How effective is your staff training programme? Outstanding? Or just ‘ok’… ish? Or is it, god forbid, a complete waste of time, effort and money? How do you gauge the success of your training and how long do you wait for the results to show?
Some staff training programmes are straightforward and easy to measure: if you train someone to operate a till then the success of that training is measured by the trainee being able to work the till. Simple.
But when it comes to ‘soft skills’ training, such as sales training or customer service training, the results aren’t always so instant or the metrics so easy to define. The environment in which new or sharpened sales and customer service skills can be exercised – i.e. the shop floor – is much more fluid than a piece of technology and subject to a greater number of uncontrollable factors (usually). Every customer is different and so are their needs and expectations. Dealing with customers depends on personality and communication skills as much as it does on processes, therefore training can only do so much, right?
Well yes, and no…
Here are five easy steps to help you maximise and measure the effectiveness of your soft skills training programmes:
1. Decide on clear, realistic and specific objectives
“We want more sales” might be the ultimate goal of a sales training programme but that in itself is too general, and generic trainings rarely work. So put together a Training Needs Assessment document (TNA) for the business to help you define clear objectives for your training.
2. Tailor your staff training to address the shortfalls and strengths of your trainees
It sounds obvious but it’s surprising how many businesses fail to do this. You absolutely must pin these down in order to know precisely what your training needs to address. Don’t just concentrate on the shortcomings either. Look at peoples’ strengths and successes – your training should look to advance these wherever possible. Send out a questionnaire to each trainee prior to the training and make sure you get them all completed and returned.
3. Make the training involving, rewarding & memorable
One of the few certainties in life is that nobody will sit through a four-hour PowerPoint presentation without falling asleep. In our media-saturated world most of us have less attention span than a goldfish; so challenge yourself to find new ways of keeping your trainees engaged as you deliver important information. Use workbooks that your trainees can take away with them, and set individual and group tasks throughout. Get people on their feet, thinking, acting and making decisions, and remove any barriers that might prevent the quieter ones from taking part. There’s a lot of talk in the education industry about ‘gamification’ as a proven method of instruction and learning retention. This doesn’t mean that everyone should be out playing football or sat around a Monopoly board, but take a look at how certain games test specific skills and see how you can adapt them to your needs. At its most basic level gamification is about ‘challenge, play, reward’, so build that mechanic into both your training modules and your programme as a whole. Make sure you stick to your objectives and that every game you play, every challenge you set, is relevant to your objectives and memorable for your trainees.
4. Set goals for your trainees.
Another of life’s certainties is that no matter how great the staff training day was, as soon as your trainees return to the workplace everything they’ve learnt will diminish along with their enthusiasm to put their new skills into place. So, towards the end of each training session, you should ask your trainees to put together an ‘action plan’ detailing a few key learnings from the session that they will ‘action’ (see what I did there?) when they return to their daily routine. Make sure that each action has a specific objective, is realistic and can be measured when you return to see how they’re getting on a couple of months or so later.
5. Follow up your training
This is essential. Left unchecked, maybe one or two of your trainees will carry what they’ve learnt through to the workplace and start to make a difference. But your training will only be really effective if nine or even all ten of your trainees are putting their new skills into practice. The ‘action plan’ not only drives and encourages your trainees to implement what they learnt from you, it also provides the beginnings of a roadmap for on-going personal development and a way of measuring the results of your training over an agreed time. Revisit your trainees 8-12 weeks after the training and run through the action plan to examine their successes and address any problems they encountered.
It’s also important to remember that a great staff training can achieve far more than just the imparting of information. Your training may be the session at which someone previously unnoticed suddenly begins to shine and so releases new talent. It may be the one time a whole bunch of staff from different locations get together and maybe that fusion helps pull the business together.
These ‘secondary benefits’ of a truly effective training can’t always be quantified by dry metrics such as ‘300% more sales on a Tuesday’ but they have real value nonetheless. Take a look at our case study, where T21 trialled a new retail sales training programme with the premium hi-fi retailer Audio T. It was a programme which ticked all the right boxes and turned out to have a massive positive impact not only on the staff but the business as a whole.
Paul Laville, Director, T21 Training and Development