Training Mistakes to Avoid—Part 1

As HR faces a crisis of finding enough qualified applicants to fill vacancies, more and more employers are realizing that employee development programs are crucial to getting and keeping talent. Training programs not only help with attraction and retention but also can help the organization grow by helping employees learn new skills. Training can also help keep the organization out of legal trouble by helping ensure that employees and managers alike understand their legal rights and obligations.

Be aware, however, that despite all of the benefits, training programs also come with risks if not managed well. In this two-part series, we’ll take a look at some mistakes to avoid when creating and implementing a training program in your organization.

Training Mistakes to Avoid: Part 1

Let’s dive right in; here are some things to avoid in your training program:

  • Don’t assume you already know how employees will feel about training. Some employees may be reluctant to attend training sessions because they’re frustrated it may put them behind on other tasks. Others may fear that training means more responsibilities are coming without more pay. Others simply fear change. All of these groups may be unhappy about the prospect of training. On the other hand, many employees are excited to learn new skills and programs. Many view training as a form of investing in their growth, and they recognize that the skills they learn will be valuable in the future. Those in the latter group are more likely to be excited about the training, of course. Don’t assume you know who is who without asking—and be prepared to handle both in the same training group.
  • Don’t be too extreme when trying to give real-world examples. In a training situation, it’s common to give scenarios to illustrate where the topic may be applied. But if the examples are so over the top that they’re not relatable (or they’re common sense), the employees may feel like you’re talking down to them. Or, worse, they may feel like the material is not to be taken seriously.
  • Don’t forget to include supervisors when appropriate. While not all supervisors need every component of training that is required for their subordinates, they should be knowledgeable enough on the topic to understand it.
  • Don’t let the upper-level employees off the hook when it comes to mandatory training. If supervisors, managers, and even the C-suite opt not to attend training programs, it sends the message that it’s not really that important. This can also be a problem if someone in a leadership role opts to leave before the training is over. Either way, it’s sending the message that the topic at hand is not a priority, thus undermining the training program. This must be addressed up front before the training program is implemented. Get management buy-in, and craft a plan that shows management support.
  • Don’t forget that upper-level communications can send strong signals about the importance of training. Consider incorporating the leadership into the communications about training programs. Or bring them into the training itself as participants or in a supportive role. Having upper-level participation in any capacity can help to emphasize the importance of the training itself.
  • Don’t forget to pay attention to how the training is being perceived and to switch tactics along the way, if necessary. If the audience is getting bored and zoning out, or if the mood in the room is too negative, the training will not be effective. To combat this, be sure to have experienced trainers that can read the room and change tactics when necessary.
  • Don’t forget to explain how any required training ties into the employee’s responsibilities. Having an understanding of why the training is beneficial can help the employee have more buy-in and be less reluctant to take training. This is often referred to as the “what’s in it for me” component—employees need to know up front what’s in it for them.
  • Don’t forget to get employee input on what they’d like to get out of the training. This can help get buy-in and help the training go more smoothly.

In the second half of this series, we’ll outline even more training mistakes to avoid. In the meantime, tell us in the comments what lessons you’ve learned about effective employee training.