them to your employees at the beginning of the training session. This is how they can understand why they’re in the training program and how the training can impact their work or even personal lives. These objectives also set the standard for tracking and analytics.

4. Design the program

With your initial work complete, you can now design your training program. Again, focus on the needs of your employees and create training content that is in alignment with your objectives. Where possible, use kinetic training methods, so employees can get a true feel for what they need to do and your expectations.

Also, incorporate interaction in your program both within training groups and between the trainer and trainees. This is where a talented trainer who communicates well can provide a tremendous advantage.

This aspect of creating a training session is the most tedious and can seem like a daunting task. Break your design sessions up into small chunks or goals and chip away at them slowly but surely.

5. Develop the program

The design stage of training program creation helps you to create the training materials. In the development stage, you’ll take those materials and implement them into a program. How you do that is up to your objectives and both company and employee needs. Regardless of your design, implement technology into the development of your program to make the task easier and more engaging with trainees.

6. Create the program

Training programs are pointless if they’re never put into action. From here, it’s time to figure out ways to include your employees in the training and provide both an announcement and information about the training session. You can also use this step to bring in trusted employees to help with the creation and implementation of your program.

This is where you’ll purchase supplies or programs needed to get things rolling and make sure everyone’s schedule aligns with the session times. No matter what style you use, this is where you want to generate interest and ensure everyone is fully invested in the program.

7. Map out your success and work with department heads

Implementing a successful training program requires a roadmap to success. This will help you stay in alignment with your objectives and can help you work through complex areas of the training sessions. Be sure to work with your department heads to get their feedback and use them when you need help or specific instructions.

8. Pair the right mentor with the right employee

Mentors will help guide the careers of your employees. If you plan to use this style of training, it’s essential that both your employee and mentor are in alignment with their goals and learning styles. An overaggressive mentor could be off-putting to an employee who doesn’t respond to that personality – and vice versa. Also, be sure that the mentor has the required level of experience needed to perform in that role.

9. Feedback and evaluation

Training programs require both feedback and regular evaluation to ensure success. It’s possible to ask for feedback at different stages throughout the program for better analytics. But try to encourage constructive feedback, and always include feedback for trainers as well.

Afterwards, evaluate the session and your feedback and use the data to refine and update your training methods.

Tips for creating a training program

  • Always identify your needs and objectives before designing your program

  • Look closely and who you’ll train and adapt your training program to their needs

  • Utilize technology in your training program to reduce costs and increase efficiency

  • Use feedback and evaluate your program consistently

Summary

Hopefully, this guide answered the question “What is a training program?” With this information, you have knowledge and tools you need to design and develop your own training program. Be sure to bookmark this page and refer when you need guidance or to use it as a checklist.

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